This is a sponsored article. Hills District Mums does not have any political affiliations.
Last week we played “Finish this Sentence” with Yvonne Keane, a woman who, with her bid to be elected as the new Federal Member for Greenway, just might become our first HDM in Parliament!
Yvonne is a Hills District Mum and the Deputy Mayor of the Hills Shire Council. She lives in Kellyville, in a house she built with her own hands, with her husband Anthony and her two beautiful children, Asher and Saskia. She has enjoyed a successful career as a television presenter, where she was known as the Pocket Rocket, and is now an advocate for disability services and social enterprises. Yvonne serves on the Board of the Endeavour Foundation, is a member of the NSW Council for Women’s Economic Opportunity, and is also the Chair of the Board of The Sanctuary – which is a newly opened shelter for women and children escaping domestic violence in The Hills.
Today we learn a little more about her and what makes her tick as a mum, an advocate for the vulnerable and a potential ‘politician’.
1. I’m a Toongabbie girl
I was raised in Toongabbie and have spent most of my life in and around Blacktown, Seven Hills and Kings Langley. My mum, Jacquie, and my beautiful step-dad, David, worked up to three jobs each to give my sisters, Rebecca, Amy, and me the very best life they possibly could. I attended Toongabbie West Public School where I became a Prefect, and then went on to Pendle Hill High School where I captained the school debating team to win the State Debating Shield in 1985.
My father always says that “you can take the girl out of Toongabbie but you can’t take the Toongabbie out of the girl”. I love that saying. I am so grateful for my upbringing. It’s where I developed my tenacious fighting spirit and the ability to dream, believe and do. It’s where I was instilled with the idea that nothing is impossible, no challenge is insurmountable and that through hard work and sheer determination you can make the world a better place for others.
2. A teacher changed my life
I always say to my children, Asher and Saskia, that I hope they’re lucky enough to have that one special and magical teacher that changes their life. For me it was a teacher called Mr Ian Parnaby. He was the first teacher I had on my very first day at Pendle Hill High. I was fortunate to not only have him teach me for just about all of my high school years but I also worked with him on putting together some spectacular school musicals and variety nights, which were the highlight (and saving grace) of my teenage years. He was the first person outside of my family who ‘saw’ me, believed in me and encouraged my potential, year after year.
When I left school after my HSC, he gave me a hand-written note which I will never forget. He signed off by telling me that I was ‘a human dynamo’. It was the first time I’d ever heard those words but their impact was profound. He will never know what his words of kindness and encouragement, and his example as a human being, have meant to me over the many years that have passed. I recently found out that Mr Parnaby still lives in Seven Hills with his wonderful wife Gay, and I hope to catch up with him soon.
Sidebar, if you will indulge me: I am so proud to be part of a Liberal team that is supporting life-changing teachers like Mr Parnaby, with record levels of funding for Education in its recent budget. The Turnbull Government is investing a record $73.6 billion over the next four years in our schools. That’s an increase of 26%! #soproud
3. I created an award-winning TV series
In 1996, when I was just 26 and working as a Producer for ABC TV, I wrote a proposal for a new half hour weekly TV series called s’Cool Sport, which was piloted and then green-lit to production. s’Cool Sport was a magazine format program that highlighted budding young athletes (such as a then 13 year old Ian Thorpe), cool new sports (canoe polo, anyone?) and wonderful sporting initiatives (like Blind Cricket). One of my stories ‘Little Sumos’ even went on to win the 1998 Australasian Broadcasting Union Award for Sport.
4. I accidentally built a cosmetics empire
Yep. In 1997 I came up with the perfect recipe for bath bombs and started making them for myself and my friends. Within weeks, orders started to pour in and I set-up a mini-factory in my laundry. Then a buyer from David Jones approached me with an opening order for 30,000 bath bombs! I quit my job as a TV Producer, rented a factory, employed some staff, and SugarBaby was born! As we began exporting all over the world, I expanded the range to include teenage cosmetics and skin care.
I sold SugarBaby in 2001 and I’m so darn proud to see that all these years later this gorgeous brand that I gave birth to remains viable and successful – and still with the very same logo that I originally designed! As someone who has grown a teeny cottage industry to a small business and then to a medium enterprise, I know how vitally important it is for government to provide the right support for small business to flourish, thrive and drive our economy to greater success.
5. I got married in Las Vegas
My husband, Anthony, and I have been together for 27 years (which is a feat in itself, as my kids think I am only 22! Lol) Having organised my younger sister Rebecca’s wedding – the story of which should one day be made into a screenplay that would put Muriel’s Wedding to shame – I just didn’t see how I would emerge with a shred of sanity intact if I had to do it all over again and plan a wedding for myself.
So Anthony and I bought a couple of cheap round the world tickets, snuck off to Las Vegas on our own and got married in the Candlelight Wedding Chapel on The Strip. My husband is from Ireland and had lived in the US before coming to Australia, so we had great fun telling all of our family and friends our news in person as we dropped in on each of them on our ‘Honeymoon’.
I remember when we arrived back home and announced the news to my parents. My mum burst into tears of happiness and my dad punched the air and exclaimed how happy he was not to have to pay for yet another daughter’s wedding. So, I think it all worked out well!
