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Catherine McGowan AO (born 29 November 1953) is an Australian politician who was the independent MP for the rural Victorian seat of Indi from the 2013 federal election, when she defeated Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella,[1][2] until her retirement before the 2019 federal election.

Cathy McGowan

Member of the Australian Parliament
for Indi
In office
7 September 2013 – 11 April 2019
Preceded bySophie Mirabella
Succeeded byHelen Haines
Personal details
Catherine McGowan

(1953-11-29) 29 November 1953 (age 65)
Albury, New South Wales, Australia
Political partyIndependent
Domestic partnerDavid Wolfenden
ResidenceIndigo Valley, Victoria
Alma materUniversity of Western Sydney
ProfessionAgricultural consultant, farmer

In 2004 she was made an Officer of the Order of Australia "for service to the community through raising awareness of and stimulating debate about issues affecting women in regional, rural and remote areas."[3] McGowan was also a recipient of the Centenary Medal in 2001.

McGowan has a Masters in Applied Science in Agricultural and Rural Development from the University of Western Sydney.[4]



Early politics and lobbyist workEdit

McGowan worked as a staffer for Indi's Liberal MP Ewen Cameron during the late 1970s and early 1980s.[5] McGowan has also worked as a regional councillor for the Victorian Farmers' Federation and is a former President of Australian Women in Agriculture.[6][7]

Member for IndiEdit

McGowan ran as an independent for the Division of Indi at the 2013 Australian federal election, against the Liberal incumbent Sophie Mirabella.[8] The seat had long been believed to be a conservative stronghold; it had been held by a conservative party for all but nine years since Federation, and without interruption since 1931. However, a number of area residents felt Mirabella had taken them for granted.[citation needed] They formed a grassroots organisation,[citation needed] Voice for Indi, that eventually decided to draft an independent to run against Mirabella. After numerous prominent locals turned down the offer,[citation needed] McGowan finally accepted.[9] After eleven days of counting, on 18 September, Mirabella conceded defeat and McGowan claimed victory, winning the seat with a final margin of 431 votes, a two-candidate preferred vote of 50.25 percent.[10][11][11] Mirabella was the only Liberal incumbent to lose her seat at the 2013 election. The ABC's Barrie Cassidy described McGowan's candidacy as "a warning to the occupants of safe seats everywhere on both sides of politics."[9]

It was claimed in October 2014 that 20 McGowan supporters who formerly lived in Indi changed their electoral roll details back to Indi.[12] The Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions pursued charges against two young voters. Their defence lawyers successfully argued the charges were "scurrilous" and that they had followed the Australian Electoral Commission's published advice in enrolling at their home address and on 5 April 2016 a Melbourne Magistrate dismissed all charges against the two voters and ordered the Crown to pay their court costs.[13][14]

Mirabella gained Liberal party preselection in late June 2015 to run for Indi in the 2016 federal election,[15] However, McGowan retained Indi against Mirabella with an increased 54.8% (+4.6) two-candidate-preferred vote. Mirabella conceded to McGowan on 3 July 2016.[16] Notably, the Liberal two-party-preferred vote in a "traditional" two-party contest against Labor was reduced to 54.4% (–4.7) against Labor's 45.6% (+4.7), a marginal two-party result not seen since the 1929 election.

McGowan has given the Coalition government confidence and supply support in the event of a hung parliament.[17][18]

In the lead up to the 2016 Federal election McGowan was present at a function in Wangaratta at the Benalla nursing home along with Sophie Mirabella. Both were candidates for the Division of Indi. It was subsequently reported on 20 April 2016 by journalist Libby Price in the Benalla Ensign that Mirabella had pushed McGowan at this meeting.[19] McGowan was interviewed soon after the event and refused to confirm or deny the allegation. She was interviewed by The Border Mail and refused on four occasions to answer as to whether she had been pushed or not.[20] The Benalla Ensign issued an apology on 26 October 2016 and stated that Mirabella did not push McGowan.[19] Mirabella launched defamation proceedings against the Benalla Ensign and its editor Libby Price. The case was heard in the Victorian County Court in Wangaratta in early May 2018. McGowan was called as a witness in the case and gave evidence that Mirabella did not push her.[21] The court found in favour of Mirabella that she had been defamed by the Benalla Ensign and its editor Libby Price.[22][23]

On 14 January 2019 McGowan announced she would not be recontesting Indi at the next election.[24] On 18 May 2019, her preferred independent candidate, Helen Haines, claimed victory in federal election.[25]


  1. ^ "Indi - Australia Votes - Federal Election 2013 (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". ABC News. Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  2. ^ "Mirabella concedes, Palmer hangs in". 18 September 2013. Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  3. ^ "It's an Honour - Honours - Search Australian Honours". Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  4. ^ "Cathy McGowan AO - Institute for Land, Water and Society (ILWS) - Charles Sturt University". 21 September 2013. Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  5. ^ "Mirabella Rattled by the Indie from Indi". Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 September 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Kotsios, Natalie (6 September 2013). "Battle 'boost' for Mirabella as she struggles to hold seat". The Age. Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  9. ^ a b Cassidy, Barrie. The story of how Cathy McGowan stormed Indi. ABC News, 2013-09-13.
  10. ^ Milman, Oliver (18 September 2013). "Sophie Mirabella concedes in Indi". Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  11. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 September 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ KOTSIOS, NATALIE (2 October 2014). "AEC says new poll not possible". Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  13. ^ Younger, Emma (5 April 2016). "Electoral fraud charges dropped against two independent MP Cathy McGowan supporters". Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  14. ^ Kelly, Steve (6 April 2016). "Charges struck out against Indi voters". Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  15. ^ "Sophie Mirabella wins Liberal preselection for her former seat of Indi". 28 June 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  16. ^ JOHNSTON, DAVID (3 July 2016). "Sophie admits it's over and out". Retrieved 3 July 2016.
  17. ^ "Bill Shorten predicts second poll as Cathy McGowan offers Coaltion support". The Sydney Morning Herald. 8 July 2016.
  18. ^ "Malcolm Turnbull claims victory after Bill Shorten concedes defeat". ABC News. Australia. 10 July 2016.
  19. ^ a b Morgan, Shana (27 October 2016). "Push claim was wrong". The Border Mail. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  20. ^ Mardling, Xavier (2 May 2018). "WE SAY: Cathy wasn't her 'best self' in Sophie's saga". The Border Mail. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  21. ^ Morgan, Shana (1 May 2018). "Cathy tells court of 'very embarrassing situation' with Sophie". The Border Mail. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  22. ^ "Mirabella defamed, damages pending". The Border Mail. 2 May 2018. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  23. ^ "Sophie Mirabella wins defamation case against country newspaper". ABC News. 2 May 2018. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  24. ^ ABC News, 14 January 2019
  25. ^ [2]

External linksEdit


Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Sophie Mirabella
Member for Indi
Succeeded by
Helen Haines