Nurses front socialist NSW Senate ticket

The Socialist Alliance NSW Senate ticket, from left: Paula Sanchez, Niko Leka and Rachel Evans

Two experienced nurses and unionists are heading the Socialist Alliance NSW Senate ticket for the federal elections.

Paula Sanchez has been politically active since she was 13 years old and was involved in the struggle against General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile. Sanchez was jailed and tortured for her efforts at the age of 19.

Since arriving in Australia in 1988 with her family, Sanchez has remained active in human rights campaigns. She is a founding member of the Latin American Social Forum, a member of the National Tertiary Education Union and the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association (NSWNMA).

Nurses and midwives have been the backbone of caring for the sick and dying during this pandemic, and they are burnt out,” Sanchez told Green Left at the recent strike. “Nurses are the health professionals the government needs to listen to. We cannot support a profits-before-lives approach — which is [NSW Premier] Dominic Perrottet’s mantra.”

Sanchez is a lecturer at the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Western Sydney University. She is also a musician and plays with a Latin American folk band.

Niko Leka, second on the ticket, is an experienced nurse specialising in the mental health of older people. He is a member of the NSWNMA and helped organise a strike for better pay and ratios last year in Newcastle.

Leka is active in the refugee rights movement as convenor of Hunter Asylum Seeker Advocacy and works closely with Rural Australians for Refugees.

Rachel Evans, one of the founders of the grassroots marriage equality campaign in Sydney, is third on the Senate ticket. A disability support worker and education student, Evans is active in campaigns to defend public housing in the inner-city suburbs of Glebe and Eveleigh.

Evans helped set up the Water for Rivers campaign group during the drought, which helped bring First Nations communities’ fight for water rights in regional NSW to the city.