“A lot of people have met Jono, and a lot of people have met me. I promise you, most people are like ‘I get it! But also, they’re very different people.’” – Trina Massey

In a 2016 interview with the Westender, then-candidate Jonathan Sriranganathan stated his belief that “people are looking for a serious alternative to the two major parties.”

Since his subsequent election as Queensland’s first Greens city councillor in 2016, the party has built its representation at all levels of government: two state MPs, three lower house federal MPs, and two senators in Queensland.

On 26 March, Sriranganathan announced that he was stepping down from his role as Brisbane city councillor for the Gabba ward, and introduced his replacement, arts worker Trina Massey. Read his outgoing interview with the Westender here.

As a newcomer filling a large and unique pair of shoes, Massey has less than a year to prove to the voters of The Gabba ward that she is the best representative to carry forward Sriranganathan’s legacy. I interviewed her at Penny Coffee Co., local to us both, where she arrived by bicycle.

Background and career

Massey has a unique and varied background. Although she will be familiar to many, I asked her to outline her background and the skills and experience she brings to the role.

In her early 20’s, she spent time  with the United Nations in Macedonia.

“In 2000, when the ceasefire happened; I was there five years later.”

“That was a really exciting and wonderful time in my life, but also incredibly eye-opening to the way that these systems of oppression continue oppression.”

Returning to Brisbane, Massey got a job at a bar where she put together events for artists in the community.

“I did good at uni; I did good at high school. I’ve always had a passion for music and the arts, but you don’t really grow up being told that you can have creative careers.”

Her music and event management projects expanded to coordinating events like the Queensland Music Awards and BigSound as part of her role as program manager at QMusic.

“I was in charge of developing, implementing, and facilitating a statewide development program for artists and industry across Queensland.”

Massey said she built her approach to community work during those years.

“Listening to community, seeing what they wanted to deliver, seeing their ambition, seeing their hopes, working with them to deliver a framework and develop that framework so that artists can find a way, and I’m not going to use the word success because it’s not success, it’s sustainable careers.”

She was employed at peak bodies in the arts industry, developing a sense for working with local government and community organisations to “deliver equity, but in true ways that aren’t just quotas but we’re actually doing the work behind the scenes…”

“That’s when I realised, a lot of the skills I had been building across the music industry, so much of the learning we had to do on the fly… so many of those skills could actually be shared, so many of those contacts should be shared, and the best way for all of us in that music industry was to gain insights and professional development and upskilling.”

Her most recent role, one aptly suited to her appointment to the council, was with the Ipswich City Council.

“It was a very senior role, where I was in charge of delivering policy.” – I asked if this was a difficult step.

Massy said it was a wonderful challenge, enabling her to build new skills in policy work. She said she turned back to the local level because she had started appreciating how influential councils are in people’s lives.

“But over the last eight, nine, years, I’ve been engaging more and more, and I realised that when I left my house, it was council I was dealing with. It was the roads, the streets, the bike paths, the open spaces,” she said. “The zoning for what can be built where. It was the public transport. It’s communities and local festivals, the local events, this is actually all council.”

Stepping into the new role

While her selection as Sriranganathan’s replacement was through a democratic process within the Greens local branch, Massey has yet to face the voters at the ballot box. I asked her how she would measure her success over the next year, and beyond, if she is returned by voters in March of next year.

“My complete and utter focus in the next month, three months, six months, a year, or anything more that comes from it is being engaged with the community, meeting people. Lots of people who already know me, but meeting the people, the organisations, and community groups here, and them knowing that there’s a fighter in their corner on Brisbane City Council. 

“I think there’s going to be a series of local campaigns that will come from that, but it has to come from community.”

Massey says that people want the party to be more visionary in delivering for the city.

“To me, success means that we are working in community as hard as we can to try to change people’s lives for the better. And sometimes, you don’t see those calculations, but success means that I am not constantly being held up in meetings, that I can be in the community, and that the community knows that I’m fighting for the issues they’re talking about. And for me, it’s really about impact and work; how can you change people’s lives for the better? 

