Get to Know Your Councillor - Division 11 Cr Natalie Willcocks
Where did you grow up?
I grew up for the first 9 years of my life out at Bellbowrie. So I’m a Western Suburbs girl. When we sold our childhood house we moved to Sinnamon Park and we were there for a few years, until my parents split up. Then I moved with my mum to Riverhills which is where I spent the rest of my teenage years until I moved out of home.
Where did you go to school?
I attended to Corinda State High for Grade 8 to 12. I graduated in 1994.
Did you enjoy it?
I loved high school and I always thought that I would follow my Dad’s passion for planes and work in Air Traffic Control like him. But back then there was no pathway to get into it. In the past couple years, ATC have bought out all of these pathways to get into it and I would’ve just loved it. But it wasn’t meant to be! When I graduated high school I actually got into university to go into nursing, when I first came out. But I decided I didn’t want to do all the blood, guts and gore. But I always enjoyed my time at high school, especially PE!
I didn’t do uni first up. I went straight from school, straight into being an apprentice chef because I love to cook. My husband will tell you I’m an extremely messy cook though. I did that for about a year, and realised that, I don’t like being ‘back of house’ so I went ‘front of house’ and started working for McDonald’s. I’m what they call an ‘off the streetie Manager.’ I was never crew for them and I went straight into a management role at 18 and I was manager for quite a few different McDonald’s owned stores for eight years in total. Then whilst I was there, I decided to go to University and study a Bachelor in Education. I completed my four year degree in 3 and a half, because I had started my apprenticeship being a chef, I got cross credits, I did summer school and took an extra subject here and there, to complete my degree early and finish mid year. I have taught for Education Queensland for 15 years, 10 of those in Logan / Beaudesert high schools and now I’m here.
What are your memories of family life growing up?
Mum and Dad divorced when I was 12, so it was basically a single parent family from the age of 12, where I lived predominantly with mum, but it was fine. I saw dad regularly, even though he was an Air Traffic Controller and he moved around with work and that sort of thing but it was pretty good so I can’t really complain. Mum and dad were loving and supportive of both my sister and I.
What people or experiences have shaped your life?
My parents divorce had a big impact. My sister and I were pretty much over it by the time we were 12 and 13. My sister and I were over the fighting, and I think we said, just get divorced already. We were old enough to understand. So when they did get divorced, it was a good thing for all of us.
When I finished high school, I didn’t get the OP that I wanted. I did get into University, but it wasn’t my first choice. But because I took a bit of a zig zag approach to get into University and I wasn’t straight out of high school it shaped my teaching career. I’m HPE, Legal Studies and Home Ec trained, but it took me about ten years to realise my calling in teaching. Once I started teaching, and I worked out that I really liked working within Senior Schooling Departments, and I really enjoyed talking and assisting students and helping them work out where they wanted to transition after school. For the past five years of my teaching, I have worked with students who have disengaged out of mainstream high schools from a range of diverse backgrounds and assisted them to transition into meaningful pathways outside of school. It has been the most rewarding and challenging Educational setting to work in. I loved that as teachers we were able to think outside the box and be flexible in our teaching and learning approaches to get the best for our students.
Who are the people that have influenced your life?
My grandma. My parents. My husband. Close friends.
You gave Grandma the first mention just then. What was it about Grandma?
She was the matriarch of our family. She’s passed away now. She was just lovely. I just remember she was always there for us.
What’s family like at the moment?
My hubby Mark, our two girls and our Alaskan Malamute dog Nanuk. My eldest daughter Zoe is 12 and started high school this year and my youngest Ruby is 9 and attends Greenbank State School.
What sort of things do you like doing together?
It’s hard, because the hubby is on afternoon shifts. He’s Tuesday and Saturday at the moment, but we make it work. There’s lots of sport involved. Both the kids swim, Zoe is actually quite a good little swimmer. But starting high school this year, training has been hard to logistically navigate.
