Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga.
Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Brittany Lauga looks back on demanding 2020

IT WAS a year of flux for Keppel MP Brittany Lauga, who had a pandemic to fight, a disrupted economy with which to grapple, and an election to win.

Now in her third parliamentary term, the Assistant Minister for Education spoke to the Morning Bulletin about this year’s difficulties and triumphs.

For Ms Lauga, 2020 began with residents recovering from the Cobraball bushfires of November last year.

Cobraball and COVID-19

The work that the local residents, the local community, and the fire and emergency services did to recover after that bushfire was quite remarkable and the recovery we expect to take up to two years, if not longer.

There are still people who are recovering from that disaster.

I was very proud when the Premier and the Government declared a state of emergency with the COVID-19 pandemic in January and were the first state or territory in the country to do that.

I’m really proud that right across CQ, government agencies were also working really hard to prepare for the pandemic: it was that preparation that put us in good stead to help contain the virus as much as possible. Everyone got that preparation work underway very early on.

I did daily Facebook Live updates keeping everyone abreast of what was happening with the health restrictions.

It was challenging to be on message and answer people’s questions and help them understand what the health restrictions meant for them and their lives. But I think it was worth it.

Leading by example, but also being the provider of that information – clear, concise information that they can trust – was really important.

“I really do believe that we’ve been able to contain COVID-19 in Central Queensland better than most parts of the state and the rest of the country and the world because we’re very resilient in Central Queensland.

Ms Lauga at the bank of the Fitzroy River.
Ms Lauga at the bank of the Fitzroy River.

Political achievements

The Alcohol and other Drug Rehabilitation Centre – work is now underway on that and that’s a hugely transformational project for our region.

For people to be able to get the alcohol and other drug treatment in our region is something that I’ve been working on for a number of years.

That project was born out of my work with the Ice Affecting Families Capricorn Coast group led by Debbie Ware.

When I first spoke with those women who were struggling to deal with their family members’ trouble with alcohol or other drugs like ice, I heard their harrowing stories and just felt I had to act.

“I’m looking forward to that facility being opened in August 2021 when it will welcome its first patients.

Brittany Lauga with her daughter Odette at the Mt Archer School polling booth.
Brittany Lauga with her daughter Odette at the Mt Archer School polling booth.

2020 State Election

Doorknocking and calling voters in the months leading up to the election was a really important part of the Keppel Labor campaign.

I started making calls back in March when COVID-19 started in Queensland. I was calling vulnerable members of the community just checking in on them.

They were telling me how grateful they were that they had a local MP standing shoulder to shoulder with them and providing them with health advice and being there for them during that difficult time.

The election was a really challenging time and it took me a little while after to just get over it because so much energy and time and resources went into it.

Being a mum, and a working mum, adds another layer of complexity to running an election campaign.

The last election in 2017, Odette was only 10 days old when it was called, so I wasn’t a stranger to the juggle, but I was really pleased with the result and I’m honoured to be given the opportunity to continue my hard work for the people of Keppel over the next four years.

Brittany Lauga and her father Peter McKee at Parliament.
Brittany Lauga and her father Peter McKee at Parliament.

Looking ahead to 2021

Getting the people who have been most impacted by this virus back on their feet I think is going to be the biggest job of next year.

Young people, women, parents, Indigenous people, people from those vulnerable groups with health problems – they’ve been the most disproportionately affected by this pandemic.

I’m really looking forward to the rollout of GP and psychologists in schools. We know that mental health is the number one thing that young people say impacts them or that they’re worried about.

The other thing I’m really excited about is the commencement of the CQUniversity and University of Queensland medical school program.

Being able to grow our own doctors and train our own doctors locally will be fantastic for decades to come.

Ms Lauga on the election campaign trail. Photo: NCA NewsWire/Dan Peled
Ms Lauga on the election campaign trail. Photo: NCA NewsWire/Dan Peled

Turn to Teaching will give 300 aspiring teachers financial support and real world teaching experience to complete their teaching qualification and guarantees a permanent teaching role at a state school upon completion.

And I’m looking forward to the $9 million manual arts and hospitality training centre that I fought for. The first stage of the construction is in the budget for this financial year.

We know that over 80 per cent of Yeppoon State High School students go on to a job or some sort of vocational education or training: that means that over 80 per cent don’t go to university. It’s going to be a big game-changer for the future of young people in Yeppoon.