The unionist is now a councillor. Weeks in her new job, the neophyte politician is learning the ropes on a job that demands comprehending and speaking out on issues that matter.
It takes time but Councillor Carol Israel (Labor) of Blacktown Ward 4 is confident she’ll find her way soon drawing on her bundle of experiences as a workers’ rep, an entrepreneur, a migrant, and a widowed mother who raised three children on sheer fortitude.
“This work can be daunting, but I can be a fighter,” she says with a smile in an interview with AK.
“I speak up, but no – not immediately – I study issues, I study people, I love observing people. When I am convinced that something is wrong and duty calls for something to be done, I really stand up.”
Cr Israel is one of the fresh faces in the city council. She said she was just as surprised one day waking up as an elected councillor.
“When they (the Party) approached me and asked me to run, I didn’t immediately say yes, I had to think it over for some time because it would be affecting my full-time job. I didn’t know if I can juggle the time but I love being involved and working with the community.”
Cr Israel has been working in the union for almost a decade now. Her plunge into advocating for workers’ rights started in 2007 when she joined the retailers’ union – the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association NSW (SDA).
Her involvement in the union laid the groundwork that challenged her to understand and lobby for the betterment of workers, families, and communities as a whole.
She eventually became a union area and metro organiser first in Liverpool and then later in Blacktown, the city where their family had settled since arriving in Australian in 2001.
“My late husband was then offered by a Telecom company to work in Australia. It was a big decision for us to move here, I eventually had to pack up our photography business to settle in Australia,” she relates.
It seemed a rosy migration experience with her husband gainfully employed while she started working in a burger joint and later retail shops and the family becoming Aussie citizens. But tragedy knocked on their door. Gloom descended when, just before Christmas of 2010, her husband succumbed to leukemia.
“2010, I remember that year, it was the year we didn’t celebrate Christmas. It was shattering, it was hard, it was tough. Everything suddenly rushed in to my mind and I didn’t know what the future held for our family,” she recalls.
“I was thinking there was a mortgage to pay, we had three growing children; the first few months (after his death) was really just a blur. But I told myself, I had to accept his death, I needed to be strong.
“I had to fight back. I went out and engaged in community service instead of locking myself weeping inside my room all day. I just went out there to be more useful – that’s probably how I found solace.”
She got involved in community activities, organising festivals, clean-up days, supporting her son’s soccer team, and practically everything to keep her mind busy. Most of all, she became a tireless supporter of the Leukemia Foundation.
Her children are now all young adults – Janine, 28, Ian, 26, and Jeno, 23.
An only child, Cr Israel grew up in Cabanatuan City. She says she was a mix of being shy on one hand, spirited on the other, that “my parents had to send me to Baguio (St. Louis University, Political Science) so I would not get involved in fiery student activist movements.”
She immerses herself into reading books, anything from biographies to science fiction, historical and romance novels.
But now she may have to shelve some leisurely reading to pore over volumes of documents that now require her attention. It is back to studying: researching on the complex issues that hound the city, giving her inputs to local government legislation, and speaking out in behalf of her wards in Blacktown.
“I wish a better city for all of us, a city where we all respect one another regardless of race, culture and religion. We all want a perfect world and we can all start here.”