Ruby swims a couple times a week straight after school, but she loves her art and craft! They both play netball for Flagstone, at Jimboomba, so they both train at Jimboomba and play on a Saturday morning. In winter you’ll always find me at the Jimboomba netball courts on a Saturday morning, if netball season’s on, and some mornings in the canteen.
Did you play as a child?
No, I wasn’t a fan of netball when I was younger. I was a swimmer and a hockey player, but there was just no hockey close by so I couldn’t get them involved in that. So netball it was. I can coach it netball at a junior level, but that’s about it. When I play I’m always getting told off that I’m too close, even my kids tell me off! But I love watching my kids play in their teams on a Saturday morning and watching the Firebirds or Diamonds play. But I also love watching elite swimming and a good hockey match!
What inspired you to run for council?
I really felt it was a perfect time to give back to the community.
I always probably thought it would be a great opportunity to get more involved
With my Legal Studies background, I loved going on excursions into the Courts and to Parliament and sitting there and watching how it worked. Its always fascinated me. So I guess there has always that inkling in the back of my mind, but I always thought it’d be too hard to run against an incumbent. When there was no incumbent sitting, I just went, “It’s now or never.” I’ve got to put my hat in the ring. When making my decision to run, I thought, I’ve made all those connections in the community over the years and I’ve taught at local schools, my kids went to school at Greenbank, I started the Greenbank Gators Swimming Club with a lovely group of ladies, and the kids play netball for Flagstone at Jimboomba, and I was always in the canteen at netball, helping on Saturday and that sort of thing. So I thought, there’s a lot of people that know me. I should be able to get some support here.
Can you remember the moment where you said, “I’m gonna run for council”?
It was back in about May last year when I first started thinking about. So I started researching more about Council and the role of a Councillor and then I spoke with my dad and had quite a few conversations and asked what he thought. I realised that I had connections that would reach quite a few people in the Division and Dad eventually told me to run now, while I’m young, and not have any regrets at sixty by not running.
In the June/July holidays last year, I started doing a little bit of homework and I started driving the Division and sat in on a couple council meetings. I knew they weren’t the normal council meetings, they were missing debates from the Councillors. But I thought, “I actually would love this. I could really make a difference”
When I spoke with Mark about running, his first question was ‘why?’ My response was I really want to be their voice, we haven’t had a voice in so long and I started talking about what I’d done and the connections I had made in the community and I thought I would be able to give our area the voice it needs.
What did you enjoy most about campaigning?
Getting out there and meeting residents I didn’t know and catching up with those I hadn’t seen in quite a while. With my connections before campaigning, I knew quite a few people, but there was still so many people I didn’t know.
I had market stalls in November, December, January I think, and just actually having people come along to meet me was lovely. I would put a photo up on my candidate facebook page, “I’m at the markets. Come and see me.” And I had quite a few people come and see me, but then others were like, I didn’t know anything about these markets, what’s going on? That was why I started doing the ‘What’s On in Division 11’ facebook post and it had a great response from the community.
Obviously there’s not alot out there at the moment during COVID-19 restrictions, so after COVID restrictions are all over and once activities start happening in and around Division 11, I will start posting again, because people are really starting to connect with that.
What are you excited about getting up and going for?
Getting out there, meeting the residents, having mobile offices once restrictions have lifted and being able to represent the Division on what they want done. I came in with quite a list and I’m slowly working through that list. I haven’t been able to get a lot of feedback from that list yet, but being able to get feedback on it would be great. I’m looking forward to once the COVID restrictions are lifted.
The over development of our Division has definitely come before improving our infrastructure in the past. So I will continue to advocate on our trunk roads needing improvement and to improve our bus service to include Thursday, Friday, Saturday night and weekend services along with quite a list of other things that residents brought to me whilst I was campaigning.
What do you imagine is going to be your biggest challenge coming up?
The budget. With COVID restrictions the pressure that has put on households and residents, hasn’t been seen before. People have lost their jobs, they are in limbo from their jobs, so this affects how people are paying bills and living, so it’s really going to affect the budget. And obviously because none of us have seen any financials/budgets, we are just waiting to have those briefings.