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January 30, 2023

Lismore Councillor candidate bios – Group A: Labor

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The Echo asked all the Lismore Councillor candidates to send in a bio.

First-cab-off-the-rank is current Councillor Darlene Cook for Labor and her team, Group A.

Lismore Elections, Group A: Labor. Darlene Cook, Jasmine Knight-Smith, Kevin Bell, Joy Knight-Smith and Bill Oddie. Photo supplied.

Darlene Cook is running for Mayor

I grew up in Sydney, the second youngest of five children. I completed my HSC in 1972, was awarded Dux of my school, and although I was offered a place at university, I decided that living in the country and rural work was my preferred future.

I was successful in getting work on a beef cattle station in Nymboida, near Grafton, in 1974. I stayed in the Grafton area for eight years, working on a series of challenging jobs in what was then regarded as male-dominated industries.

During those years I worked for beef cattle stations, commercial mixed vegetable growers, cut pit props for the Nymboida coal mine, worked in the timber industry as a faller’s offsider; and ran a small business manufacturing axe handles.

In 1982 I moved north to Dorroughby where I worked in the macadamia industry for 10 years, growing the trees from seedlings, grafting young macadamias and sorting nuts on the processing lines.

In my late 30s I decided to retrain as an accountant, qualifying in 1995. For over 20 years I worked as a bookkeeper, BAS agent, and finance manager for small sole tradesmen, a restaurant, the community legal centre, family support and disability services and other non-profit community organisations.

My interest in local government commenced when I was in my teens. Kuringai Council established a youth council in 1971 and invited representatives from the local schools to be councillors. I was one of those representatives and became enthused by the diversity of council operations and how important those services are to the well being of the community.

While I’ve been a keen follower of council activities for many years, to gain a better perspective on the current business situation I commenced attending the Tuesday evening briefings and meetings at Lismore Council in 2015, as I considered whether to contest the 2016 elections.

I have been privileged to represent my community on Council for the past five years. As a rural dweller and with my background in farming I felt I could be a voice for our villages and farmers on issues that affect our region. I could also bring my experience in financial management to the role of overseeing the large budget and many business units that comprise council operations and seeking to improve the performance and financial sustainability of the council into the future.

I love the rich diversity of people who call Lismore home: our city and village dwellers, our farmers and our rural land sharing communities: all bring a shared vision of the future we want to live in.

A world with healthy, active lifestyles, environmentally sustainable use of our natural resources, support for business and industries generating jobs enabling our young people to stay in the region, and high-quality transport links to our villages and to the neighbouring towns.

It is the role of Council to design plans and strategies to achieve that vision. I am running for Mayor because I believe I have the drive to see that vision come to fruition.


Kevin Bell

I left home at 18 and joined the Army. I graduated from RMC Duntroon when I was 23 and served for the best part of a decade in the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RAEME). In the 1990s I changed careers and did a teaching degree. Over the past 25 years I have taught Mathematics and Religious studies in a number of local high schools.

My wife Cath and I moved to Repentance Creek in 1997 to grow coffee and macadamia nuts. We have two daughters.

I joined the Labor Party twenty-four years ago, concerned about the way the Liberal and National parties were leading Australia with their little concern for the unemployed, Indigenous issues and affordable housing. Remember John Howard’s refusal to walk across the bridge and his inability to be able to say sorry to the stolen generation. We had to wait for Kevin Rudd.

My vision for Lismore is for a city and its villages to be vibrant, welcoming, creative an affordable. Council can be a part of bringing this vision to reality, by encouraging business, investment and the arts. And of course better maintaining our roads!

Together we can make Lismore the most liveable local government area on the North Coast.

My qualifications include BSc (UNSW), Dip Ed(ACU) and Masters of Education (SCU).


Jasmine Knight-Smith

I’m a proud mother of two children and a resident of Booerie Creek.

I believe that you don’t need to be ‘in’ politics to make a difference. We can all make a contribution, and we can be part of something bigger. But equally, change doesn’t happen unless people are prepared to stand up and be counted. That’s why I’m putting up my hand for the Lismore City Council election.

I’ve had a diverse working career. I’m an experienced piano technician, having worked in our family piano repair business since the age of 16. I’ve also managed an Internet Service Provider, been a paralegal and practice manager at a local law firm, and coordinated a Meals on Wheels service in Sydney.

I’ve been an active member of our community – volunteering at organisations such as Women up North Housing and Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre, and serving as a President of The Channon Pre School.

In 2019 I coordinated a fundraiser for bushfire victims, raising over $4,000 for the community of Wytaliba.

I went to school at Richmond River High, and studied law at SCU – where I was President of the SCU Law Students’ Society and represented the University at the annual AAT Mooting Competition.

In my spare time, I’m an enthusiastic bushwalker and bird-watcher. I love the area and all that it does and can offer. I believe in the power of science and technology. I want to harness it for social, ecological and economic innovation. I want to challenge privilege and inequality. I want to encourage passion and entrepreneurship. I want more for our region.

I know these are big dreams for a council candidate, but they are worthy dreams for us all.


William (Bill) Oddie

I was born in Germany with Scottish parents, but grew up in Edinburgh. I joined the British army straight out of school, serving with the first battalion Scots Guard in Northern Ireland Cyprus and in ceremonial duties at Buckingham Palace.

