Cathy McGowan is a sixth generation farmer whose first taste of politics came as research assistant for federal member for Indi, Ewen Cameron, many decades ago. In 1983 she established a consultancy business which sought to bridge the gap between community and parliamentary bureaucracy, and subsequently worked as a rural affairs advisor with the Victorian Department of Agriculture.
Cathy was a president of Australian Women in Agriculture and she established the Women and Dairy discussion groups across the country. In 2004 she was made an Officer of the Order of Australia ‘for service to the community through raising awareness of and stimulating debate about issues affecting women in regional, rural and remote areas.’ McGowan was also a recipient of the Centenary Medal in 2001. In 2013 Cathy became the Independent Federal Member for Indi. Winning the seat of Indi, after the Coalition had held the seat for 82 years, was a watershed moment.
At the end of 2020, Cathy published her biography, Cathy Goes to Canberra: Doing Politics Differently. The book is a handbook – a ‘how-to-be-elected’ and ‘how-to-survive’ Canberra. It is a manifesto for an alternative community-based politics told through the prism of her story. It tells both the story of the campaign to win Indi around the community’s kitchen tables and the subsequent realities of negotiating good policy with the major political parties. While in parliament Cathy developed policy around regional development, a national integrity commission, a code of conduct for politicians, and drought policy.