McKenzie out to change minds about guns
MATTHEW KNOTT The Land
There’s a lot of snobbery and elitism that I find offensive and I really want to challenge it.
Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie is on a mission to change attitudes towards Australian gun owners. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
WHEN Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie turned 40 she bought herself a gift – a shotgun.
As a girl growing up in the Victorian High Country, her father refused to allow guns in the household. But late at night she would go out with her best friend to shoot rabbits and foxes.
"As girls we weren’t allowed to have the guns, we just got to carry the rabbits," she said. "The dads and the older brothers did the shooting. When I got older I got to have a go at pig shooting. It’s something I always wanted to do."
Life, however, got in the way: a career as a school teacher and university lecturer, marriage, four children, a divorce. Two decades passed without firing a gun. Now she has embraced the cause with all the fervour of the born again.
McKenzie believes Australian gun owners are too often treated like "terrorists" and "rednecks" by those in the big cities who have never taken an interest in their way of life.
"There’s a lot of snobbery and elitism that I find offensive and I really want to challenge it."
Once described in Parliament by Nationals colleague Barnaby Joyce as a "flash bit of kit", McKenzie is tall, blonde and usually sports pearl earrings. Airport staff, she says, often have a "physical reaction" when she checks in her Beretta Silver Pigeon shotgun.
McKenzie has shot pheasants in New Zealand and woodcocks in the Scottish Isles. She is planning to go deer hunting with Motoring Enthusiast Party senator Ricky Muir.
Earlier this year she went duck shooting near Gippsland – an activity banned in NSW, Western Australia and Queensland. The RSPCA, which says the sport inflicts especially cruel suffering on injured animals, wants it made illegal nation-wide.
"It was quite a moving experience," McKenzie recalls.
"We sat in the dark, up to our hips in water, as the sun rose and the ducks came out.
"Afterwards we plucked them as a group and now there are five in my freezer to cook for my friends.
"I know it will sound incongruous to people but hunting is about connecting with nature and the outdoors. You have to understand nature to reap the bounty of it."