From washing cars to a seat in the Legislative Assembly, Deepak-Raj Gupta is not a man easily distracted from his ambitions. DANIELLE NOHRA talks to the impending new member for Yerrabi…
INCOMING MLA Deepak-Raj Gupta is calling for his electorate to have a voice in cabinet.
“I think the Yerrabi electorate needs strong ministerial representation because it’s such an important region in the ACT at the moment, with a young, growing population,” says Deepak, 53, of Gungahlin.
He will replace senior Labor minister Meegan Fitzharris by count-back following her shock resignation last week and, like Ms Fitzharris, the former independent Labor candidate will align himself to the party’s right faction.
“I’ve made a conscious decision to represent the right faction of the party out of the party’s best interests,” he says.
“I also think it’s a good fit.”
In fact, it’s the fit he had been searching for, saying he decided to quit his job as a project manager a month ago, leaving behind a 17-year career in the public service.
Deepak, who’s also a leader in the local Indian business community, had decided to search for a new path after losing his father last year and, in more recent weeks, his mother.
“I wanted to find something that involved being more connected to people,” he says.
So when he got a phone call on Wednesday, June 26, after only three days of being unemployed, from someone in the ACT government telling him to watch for an announcement that morning, it ended up being the new path he was looking for.
Deepak will be one of the first ACT Labor representatives of a multicultural background and says it’ll be a significant acknowledgment for people of a migrant background in Canberra.
“Not only to people of an Indian background but also people of other migrant backgrounds,” he says.
“I want to inspire others and show them that someone with a migrant background can take public office.
“It shows the cultural diversity and the acceptance of multiculturalism in the ACT – the most diverse city in Australia.”
Searching for a new life, Deepak came from India to Melbourne to study IT as a “young lad” in his early 20s.
Alone and with only $150 in his pocket, he got a job at a car wash, which he says taught him about the Australian society, people skills and the Aussie lingo.
The job was a day-to-day thing and Deepak remembers running for about three kilometres each morning to get to the carwash early in order to be guaranteed a shift.
He lived in Melbourne for about 14 years, where he eventually got a job working in IT for an insurance company, which transferred him to Canberra in 2002.
When the contract ran out he decided to stay. Canberra reminded him of home, Chandigarh, one of the first planned cities in India, so his wife joined him here and he got a job in the public service at the Department of Defence.
“I’ve seen Gungahlin grow with my children. It’s like my third child,” says Deepak, who’s been living in Gungahlin his whole time in Canberra.
He says it gives him a good understanding of its needs, the needs of a growing township and the needs of a community with growing families.
“As a young, growing family, I understand what it’s like and I understand their needs,” he says.
“I think I’ll be able to take that with me to the Assembly.”
In cricket terms, Deepak says Meegan Fitzharris has had a fine innings.
“A lot of good work has been done but a lot still has to be done so I’ll be doing a lot of public consultation and taking it to the ministers,” he says.
“I think we need to do more on the health side of things in this growing township.
“Education is also very important and, again, we need more education establishments as well as upgrades to Gungahlin College.
“One thing I would really like to work out is how to best address the issue of bus connectivity [and] I’ll be out and about soon talking to people in the community.”
Deepak says he also wants to give Gungahlin more life and make it a more happening place by organising events such as having a night market in the Gungahlin town centre.
Another way he wants to do this is by turning Yerrabi Pond into a water sports hub.
“I want to make Gungahlin more vibrant, a more secure, safe and welcoming place, and I hope to make a big difference as an MLA,” he says.
“For me it’s important to listen to the people, put a smile on their faces and contribute in a positive way.
“I’m a newbie – a new kid on the block – so there will be a lot of things I still need to learn but I’m also bringing a lot of experience into the Assembly, too.”
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