Mt Kembla woman Carol Berry likes a challenge.
She worked relentless hours as a lawyer fresh out of university in the late 1990s, fought on behalf of minority groups throughout her time at the helm of multiple non-government organisations and now juggles raising three kids with her role as head of an Illawarra-based women’s health group.
But her latest venture could well be the biggest challenge yet; Mrs Berry will take on Noreen Hay for Labor Party preselection in Wollongong- and plans to do it without a factional alignment.
‘‘I know this will make the job [of unseating Ms Hay] considerably more difficult, but I’ve specifically chosen not to be factionally aligned because I think factionalism within Labor presents a major impediment to the party functioning transparently and democratically,’’ she said.
‘‘I think factional disputes bring the tone of the party down, and voters are tired of factional squabbling getting in the way of proper policy making.’’
While some Labor members might consider Mrs Berry’s comments a breath of fresh air, others are likely to take umbrage, especially given the strong factionalism within Illawarra Labor circles.
Ms Hay, the Member for Wollongong since 2003, is a leading figure in the powerful Labor Right.
However, Mrs Berry said she believed Ms Hay’s time was over.
‘‘I think it’s time for a change,’’ she said.
‘‘Noreen’s public image for whatever reasons has been compromised quite considerably.
‘‘I believe I have something to offer the party, and voters, and I want to put my position to rank-and-file members.’’
Mrs Berry admits she was a political sceptic during her student days at the University of Wollongong, and actively campaigned against the party at the time.
However, she soon decided the best way to bring about change was to become a member. When her first attempt to join Labor in 2001 was rejected, she instead joined the Greens, but left three years later.
In 2005 she again submitted an application with support from current Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, with whom she had worked on a women’s rights campaign.
Mrs Berry said if preselected, she would campaign for better economic diversity in Wollongong.