6. My nickname is ‘The Pocket Rocket’
In 2002 I built my own home. Literally. I did everything for which a licence wasn’t required. From excavating to concreting, building retaining walls to laying floorboards – you name it, I did it. Along the way I was featured on Hot Property on Channel 7 and became known as the Pocket Rocket. Hot Property was a wildly popular program, rating up to 3 million viewers a night.
It turned out that viewers liked the Pocket Rocket quite a lot, so I was invited back by Channel 7 to co-host the next series of Hot Property, along side the iconic Michael Caton from the movie The Castle. All these years later I still get stopped by people on the street asking me if I’m the Pocket Rocket and if I still live in the house that I built. (The answer is yes! Lol)
7. My son is my superhero
My son Asher was diagnosed at birth with a permanent bilateral hearing impairment and has worn hearing aids all of his life. My world changed the instant he was born and he has taken me on the most wonderful and life-changing journey. When he was only a few months old I started an early intervention centre, along with a few other incredible mums, called Hear the Children, to teach deaf children to speak as clearly and perfectly as every other child their age. The results this centre achieves are stunning. Asher is now 7 and attends a mainstream school in Riverstone, speaks beautifully and his impairment will never be a handicap to him in his life. The great thing is that his story is no different from any other child who attends Hear the Children.
Quite unexpectedly, I received several awards for my voluntary work with Hear the Children, including 2012 NSW Woman of the Year (Inaugural People’s Choice) and a 2013 University of Western Sydney Women of the West Award. But the best reward is my beautiful boy who speaks better than I do! He has no idea how hard he has worked to get where he is, or what a miracle it is that he speaks so effortlessly and perfectly. He is my little superhero.
8. I opened a shelter for women and children escaping domestic violence
As a child of domestic violence, one of the most meaningful things I have had the privilege to be involved with is The Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is a new shelter for women and children escaping domestic violence in Sydney’s North West. My role as inaugural Chair of the Board has been to work alongside my fellow Directors, our wonderful and generous community, and Women’s Community Shelters and build The Sanctuary from the ground up.
After 9 months breathing our shelter to life, we opened our doors 2 months ago. The day we opened The Sanctuary I received a call from our Shelter Manager, a wonderful woman called Donna. Donna asked me to sit down and to try not to speak. She said if I spoke I would cry, and if I cried then she would cry too – and she needed to keep composure in order to prepare. Donna knew my story. She knew that my mother was only 17 when she gave birth to me and that her abuse had started within weeks of my birth. She knew that my earliest childhood memories were of my beautiful mother being brutalised in front of me. She knew that, metaphorically speaking, I had spent my whole life trying to save my mother.
What Donna told me next has become the most personally profound full-circle moment of my life. She said that our first young woman was on her way to The Sanctuary. She was 17 and had a 7 week old baby. She told me that she knew why I had worked so hard to build The Sanctuary. She finished by saying “Darling, I want you to know that finally you have saved your mother.” I broke down and wept for 6 hours straight – I have tears welling up just relaying the story. The tears were of sorrow for what this poor woman had endured, for joy that she would be able to be cocooned in our gorgeous Sanctuary as she healed, for relief that the 46 year old Yvonne had finally been able to make a difference for a woman where the toddler Yvonne could not.
I’m so grateful that the universe has provided me with such an unexpected reward, even when I wasn’t looking for one. The Sanctuary is currently at capacity and we’re looking at opening another shelter just like it in the north-western part of Greenway.
9. I’m a dreamer and a doer – and I want to do so much more
I love to dream and do. I’m not the type of person who will sit around and complain. I’m a ‘just get on with the job’ type of girl. I’m proud that I’ve built two life changing, world class, front-line services in Hear the Children and The Sanctuary. (Note: both services were built to be sustainable and both were built without any government funding whatsoever.)
I’m fortunate to have been able to be a part of some truly wonderful things in my life, but I want to do more. I can’t think of a more important way to make a difference, than in the Australian Parliament. I would like to redefine what it is to be a modern day Member of Parliament. I don’t wish to be known as a ‘sitting’ Member of Parliament, I want to become known as an ‘active’ Member of Parliament!
I love our community in Greenway. We are honest, hard-working and aspirational to the core. We deserve a representative that listens carefully, takes action and is prepared to fight to deliver extraordinary outcomes, especially for our most vulnerable. We need a representative who understands the daily struggle faced by some families, who understands the sacrifices that need to be made to make ends meet, and who is prepared to roll up their sleeves and do the hard and often unglamorous work it takes to achieve a better future for us all. I hope to be that person for the wonderful people of Greenway.
Yvonne is running as the Liberal Candidate for the seat of Greenway in the upcoming Federal Election on July 2. The Electorate of Greenway includes Girraween, Acacia Gardens, Glenwood, Kellyville Ridge, The Ponds, Stanhope Gardens, Seven Hills, Parklea, Kings Langley, Kings Park, Lalor Park, Prospect, and parts of Quaker’s Hill, Pendle Hill, Rouse Hill, Vineyard, Riverstone, Schofields and Blacktown and Toongabbie.
If you would like to learn more, or maybe even help Yvonne with her campaign, please contact her on 0431 181 311 or email her at Greenway@nswliberal.org.au. Follow her progress on Facebook at Keane4Greenway.
Authorised by Chris Stone, Liberal Party of Australia – NSW Division. Level 12, 100 William St, East Sydney NSW 2011.