By CHRISTOPHER HARRIS
Although she’s a politician, City of Sydney Councillor Irene Doutney doesn’t behave like one.
Modest, unassuming, “with a common touch” and a discerning eye for art, Irene Doutney was lauded for her contribution to the Australian Greens and the Sydney community last Friday evening, July 10, at Redfern Town Hall.
Doutney’s motivation for politics came from grassroots Green campaigns and convictions, which fostered her determination to fight discrimination and inequality, and campaign for Aboriginal and refugee rights.
Never the loudest in the room, although one of the most persistent and perseverant, Doutney’s contribution within the Green movement has been prodigious.
This was acknowledged by Balmain MP Jamie Parker and Newtown MP Jenny Leong, both of whom organised the event as a gesture of thanks to the party elder for her lifetime contribution.
Following thanks from various community groups, Doutney’s own gratitude lay undoubtedly with her family.
“I particularly want to acknowledge somebody who stood by me my entire life and that’s my brother.”
Doutney and her brother grew up in a small flat on Victoria Street in Kings Cross during the 1950s.
She was elected to the City of Sydney Council in 2008 after working for years within the Greens movement and was reelected in 2012.
In 2012, Doutney spoke publicly about her heroin addiction in the 1980s.
As an addict, she held down two casual jobs. With speakers repeatedly praising her perseverance and dogged determination to a room packed full of those she had fought for and alongside, it was difficult to imagine even drug dependence slowing Doutney down.
In the 1990s, she finished a history degree at the University of Sydney and began to turn her life around.
Federal Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon said living in social housing meant as a councillor, Doutney had brought an air of grounded humility to public life.
“The big thing that is so important and these speakers have identified it, yes she is a councillor but she always recognised that the strength of her position came from the strength of the voice of people. So whether it was Millers Point, Aboriginal actions she supported, or refugees, she was out there taking their voice into the City of Sydney Council” Ms Rhiannon said.
Waverly Greens Councillor Dominic Wy Kanak said Clr Doutney had been a strong friend of Sydney’s indigenous community.
“I like the fact that she is a small but gutsy lady, and one of the things that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community respect about her is that she has been a strong voice on the City of Sydney Council for a lot of indigenous social justice issues,” Clr Wy Kanak said.
True to form, Doutney was thankful but more modest than others about her achievements.
“I look at the people here and you’ve done so much more than me, and to be honoured by you tonight is something I couldn’t in my wildest dream have expected,” Ms Doutney said.
“It has been an honour to march the streets with you all, to come into your homes.”
“I still want to keep going as long as I can representing the true supporters. It will be a short run, but I am here for it.”