After being discharged in 1979, I migrated to Australia and commence a traineeship with Coles Myer. I became a Store Manager in 1980, and held various other positions in the company including State Administration manager for Queensland and NSW. In 1990 I moved to the Lismore area, and commenced employment at Lismore Base Hospital (LBH).

I’ve now spent 30 years at the LBH working across a number of frontline roles.

I’ve demonstrated my ability as an effective and determined representative for other people through my involvement in the Health Service Union (HSU). I was President of the HSU’s LBH Sub-Branch for around ten years, on the HSU National Council for around five years, and I’m currently a member of the HSW NSW State Council. During this time I’ve been involved in winning numerous backpays for members – including $2.5 million worth of backpay in just the past few recent years. Another highlight has been securing free ambulance cover for HSU members through their union membership.

I’ve also been active in the community in both Queensland and NSW. In 1995 I helped to create a new Lions Club in Coraki, which became quite a large club – although in recent years membership dropped and the club no longer exists.

I was also the Club Treasurer at the Goonellabah Football Club (soccer) for around ten years, where I also coached senior and junior teams.

I’m driven by a commitment to the community, and a desire to give back to the country which has allowed to me live such a full life.


Joy Knight-Smith

I’m 24 years old and I’m here to be a voice for the youth. There needs to be someone on Council who is connected to young people and knows the issues they face in this community.

For too long our young people have been forgotten.

I have lived in the Lismore area my whole life and know what it is like to be a young person in the area. I was born in Lismore Base Hospital, went to Richmond River High School, and am currently completing my final year of a double degree in Law and Arts majoring in Governance and Society.

We are losing our young people to the cities by not catering to them. If we want to keep our community alive and vibrant, we need to look after its members. One way we can to this is to attract industry to the area so as to provide jobs.

One thing I want to see more of is youth-focused infrastructure – and in particular, our skate parks. Lismore’s skate parks are greatly falling behind those of neighbouring towns and villages, and as the regional centre of this area, this should not be the case.

We also need action on climate change from all levels of government, because it’s our future which is at risk.

I am here to look after our young people and bring positive change.


Recent stories, information and updates regarding the Lismore Elections

Dr Philip Nitschke to visit Lismore

Controversial founder and director of the pro-euthanasia group Exit International, Dr Philip Nitschke will hold a free public meeting on NSW’s new Voluntary Assisted Dying Act at the Lismore Workers Club on Saturday.


Lismore City Council’s awards ceremony

Sophia Watt was named Lismore City Council’s 2023 Citizen of the Year at an awards ceremony held at the Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre yesterday.


Lismore hospital works completed

The final stage of the Lismore Base Hospital redevelopment is now complete, says the NSW Liberals and Nationals government.


NRRC – Lismore rally to demand transparency and accountability for flood...

Flood-impacted residents from the Northern Rivers are being called to join forces in Lismore at 10am on Monday, 23 January to demand transparency and socially just development interventions from the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation.


North Lismore Plateau’s ‘Sleeping Lizard’ DA refused but what’s the future?

On Thursday 15 December, it took the four panellists on the Northern Regional Planning Panel less than half an hour, to unanimously decline the Development Application for the northern section of the North Lismore Plateau also known as The Sleeping Lizard.


Council closes Koori Kitchen for car parks

With the new year came the news that the Koori Kitchen in Lismore would not be reopening and that the facility would be packed down – Council wants their parking spaces back.


Record number of Lismore Australia Day nominations 

Lismore has had a record number of nominations for the awards presented on Australia Day.  Fifty-four community members have been nominated across seven categories: Citizen of the Year, Aboriginal Citizen of the Year, Young Citizen of the Year, senior and...


Free extra waste vouchers for Lismore and Nimbin

Lismore City Council has provided 1,000 extra ‘free waste vouchers’ to help residents dispose of excess waste generated over the Christmas and New Year period. 


Post-flood work zones to be removed from Lismore CBD 

Temporary ‘work zone’ signage will be progressively removed from the Lismore CBD from early January.


Have your say on the Lismore Planning Panel

The NSW Government has announced the creation of a local planning panel for Lismore. The panel will be made up of independent experts and community representatives to determine contentious and complex development applications and provide advice on other planning matters.


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  1. One of the on-going dilemmas for Labor people across Lismore seems to stem from the Labor party’s “You-must-toe-the-line”policy that results in decisions being made that are from Labor conferences, rather than locals which then become immovable objects. A case in point is the rail line. Jenny Dowell (Labor Mayor), famously said in reference to the reinstatement of the passenger rail service to Murwillumbah, “That issue has left the station”. It meant essentially, that because Labor closed the line in the first place, then it would appear “disloyal” for Labor-orientated people to turn around and lobby for the return of the train. As a result, Lismore, with a population of over 47,000 people, which could dearly do with a rail connection, (it’s just plain weird the train only goes to Casino), has for years now, missed out on an essential service. It almost smacks of spitefulness. Isaac Smith continued the inertia. So what are we to make of Labor’s candidates? Are they blinkered by Labor’s “pro-bus”stance (at the time of the closing of the corridor, why did the Labor Opposition Transport Minister come up and visit the bus companies? Political donations perhaps?), and thus are shackled, unable to properly represent the valid needs of the local community who seek to have a rail service? It’s probably the subject they will least want to talk about but Lismore is much the worst for the ongoing silence.


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