August 10, 2022

Members quit Shoalhaven Community’s first political party over anti-vaccination views

A political collective on the NSW south coast faces an uncertain future after failing to register for council elections and a growing backlash against the anti-vaccination views of some of its members.

The Shoalhaven Community First team will miss council elections next month after filing incorrect paperwork.

Veronica Rawlinson was one of the contestants in the group but withdrew from the race for personal reasons.

“Everyone is in shock,” she said.

Ms Rawlinson said the group had also been criticized by the community since it emerged that some members were unvaccinated and skeptical about being vaccinated against COVID-19.

“In the Shoalhaven, 90% of people are fully vaccinated,” she said.

“It goes against what they stand for, so they don’t feel like they can support the group anymore.”

Disagreement over vaccine position

Veronica Rawlinson said Shoalhaven Community First lost community support following the emergence of anti-vax sentiments.(ABC Illawarra: Jessica Clifford)

The group has posted links online to conspiratorial content critical of the safety, effectiveness and legality of the coronavirus vaccine – allegedly to help locals make “informed decisions”.

The World Health Organization, international scientists and Australian Commonwealth and state health officials all agree that coronavirus vaccinations are safe for the vast majority of people.

Over 90% of the population of New South Wales is now fully immunized.

“You all have to be aligned,” Ms Rawlinson said of some of the group’s “out” views.

“I know there were people who fought within the band who didn’t completely agree with that position.”

The Shoalhaven Community First team kicked off its campaign in May with nine candidates running on a range of local issues, including affordable housing, environmental protection and youth employment.

By November, however, the team was down to just five candidates as opinions about the coronavirus vaccine drove a wedge between the group.

Damage to reputation

Natalie Banks was a candidate for Shoalhaven Council in Ward Three and claimed there had been no discussion within the group about anti-vax content being shared online.

“I was concerned about the content because I wasn’t sure if it was from trusted sources,” Ms Banks said.

“There was some concern that the group had lost momentum.”

“He went down the vaccine route.”

road sign
The Shoalhaven Community First group is ineligible to stand for council elections after a registration error.(ABC Illawarra: Tim Fernandez)

The registered nurse withdrew her candidacy when she realized that skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccine was growing among the group.

“I thought it was better for the future to take a step back and take care of myself and my children.”

Meanwhile, Ms Rawlinson said she would continue to advocate for issues close to her, such as affordable housing, but would no longer be affiliated with the Shoalhaven Community First party.

“We will lick our wounds, come together and move forward, but I don’t see us moving forward on the same path,” she said.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to search, up and down arrows for volume.
Play the video.  Duration: 7 minutes 4 seconds

I had COVID, can I have it again?

Loading the form…