BEC Cody’s journey to work, as a former Labor backbencher, led her through the corridors of power.
Now as chief executive at the ACT Mental Health Community Coalition, her daily commute – past rough sleepers – has a far more sobering effect.
Ms Cody, 48, draws perspective from her journey to work, which takes her past the homeless regularly camped outside her Civic-based office.
“Seeing the homeless gather outside the office is really tough,” Ms Cody told “CityNews”.
“There is always more that can be done, however it takes a multitude of ideas to create a solution, and I am humbled to be part of an organisation that helps advocate for better support for homeless people.”
Ms Cody, who lost her seat at last year’s election, is weeks into her new role with the coalition, which acts as the peak body for community-based mental health services in the ACT.
The former Murrumbidgee MLA, hopes her well-trodden path in politics will help secure precious funding for a suite of mental-health organisations operating on a “shoestring budget”.
“The work the organisations do, that we represent, is incredible and they don’t get the support they should,” said Ms Cody.
“Mental ill health is a real talking point at the moment, which is fabulous, because hopefully it will make it less of a taboo subject, but for all the good work that our member organisations do, the funding that they receive needs to be increased.”
Having endured her own struggles with mental health and domestic violence, and supporting a son with autism, Ms Cody believes the biggest challenge for mental health remains lifting the stigma attached to the illness.
“I’ve been through a lot in life, I left a violent relationship, I am a single mum, I raised my two boys with my eldest son struggling with his own battles and I’ve studied and worked full time,” Ms Cody said.
“Everyone is battling their own demons, everyone has their own story and we need to be mindful of that.”
Sydney born but Kambah raised, Ms Cody’s political awakening occurred at the age of nine.
“I was devastated to learn they were bulldozing the horse paddocks near my house in Kambah to build Gleneagles Estate and that’s when I took part in my first activism,” Ms Cody said.
But before gravitating to a career in politics, Ms Cody worked as a hairdresser and salon owner.
An early school leaver, she later returned to study, putting herself through a degree in law and politics before entering the public service.
In 2016 she was elected to the ACT Legislative Assembly.
Ms Cody said joining the Labor Party in the early 2000s was a turning point in her life.
“I met some incredible women there, women who would stand up for what they believed in, women who showed a strength that I’d forgotten about,” Ms Cody said.
It was her dad who invited her to a party meeting where she would find a supportive community and draw encouragement from female elders who helped her find her strength to leave a controlling first marriage.
“Sneaking out and going to Labor Party meetings gave me the strength to leave my marriage,” she said.
Ms Cody remarried and later split up with her second husband.
While she has enjoyed a lengthy association with the Labor Party and has a strong family background within the movement, she has felt a weight removed from her shoulders not having to play the part of a politician.
Despite being “disappointed” about losing her seat, time away from politics has given Ms Cody the opportunity to reflect on the personal contribution she wishes to make going forward.
“It’s nice to be me and not Bec Cody the politician anymore,” Ms Cody said.
“Again, there were advantages to that but there’s lots of advantages to being just me.”
One of those freedoms is having her weekends back.
“It’s been really nice to take my dog for a walk, get my nails done and enjoy some downtime, I know that sounds really pathetic but I haven’t had a weekend off in 34 years, I’ve been working since I was 14,” Ms Cody said.
Cody’s diverse occupations coupled with broad life experience will serve her well in her new role as an advocate for the less fortunate.
The path Cody travels each day serves as a constant reminder, not that she needs it, of the work yet to be done eliminating injustice and inequality from the community.
“I’ve always been really serious and committed to the causes I’m passionate about, that won’t change, no matter what role I’m in,” she said.