March 1, 2023
Growing up in a mining union family inspired Peree Watson to get involved in charity and community work. Now she’s running for NSW Parliament.
Peree Watson is Labor’s candidate for the seat of Upper Hunter for the NSW Election.
Peree is the daughter of Mick Watson, former President of the Mining and Energy Union Northern Mining and NSW Energy District.
With her strong ties to our Union and coal mining communities, Peree chatted to us about the upcoming election and what she’s hearing from mining communities.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and your personal connection to the Mining and Energy Union?
I was born and bred in Branxton NSW. When I was a kid, half of the town worked in coal mines, the other half in manufacturing. My father, Mick Watson was the Northern District President of the former United Mineworkers Federation, now the Mining and Energy Union.
My grandfather was also a coal miner, I know that conditions for coal miners used to be appalling, and I know that the only way we achieved the conditions we have today in the industry is thanks to the very hard work of a long line of miners campaigning and striking together. Everyone rallied together to make sure miners and their families were looked after and to ensure the industry was better for future miners.
This inspired me growing up, which is why I got into charity and community work. I have worked at the Leukaemia Foundation, Hunter Medical Research Institute with the Mark Hughes Foundation, and Got Your Back Sista. I have worked with amazing organisations and donors to fund these crucial services, the vital medical research and the critical supports for people when they most need it. Charity work is about identifying a problem, a community putting their hand up to help, finding a solution together and then delivering that change.
Representing your community should be the same: listening, working hard and delivering.
Why do you want to represent Upper Hunter?
I’ve been a Branxton girl my whole life. What I love about Upper Hunter is all the unique communities which make it up.
What I hear from people is that they feel their voice isn’t heard in Sydney. And I get that; because I have lived it my entire life.
We have challenging times ahead, but we also have awesome opportunities before us, and I want to shout out loud about how great the Upper Hunter is and focus on the opportunities we can create together.
Each of us love living in Upper Hunter and we want our children to thrive here. It’s about having good jobs. It’s about having great local schools. It’s about having hospitals close to you that are fully resourced. I cannot believe that in the year 2023 we have mums who can’t even give birth in Scone and Muswellbrook because of the crisis in our health system under the current government.
Regional communities are resilient, we are tough, but sadly we have become used to having poor services. It’s simply not good enough and it’s something our community shouldn’t have to put up with.
The problem is that we have had the wrong people representing us for 140 years, we keep voting the same way and expecting a different result and they have been letting us down. It’s time for a change. I will be that strong voice for our community.
You have spoken a lot about the importance of mining to your community. Why is it so important to you personally?
I have worked in small business and charity throughout my career. Part of working and living here is knowing that the benefits of mining is not just siloed to those who work in it, but that the benefit extends to local businesses, and communities. A strong mining industry brings enormous value to all of us.
Mining is also close to my heart with my dad’s background. When I was a kid, if the phone rang in the middle of the night, it was because a miner was seriously injured or killed. It gave me a great appreciation of the work that goes into mining, but I also learned from my dad that we need to look out for one another.
Even for my own family, when my children’s father was injured in a mine, he was flown to the John Hunter Hospital. He was air lifted there by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, which the Mining and Energy Union sponsors. Having the certainty of this emergency healthcare support was incredibly important and I’m very grateful for that service supported by the Union.
Mining communities are strong communities, and I want to deliver a positive future for the Upper Hunter so that it can continue to be a place we want all want to live and work in.
I will not stand by and let vested interests talk down our future to suit their agenda, we have great opportunities due to our existing infrastructure and skills base and we can continue to thrive as a region.
What feedback are you hearing from residents on the campaign trail?
The Upper Hunter has unique communities, but the same main issues do come up everywhere.
Bad roads are costing each of us money, I’ve heard stories of people having to replace tyres roadside, of trucking companies having vehicles off the roads for major repairs, or businesses in small towns missing out because travellers are simply avoiding driving on their road, enough!
I’m hearing that people are struggling to access healthcare, nurses are at breaking point, paramedics are spending hours in emergency department queues and patient transport rather than the vital emergency work they are trained to undertake.
I’m hearing that the privatisation of our electricity network has been a disaster and it’s costing us every time we get a bill. As a state we should be investing in energy and returning the dividends back to the community.
The resounding message is that we deserve better and after 12 long years we need a change.
There is a party right now that pretends to represent us, but all they care about is shiny buildings and big announcements, not the things that really make a difference in people’s everyday lives. A vote for minor parties will not deliver change it just keeps the same bloke in.
It’s been really important to me to get out there, and knock on doors and talk to people, because if you don’t do that you can’t represent the community.
We noticed that you have been campaigning a lot with Dan Repacholi. Do you have a favourite food spot in your electorate?
It has been awesome campaigning with Dan, he is hard to miss! I haven’t been able to keep up with his burger consumption though!
I’m a coffee and sandwich girl personally. Worn Out Wares in Singleton does an incredible reuben sandwich.
You also can’t go wrong with Double Picc in Muswellbrook. They are sensational. My go to for a double shot expresso.
I’ll leave the burgers to Dan!
The NSW Election will be held on Saturday, 25 March 2023.