Australia polls: Cost of living key issue for Zim-born Adelite Smith

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Mother of four Adelite Smith works two jobs but still struggles to make ends meet.

“Childcare is so expensive,” she said.

“I used to always buy the same things, but now the same amount of money is not stretching as it used to.”

A first-time voter in Western Australia’s most marginal seat of Cowan, Ms Smith is someone both major political parties will be hoping to win over at the polls on May 21.

According to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), around 440,000 new Australian citizens will cast a vote for the first time in this federal election.

Although Ms Smith received her Australian citizenship in 2014, she said the lack of significance that voting held back in her home country of Zimbabwe influenced her decision not to vote in 2017.

“If you come from a place where voting really is not meaningful, it’s really hard to change that point of view and to start believing that your vote here counts,” she said.

Working with vulnerable clients as a family domestic violence social worker at Ishar Multicultural Women’s Centre in Mirrabooka encouraged her to do more research ahead of the election.

“With the pandemic, it’s been really difficult, and a lot of people are facing more stuff. Domestic violence is going up, mental health [issues are] going up, alcohol and other drug [use] is going up,” Ms Smith said.

“So the main thing is that now I get to see what a vote actually means … and what having the right party actually means for our communities.”

But the 27-year-old claims she is still a “baby in politics” and is busy building knowledge of Australia’s electoral system.

“I learned the other day that Scott Morrison and Mark McGowan were not from the same party … because I just thought if we have Liberal leaders, it’s all Liberal in every state,” she said.

Cost of living, house prices among key issues

While Ms Smith, 27, is still on the fence about where her vote will go, cost of living pressures and housing affordability are front of mind for her at the ballot box.

Adelite shopping at a local market
Adelite Smith is concerned about the rising cost of housing in the area. (ABC News: Tabarak Al Jrood)

“The City of Stirling used to be one of the more affordable places for housing … but we’re really struggling to find housing for clients because houses have just gone up,” she said.

“Public housing is absolutely non-existent at the moment and even [the waitlist for] priority housing is like two to three years now, so how can it really be priority housing?”

Ms Smith said she was also looking for a leader who embraced multiculturalism, with Cowan containing some of the most culturally diverse suburbs in Perth.

“I want more options for multicultural people to be not just an Australian citizen, but to be a meaningful Australian who can engage in and participate in the community.”

The electorate, covering 95 square kilometres, contains Perth’s most diverse inner-northern suburbs such as Greenwood, Marangaroo and Alexander Heights at the northern boundary and Osborne Park, Dianella and Nollamara to the south. It was named after Edith Cowan, the first woman elected to an Australian Parliament.

Due to a boundary redistribution last year, the electorate now takes in a large swathe of the abolished seat of Stirling, which means two sitting MPs will be battling against each other.