She was once a rookie reporter for The Leader – but today Natalie Bennett is the celebrated new leader of the Greens party in the UK.
The 46-year-old Australian-born former journalist is believed to be the first ever Aussie to lead a British political party – but also the only sitting parliamentary leader who can claim to be able to shear a sheep.
Bennett has replaced former leader Caroline Lucas who stepped down after four years in an attempt to widen the party base and the impressive record of being the first Green MP.
Bennett’s election was something of a come-from-behind win but a great success after a couple of previous electoral failures.
Bennett described herself in campaign material as “journalist, writer, green, feminist” and Leader journos from her days in the mid-1990s in the Brisbane St newsroom remember her early credentials in that vein too.
“She was very politically minded and had a keen interest in current affairs, especially international issues,” the Leader’s longest serving employee Steve Young said
Former editor Tony Gillies remembers Bennett coming to Tamworth from the Cootamundra Herald back then.
“Talked like a Gatling gun,” Gillies recalled.
“She started as a reporter and had a good stint as a sub and she was a good senior all-rounder. I’m not surprised to see her pop up in politics; she was interested in politics even then and opinionated about issues.”
Bennett spent about two years with The Leader but went on to work in Fleet Street in London, other major English newspapers and the Bangkok Post in Thailand.
She has been a UK resident for about 13 years and holds a number of degrees including in agricultural science and mass communication but also in Asian studies, the latter secured through the University of New England.
During her campaign Bennett was quoted as saying: “We need to move away from a system where we use the planet as a mine and a dumping ground while treating the poorest as rubbish.”
And “the ecological crisis is key; we have an extractive economy that no longer works. Yet to deal with the environmental crisis we need to be the party that tackles social injustice.”