Carr gives moving speech about her journey from being a victim of abuse to becoming an elected MP

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
Sandra Carr MLC at Geraldton Port.
Camera IconSandra Carr MLC at Geraldton Port. Credit: Geoff Vivian The Geraldton Guardian

While she may describe herself as “exceptionally average”, Member for the Agricultural Region Sandra Carr has shared the powerful story of how she overcame domestic abuse, sexual violence and mental illness to become an advocate for those without a voice.

Delivering her inaugural speech in Parliament on Tuesday, the Kalgoorlie-Boulder-born, Geraldton-based Ms Carr laid bare the details of “self-destructive choices” which stemmed from being the victim of sexual violence in her late teens.

“As one whose sense of self-worth was minimal throughout my younger and early parenting years, I found myself in a series of abusive relationships and experienced family and domestic violence,” she said. “It was only upon extricating myself from the situations of family and domestic violence that I succumbed to panic attacks, anxiety and depression, and so began the long journey of addressing the mental health impacts upon not only myself, but also my children.

“I still do not fully comprehend the complexity of my thinking that caused me to be in such a position, yet I can say with absolute certainty that those who find themselves in such predicaments need your absolute compassion, understanding and support.”

I have held numerous leadership roles and positions, along with gaining a renewed sense of self and a vehement belief in the power of education to transform lives.

After several failed attempts to complete degrees in fine arts, sports sciences, philosophy, politics and law, Ms Carr said she finally received teaching qualifications.

“I met my son’s father and completed a Bachelor of Arts, followed by a Graduate Diploma in Education, and these important steps allowed me to redesign my life path and that of my children,” she said.

“I have held numerous leadership roles and positions, along with gaining a renewed sense of self and a vehement belief in the power of education to transform lives.”

Her life experiences have resulted in Ms Carr having an intimate understanding of the concerns of domestic violence survivors, single parents, people working in the education industry, and those affected by mental illness.

Ms Carr pointed to an incident which led to a Yamatji woman — whom she referred only to as JC for cultural reasons — being shot dead in Geraldton after her family called the police as an example of the need to address the high rates of imprisonment of people “self-medicating” because of mental health issues.

“(JC’s family) were seeking assistance in transferring her to hospital, as she was — as her family described—‘experiencing difficulty’ after being released from prison,” she said.

“This tragic outcome points to an urgent need to examine this problem and how we might best adopt a significant paradigm shift to support those in our community who are suffering and those who are self-medicating.”

Ms Carr said her “intelligent” and “kind-hearted” brother’s experience with a long-undiagnosed mental health condition highlighted the need for better support for men.

“The trauma of attempting to access timely assistance at the peak of my brother’s most recent episode remains with me,” she said.

“The inability to access immediate support left my family helpless and feeling that my brother’s death would likely come before assistance.

Member for Agricultural Sandra Carr presenting her inaugural speech to Parliament.
Camera IconMember for Agricultural Sandra Carr presenting her inaugural speech to Parliament. Credit: Picture: Parliament of WA

“I am relieved to share here today that he was finally able to access the support of mental health professionals and, along with his own willingness to participate in his recovery, is now part of a support system that has him well and truly on the path to recovery.”

Ms Carr paid tribute to her “classic Aussie battler” parents, who named her after a blonde-haired neighbour whom her mother admired.

Elected from the “extraordinarily unlikely” position of third on the ALP’s ticket, the Geraldton high school English teacher said she would not let her “mediocrity” prevent her representing her electorate.

“I do not hesitate to acknowledge that this exceptionally average person is here teetering upon the shoulders of giants,” she said.

“Given this and the great depth of knowledge, skill and experience around me, both in this place and the (Legislative Assembly), the temptation to surrender to imposter syndrome is significant.

“Yet I work to remind myself that governments should be at their core representative, and the fact that I bring my mediocrity with me has fundamental value.”

Ms Carr also shared her thoughts on electoral reform, climate change, mobile coverage and internet connectivity in regional WA, housing shortages and hydrogen production.

In all areas, Ms Carr said she would endeavour to be an advocate for regional WA.

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