LEANNE Castley, 47, has a tattoo down her left arm that sums up her approach to life; “I will stand back up,” it reads.
One of eight new faces in the ACT Legislative Assembly following October’s territory election, Ms Castley said the tattoo was inspired by a song and symbolic of her ability to overcome tough times.
In explaining the message behind the tattoo Ms Castley shared the lyrics of the Sugarland song.
So go ahead and take your best shot
Let her rip, give it all you’ve got
You might win this round but you can’t keep me down
Because I’ll stand back up
The single mum-of-two got the tattoo in 2008, when the successful car yard she ran with her then husband went bust.
The hard-working couple lost everything, including their dream home, and soon after their 15-year-long marriage collapsed, too.
“Everything turned to crap,” Ms Castley said.
“It all came tumbling down, it was a huge shock, but it was a good life lesson.”
Ms Castley has been pleasantly surprised by her first half-year as an MLA with the job exceeding her expectations.
Likening herself to a political human wrecking ball, Ms Castley wants to “smash” it for the people of Yerrabi.
She has tirelessly pursued all manner of local-amenity improvements from fixing footpaths to championing repairs for Gungahlin’s problem-plagued pool.
“That was an issue I picked up on immediately, it’s something that I said to the community, sure, I’ll fight for that,” she said.
Her latest career is a complete u-turn on some of her earlier vocations, which included a singing teacher, cleaner, Tupperware lady, account manager, vending machines stockist, mechanic’s assistant, dental nurse, beautician, tuck shop lady and IT project manager.
This quintessential “chick from Charney” who was steering towards a career in country music, even recording her own album, never imagined a gig in politics.
She is conscious of what a privilege it is to serve in public office and admits that sometimes she’s thrown by the perks of political life.
“Few people have their own free car space in the city; I am conscious of that privilege every day. I have a lovely office – not that I spend a lot of time there because I like to be out and about – but I never thought this life was on the cards for me,” she said.
“A friend of mine was preparing to go through the pre-selection process in the Liberal Party and she said: ‘You should have a go, Leanne; you care about people and you are motivated in whatever job you do’.”
“So, I thought, why not?”
Ms Castley was elected as the second Liberal in the Gungahlin-based seat of Yerrabi, behind then-opposition leader Alistair Coe, who has since retired.
She won more votes than the sitting Liberal James Milligan to claim her spot in the Assembly.
While last year was her first attempt at an ACT election, she ran as the Liberal candidate for the seat of Fenner at the 2019 federal election.
Drawn to Liberal Party philosophies and values, and not being beholden to a faction, she intends to follow her own path to arrive at decisions based on what’s in the best interest of the community.
“That’s why I like the Liberals, there’s no way they would tell me which way to start voting in the party room.”
Ms Castley freely admits that she didn’t grow up in a political household where politics was discussed around the dinner table.
Rather, dinner was spent in front of the tele watching “A Country Practice” with her older brother Barton, while her single mum, Lorraine, worked night shifts as a nurse.
“We were broke,” Ms Castley said.
“I remember mum crying over the washing machine breaking. It was a stressful time, things were really tight.”
Ms Castley is passionate about seeing small business thrive and wants to help overturn the perception that the Liberals don’t care about the environment.
“Where are all the trees?” she said.
“Why are we the worst-performing city for our urban-tree canopy?
“That has to stop.”
Born in Gunnedah but raised in Charnwood, she has fond memories of weekends spent riding dirt bikes and mustering sheep at her grandparents’ farm at Bookham.
Most weekends, the self-confessed revhead, can be found tinkering with her motorbike or under the bonnet of a car.
“There’s nothing quite like the rumble of a big engine,” she said.
As a regular performer in Canberra’s pub scene, Ms Castley will give her best every time, as she has done countless times throughout her singing career.
“As a singer you sing to keep the punters happy, so too I will serve the people who elected me and I will not tire of that.”
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