Victorian Election 2018: Brendan Eckel runs as independent for Buninyong Seat

Passion: Fifth-generation Buninyong resident Brendan Eckel is running as an independent for the seat of Buninyong in this year's state election. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Passion: Fifth-generation Buninyong resident Brendan Eckel is running as an independent for the seat of Buninyong in this year's state election. Picture: Lachlan Bence

A fifth-generation Buninyong resident will run as an independent candidate for the seat of Buninyong, with a focus in his policies on harm reduction.

The Ballarat Community Health drug and alcohol worker Brendan Eckel will stand for the local seat in November’s Victorian election. 

He contested the Polwarth state by-election in 2015 and stood for the federal seat of Ballarat in 2016.

His National Harm Reduction Project policy – covering genetic mapping, encouraging study into cancer and improved care for mental illness and addiction – was formulated after acute care stints overseas since 1997. 

“I worked on a unit where they routinely brought people in for an alcohol or opiate withdrawal,” he said. 

“I’ve had a good look at a health system that’s different to ours, so I’d be looking to try and bring my expanded knowledge of other systems to the Buninyong electorate to improve their services.

“There’s also long standing problems with getting to Melbourne quickly on the train. When you’re an independent, you can be quite ambitious.”

Having grown up on a farm with a veterinarian father, Mr Eckel said he continued to have an interest in agribusiness. His concurrent passion for health care stemmed from his role as a psychiatric nurse, having left agricultural university in Tasmania initially to assist with care for his mentally ill brother. 

“I love wool and wine, we had a small farm so I did a lot of that with my mother, and looked after my brother,” he said. 

“We thought it was something that would go away, but obvious it doesn’t, so you need to provide a lot of support for that type of person throughout their lives.”

Buninyong will have had 19 years of continuous Labor representation by the time voters go to the polls in 2018.

However Ballarat’s two main seats – Buninyong and Wendouree – will be without a sitting member come election time. Incumbents Sharon Knight and Geoff Howard both announced they would step aside in 2017. 

Mr Eckel will be joined on the Buninyong ballot by fellow Ballarat Community Health worker Michaela Settle, who took the title of Labor Buninyong candidate in late October, unopposed during the party’s preselection process in September. 

Ms Settle joins Wendouree candidate Juliana Addison and Ripon hopeful Sarah De Santis as the Labor offerings for the Ballarat region at next November’s state ballot

The Liberal Party yet to nominate its candidates for Wendouree and Buninyong, expected to occur early this year, while incumbent Louise Staley will be hoping to retain her seat of Ripon.