'I live in Tony Abbott’s electorate. Here's how door knocking for the YES campaign went.'

I have a beautiful family—a patient, French-Canadian husband and two children, of which I’m very proud. Alicia is a talented violinist with a taste for maths and social justice. Sam is a discerning and creative future designer.

He is also gay. Whilst this is not what solely defines him, it will determine many aspects of his life: where he chooses to live; how he’s received at work; the ease or difficulty of choosing and marrying a life partner.

Sam was raised both here in Australia and in Canada, where I grew up and where Same Sex marriage passed in 2005. He came out to his friends, a diverse group of quirky kids of different ethnicities, nationalities and sexual orientation, just before returning to Oz in 2015. It was a non-event.

It was a non-event in our family as well. He knew that sexual orientation, like skin colour, gender, religion or any other personal identifiers, are not what determines a person’s value or worth. What matters is the content of one’s character and the values we live by.

We landed back in Australia in the midst of an acrimonious Same Sex marriage debate which had Sam completely flummoxed. His parents and sister too. Why was there such anger, fear and trepidation about providing two people who love each other the right to marry?

We learned of kids who hadn’t come out at home or at school for fear of reprisals—rejection from their own families; open discrimination and bullying. We also learned of the higher incidence of self-harm, depression and suicide in the LGBTQI community.

As a mother, I felt profoundly guilty. Where had I taken my son? This was not the Australia we lived in when he was a young boy. How would he adapt as a comfortable-in-his-skin, gay 15-year old? How would the kids at school react? Was I over-reacting?

In the two years since we’ve been back, Sam has settled in and I have settled down. There have been incidents that set me back, like the religious teacher at school who preached that God didn’t approve of sex before marriage or homosexual acts. Or the new mother who said she’d ‘kill her son’ if she found out he was gay. Seriously.

door knocking for the YES campaign
Coleen and her son. Image: supplied.

I have become active in the Yes Campaign both for my son, and for the sake of those who suffer profoundly based on unwarranted, fear-based or faith-based discrimination.


I have also become involved because my heart goes out to the mothers who suffer deeply trying to reconcile their faith with the child’s sexuality. No mother or child should have to live through such trauma. Faith and sexuality are not mutually exclusive as so many faith-based leaders across the county have pointed out.

A Yes vote will only impact Australia in a positive way. It will help overcome irrational fears and contribute to building an inclusive society where everyone is free to be themselves and contribute to their full potential.

This weekend was my first ever door knocking experience, one that I went into with great trepidation. I had made phone calls for the campaign before, but never had to speak to stranger’s face to face about how they intend to vote.

I was nervous!! I live in Tony Abbott’s electorate and whilst I knew there was strong support in the community, I was still really unsure how my efforts would be received.

I set off with my new friend Rebecca and I’m really not sure it’s something I’d have contemplated doing on my own. Off I went in my rainbow shoes and YES shirt that the campaign team gave me. Rebecca joined the YES Campaign after feeling so upset about seeing the big “NO” written in the sky a few weeks back - her simple reason for wanting to be involved.

We were given about three or four streets to door knock on a Sunday afternoon and about two thirds of the homes we went to say hi to were home. The first door I knocked on was a middle-aged man, this was one easy, he’d already posted his yes vote. My knees stopped shaking and my faith was restored.

LISTEN: Mamamia Out Loud discuss why Frances Abbott supporting the YES campaign is so powerful (post continues after audio...)

Of the 75 or so places we knocked on, most of them had voted and voted YES. I was pleasantly surprised.

Our approach was personal - we introduce ourselves and let folks know why we were there. Most of the time the response was positive, so any sort of script was really not needed. What surprised me the most was that I only had two conversations with people who we now think will end up voting no.

One of those that we think was a no voter wasn’t overt in her views, she was somewhat shy, but she simply let us know that she is more traditional and that’s it. Everyone is entitled to their view and she had hers. I felt a little awkward asking people how they intend to vote, but no one responded awkwardly at all. The response was actually very open in every case.

Door knocking was an incredibly wonderful experience, one I really enjoyed. I wasn’t sure if door knocking would be a technique that would work but I feel it does, it encourages conversations and puts a human face to the campaign. In my mind, apathy is the biggest enemy so anything that we can do to talk to the community about why voting yes is important is a huge help.

What this reinforced for me is that my heart goes out to those kids who live in fear of coming out, who fear their families or their communities will reject them. My heart goes out to the mothers of these kids too.  I can’t imagine the anguish they must feel choosing between the love of their child and their faith or their own fear of societal rejection.

It doesn’t have to be that way and that is why I am advocating and will continue to advocate that people vote yes.