Hervey Bay’s new MP Adrian Tantari.
Hervey Bay’s new MP Adrian Tantari.

ADRIAN TANTARI: What you don’t know about Bay MP

As his 60th birthday nears, he's conscious of his late-coming into "daunting" politics, but two-time Labor Party candidate turned Hervey Bay MP Adrian Tantari says he is determined to steer the electorate in the right direction.

Sitting in the Esplanade office, formerly occupied by four term LNP member Ted Sorensen, he sits down with the Chronicle as the decades-old original coat on his surrounds is repainted "fresh white".

This is perhaps metaphoric given the political change that's also underway, led by the divorced father-of-three who shuffles, then steadies, readying to open up to Hervey Bay locals about the man behind the MP.

He clears his throat, unsure of where to start.

"I came to Hervey Bay 21 years ago, in 2000, with my wife," he begins

"It was a lifestyle change".

Moving up from Tasmania, he and his then wife and children left behind "the cold," but what stayed with him was memories of an upbringing which would one drive him to want to be part of something that could impact the circumstances of others.

The third of four kids, Adrian left school in Year 10 to work and help his single mother with money.

"My mother was divorced from my father, so, I had to go through a process of assisting my mum.
"I left school in grade 10 and I went and got my first job when I was 17 ... I've been a cleaner, I've been a storeroom packer.

"That first period of my working life was all about just survival, it was all about just having enough money to pay for food and support mum."

Tantari says he wasn’t a ‘last-minute’ drop-in for 2020, with a plan since 2017 to give it another go, after falling one place short in the 2017 state election, receiving 29.1 per cent of the vote, behind Liberal National candidate Ted Sorensen, who received 37.7 per cent.
Tantari says he wasn’t a ‘last-minute’ drop-in for 2020, with a plan since 2017 to give it another go, after falling one place short in the 2017 state election, receiving 29.1 per cent of the vote, behind Liberal National candidate Ted Sorensen, who received 37.7 per cent.

He "can still recall" the moment his strong interest in politics was born.

He fiddles with his pen, looking off into the distance as if to almost relive that moment when he was about 14.

"My mum fell on hard times when divorcing my father, because of that, my mother had to seek some form of social housing and we couldn't get anywhere to live ... (mum) struggled to try and house us.

"So, we went and saw a local politician and asked them for some assistance ... and she assisted us to get a property ... and I can still recall it, that day and the lady we met.

"I saw the help that she gave us, and I said, 'gosh, I wouldn't mind doing a job like that, where we really help people because I saw how she was able to assist me ... (Politicians) are the people that make the change, they change the laws that affect everybody'."

Adrian's ex-wife Sue, with Adrian and the two children they have together, Sam and Anna, at opening Parliament in November 2020.
Adrian's ex-wife Sue, with Adrian and the two children they have together, Sam and Anna, at opening Parliament in November 2020.

And that vital root was planted alongside another in an unlikely place for someone who at the time had a limited education.

"I always liked libraries ... I always liked the library environment at school, and I liked books ... libraries are just so full of knowledge.

"I like the space and that most people who go to libraries are relatively happy ... And from there, that took me to sort of a greater thirst for knowledge."

Fuelled by self-motivation and ambition, Adrian studied at TAFE where, along the way, he completed an associate diploma as a library technician and met his now ex-wife.

He later went to university to study applied computing but didn't finish the degree as the pressure of financial hardships took its toll.

That's when the final major element in the "accumulation of who (he) is now" developed.

"I could never believe that I could go to university because I came from a background where no one in my family went to university ... but there was an inkling within me saying 'I can do more than this'.

"I actually didn't finish university, I got an opportunity to work for a federal member in Tasmania, so, when that opportunity arose, I took it ... I was really feeling the pressures of home life and having to pay for bills."

On the demise of his 24-year marriage Adrian sighs as he says "you know," as families do, they "just went (their) separate ways" and their relationship today is as friendly as it can be.

Adrian with his team campaigning in October 2020
Adrian with his team campaigning in October 2020

The next topic is easier.

His smile is ear-to-ear as he speaks of his children, including daughter, Anna, 18, who lives on the Gold Coast with her mother and is a full-time dancer.

He explains he originally lived in Hervey Bay, with a house in Pialba, he then moved to Maryborough for about 18 months when his wife got a job, before moving back to Hervey Bay.

Amid a "always messy" divorce process, he temporarily lives in Maryborough with his son, Sam, 27, who has Asperger's syndrome and hopes the day is near when he can move back into his electorate, the place he still calls home.

"I'm much older in life (than other first-time politicians), people might not know me as well because I didn't get the opportunity to go and take my son down to the local soccer matches here ... I did all those sorts of things for my kids, but coming to Hervey Bay, they were nearly 14 years and have already gone past that.

"So, a lot of people, probably in some of those key community groups, didn't get to meet me."

Emotion begins to show on his face as he continues, tears forming and his voice breaking in parts.

"Then, when you have a child that has a disability...

"You can't participate as much ... You're always there with them, so, if people think that's a failing of mine, that I probably may or may not have been as predominant in communities, it's because I'm caring for my son ... and that's that."

Adrian celebrating his daughter Anna's 18th birthday with his son Sam last year.
Adrian celebrating his daughter Anna's 18th birthday with his son Sam last year.

So, what are his plans for Hervey Bay?

For Adrian, bringing along his passions, life experiences and beliefs, it all comes down to one thing.

"I want to make sure that when I leave this role, that I've left a legacy that has improved Hervey Bay, it's improved Hervey Bay's services.

"To wrap it up in one line, I want to see Hervey Bay being the educational Centre of Excellence for the Wide Bay Burnett."

While the words have yet to be put into action the "genuinely" motivated MP is confident he'll keep his promise.

"Genuinely, I care ... That's my make up and I always knew that I would work towards having a role that would care for people."



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