“I don’t have all the answers, but I come to this role with a series of skills and knowledge and roll-up-your-sleeves grit, to really work hard for people who live here.

Building the Greens Vote

Before the 2020 council election, the Greens were confident they could increase their numbers on council. However, although Sriranganathan held his ward, there were no other gains. So, I asked Massey what made them sure their similar claims would come to fruition next time around.

“One of the big differences is that there won’t be a pandemic, here’s hoping, so that will help with the low turnout. The other thing is, as of today, there are three federal Greens MPs. And from my calculation, they sit over ten council wards, including every single one of those five wards [that saw close competition in 2020].”

“We can’t isolate the fact that the floods that happened last year affected everyone. I think for a while there, since the last floods in 2011, time played this wonderful trick on us where we kind of forget how bad it was. For some of us, not all of us, especially the people who were on the front lines, especially the people who lost their homes and their lives, that flood was a really significant warning for Brisbane, and that affected everyone.”


Massey acknowledges there are urgent issues to address.

“It’s that dogged, wanting that real true community engagement spirit, that reality that climate change is here; I speak to a lot of people who have talked to me about their grandkids, and the future that is going to be left behind.

“The other thing I want to note, especially at the moment, is that the rental affordability and housing crisis is affecting everyone. I was at a housing forum, and I went in with no expectations of who was going to be there. I think too often people think this is a young person’s problem, but it’s not. There were people [attending] who are pensioners, who have paid tax their whole life, who couldn’t afford that one hundred or eighty dollar rent increase that was happening.”

Massey attributes the shift towards the Greens to their breadth of policy concerns.

“… we’re not just about the environment. We talk about social justice; we talk about a vision to drive our political systems, and people to ask for more. And not more because they expect more, but because its unimaginable to think in this day we have such a high population of homelessness, and that in this wealthy country people are sacrificing a meal or two because they’re paying their rent, or their mortgages, which are increasing at an incredibly rapid rate.”

I asked for examples of the policies she may seek to implement during her time on the council, in addition to the climate and cost of living issues. She made it clear there is not yet a policy platform for the 2024 election but suggested expanding a previous Greens’ plan for free off-peak travel to universal free public transport.

I’m not Jono. I don’t plan to be Jono.

Asked how she will be similar to but different from her predecessor Sriranganathan, Massey said that while the two may share policies, their approaches will be noticeably different.

“Look, I’m not Jono. I don’t plan to be Jono. In terms of our approach, Jono and I have very different experiences. Jono is a big voice, not just in community but city-wide. That’s going to continue. There is one Greens councillor in council. We have to keep up the fight. People have recently asked me, will I attend protests or put protests on. And I’m like, I already do that! Would I be willing to get arrested is a question I get asked. I don’t think it’s the willingness [laugh] that’s the thing because nobody puts themselves in a position to be arrested, the arresting [is a decision] of the QLD police.”

“But I also think a really powerful thing you can do to support communities is to put your body on the line for them. So, there’s that continuum, but in a different way. 

“Jono is like this firebrand, this spark, and in a way I’m a bridge builder. We share similar politics but we’re different people. I’ve built a career on collaboration, engagement, and partnership. I have a range of experiences with council that Jono doesn’t have.”

“… the priority will always be The Gabba; nothing will be taken for granted. 

“This is about the residents, it’s about the voters and the community. They still need to vote for me. They still need to believe and see and experience the kind of stuff we’re talking about here. That’s my work in the next however long it is.”

“Jono has been such a huge figure and given so much to this community personally and professionally. … I will not only continue the work Jono has done, and the Gabba office has done in the past, but keep working on that and keep accelerating that and keep pushing that forward, because a lot of people are having a really tough time and people need more from their elected officials.”

The voters of the Gabba ward are keen to see what Trina Massey will bring to the table as the newest member of the Brisbane City Council, and I look forward to revisiting some of these questions in the lead up to the Council election in March 2024.

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