VICTORIA—Following on last month’s annual general meeting in Melbourne, DAA-VIC Chair Thomas Lopez presented the following remarks to all Democrats Abroad members residing in the state of Victoria:
“Since being elected in June of 2017 to chair the Victorian chapter of Democrats Abroad Australia, we’ve been busy pushing on numerous fronts – promoting voting rights, fighting the Trump agenda, and so much more. It gives me great pleasure to offer this report to the membership on what we’ve been doing, where we stand now, and where we’re headed.
“Last year we hit the ground running in an organized protest of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision on the steps of the University of Melbourne Law School when U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts was a guest speaker. With Roberts’ vote, the American political system has been swamped more than ever in big money from corporations and PACs. However, rest assured he heard us loud and clearly that his support for ‘corporations are people’ is not welcomed by Americans in Victoria.
“We then immediately responded to the president’s complete failure to condemn the racism and violence at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia by participating in a global social media campaign and expressing our strongest disapproval of all forms of racism.
“With the creation of a wonderful 2018 calendar of notable American women designed by the DA Women’s Caucus, our state chapter participated in sponsoring the month of September with a spotlight on U.S. Senator Kamala Harris from my home state of California.
“In fulfilling a promise I made to the membership, we held an important chapter meeting in Geelong for our regional members. We had a great discussion on taking action over the unfairness of the U.S. tax code on citizens abroad and how the president needlessly cancelled the DACA program for 800,000 ‘dreamers.’
Our first Regional Chapter Meeting in Geelong
“In November we hosted a meeting with congressional candidate Brian Forde, a former White House advisor on technology issues for President Obama. He spoke passionately to members in Melbourne on how Congress needs more experts with experience in dealing with science and technology.
“Our chapter was fortunate to welcome Martha McDevitt-Pugh in December, a Democrats Abroad member who is also one of DA’s eight DNC members. She provided an update on how the party is reforming from within and what Democrats are doing to stay competitive in races all throughout the country. Martha is also the co-chair of the DA LGBT Caucus, so her advice on all things LGBT- and DNC-related was very much appreciated.
Visit by Martha McDevitt-Pugh, co-chair of the DA Global LGBT Caucus
“After New Year’s, we had several members participate in the second annual Women’s March in Melbourne. People from our chapter were both organizers of this major event, and marchers through the streets of Melbourne. It is so wonderful to be part of an organization which puts women equal to men in all aspects – in the workplaces, in our pay checks, in leadership positions, in pro-choice decision-making with doctors, and every other situation. There is an obvious lack of respect for women from the current administration, and I’m happy to say that we’ll participate in a hundred more women’s marches until there is finally mutual respect for one another, especially from the government.
“With all that’s been going on in our activism, we appointed a vice chair to the state chapter to help manage our events, voter registration, and other activities. Marybeth Yarosh, originally from Arizona, has been terrific in her role in helping us make decisions and moving our chapter forward.
“Many of our members, myself included, shared our overseas health care stories to be presented to Congress arguing for why a Medicare-for-All type of health care system is needed within the U.S.
“Also in may, we hosted an expat tax seminar with Karen Powell, an expert on tax issues and truly an encyclopedia of knowledge. Around fifty people came to hear her speak and I suspect there are lots of us who would love to hear her do another tax seminar. I’d note that for the question of “How would you rate today’s event?” on the feedback form from the tax event, 85 percent of respondents marked either ‘excellent’ or ‘very good.’
Our first Expat tax seminar.
“We’ve had great success in holding ‘Politics and a Pint’ social sessions in the city over the past year. These have been terrific places for us to meet informally and discuss U.S. politics, Democrats Abroad, absentee voting, and other relevant topics. Either myself or the vice chair will try our best to continue these monthly get-togethers during the work week.
Chair Lopez also commented about the current status of the state chapter and what can be expected:
“In addition to all the previously mentioned items, we’ve been active in registering voters, demanding that Congress pass sensible gun control reforms, holding regular chapter meetings both online and in-person, and so much more. In short, the status of our chapter is solid and moving forward. Since the primary season has already started, the chapter’s focus has moved into full get-out-the-vote mode. Calling all Democrats Abroad members – from Victoria and others on every continent – and reminding them to request their ballot, is our top priority from now until Election Day.
One of our many chapter meetings.
“There are so many things I love about our state chapter. We have diverse backgrounds and diverse opinions. We contribute in a variety of ways. We are committed to voting. I greatly look forward to making more progress in Year Two.”
This concludes the chair’s Year in Review report. The next meeting of DAA-VIC will be announced shortly.
Democrats Abroad is the official arm of the U.S. Democratic Party for Americans residing outside of U.S. states and territories. The Victoria chapter of Democrats Abroad Australia is an active group of members whose primary focus is exercising their right to vote from abroad and electing Democratic candidates, in addition to raising awareness of and advocating for issues that concern Americans living abroad.