Independent ‘confident’ in Yarraman poll

Rahima Rizai, who has drawn top of the Yarraman Ward ballot, nominates local roads and parking as key issues. 390619_02 Picture: GARY SISSONS

by Cam Lucadou-Wells

Yarraman Ward councillor candidate Rahima Rizai has loved politics even as a child.

Her first political inspiration was the late Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, whose example she still recounts to her children.

And more recently another female national leader, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard – a “strong woman” and “role model”.

Rizai is now stepping into the political realm as an independent candidate in the Greater Dandenong Council by-election.

She is critical of the amount of political-party candidates running in Yarraman, including five ALP, a Liberal, Green and Socialist among the field of 13.

“It looks like a game, to be honest. People need someone who is not involved in political groups and parties. They want an independent voice who will be advocating for them.

“People need a person, just a normal person of the community, on the council.

“I would be strongly advocating for the community. I would be interested in their voices.”

Drawing the coveted top position on the ballot, Rizai is confident that she can secure an unexpected victory.

“I’m confident because the community knows me and I have a great connection with the community.

“People want someone who can say and do things – not just say things and not see any action.”

If elected, Rizai would be pushing for better, safer local roads, which “weren’t looking great at the moment”.

“I’ve been living in the area for 13 years and I haven’t seen any change in them.”

Parking and traffic congestion was also an issue in narrow residential streets. Jones Road was one that was difficult to cross during school peak times.

“There’s a lot of other streets where there are a lot of units built. People are parking in the street even though they already have an (off-street) car space.

“It makes it difficult to drive down the road.”

Since arriving in the area in 2010, Rizai – a mother of four young kids and with initially little English – has graduated with a community services diploma and applied herself to countless activities.

Now speaking six languages, she is a voice and helper for many new arrivals at the Dandenong West Primary School’s Community Hub.

Rizai also volunteers on the committee of Australian Hazara Women’s Friendship Network, autistic children’s service Noah’s Ark, Doveton Neighbourhood Learning Centre, disability service Wallara and South East Community Links on housing and family violence projects.

“I’m really proud I’m able to work and pay back to the community.

“I came here as a migrant and I gained a lot of experience. I was really, really happy to realise my goals and take my opportunities.

“From the bottom of my heart I feel I have to give back to the community.”