It's 6 and out for Indi MP Cathy McGowan, as she nears time to say goodbye to politics

LEAVING ON A HIGH: Cathy McGowan in Wodonga on Thursday, at one of her last appearances as an MP. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE
LEAVING ON A HIGH: Cathy McGowan in Wodonga on Thursday, at one of her last appearances as an MP. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

Cathy McGowan never wanted to be a Member of Parliament.

She had spent her life as a political person, fighting for issues as part of the Victorian Farmers Federation and as one of the founding members of the Australian Women in Agriculture, but had no plans to take it any further.

That changed in 2013 when a group called Voices for Indi was formed and young people urged Ms McGowan to be the one to run for election.

The rest is history.

"I've always wanted action and been involved in community actions and getting things done and always understood the importance of leadership," she told The Border Mail.

"People always used to say 'you should get into politics', but I'd go 'I'm doing my politics in agriculture'. It was quite an unexpected loop." 

LEFT: Mim McGowan, Cathy McGowan, Eliza Ginnivan and Ruth McGowan show their family support in the independent's signature orange, campaigning in the 2016 election.

LEFT: Mim McGowan, Cathy McGowan, Eliza Ginnivan and Ruth McGowan show their family support in the independent's signature orange, campaigning in the 2016 election.

After two terms over six years, Ms McGowan is probably in her last sitting week as an MP (that's guessing an election is likely called for May).

While she is still working for the electorate, her decision to retire means both her mindset and her Wangaratta office - now full of orange memorabilia packed into boxes - are in transition.

What she is sure of, is that Indi has changed for the better.

One of the big highlights was the granting of federal funds for 52 mobile phone towers across the electorate since 2013, as part of the blackspot program.

Also on the list of wins was the $235 million in funding to fix the North East rail line and the Victorian government commitment to provide rolling stock, plus last week's announcement for an Albury-Wodonga regional deal.

"Overall my biggest achievement is that level of confidence in Indi. It's a much more confident place now and that plays out with economic investment," Ms McGowan said.

"People are getting their voices heard and I'm really pleased about that because that didn't use to happen.

"People are getting their letters answered now (from the MP's office), getting a phone call back - someone will pay attention to them," Ms McGowan said.

Indi's previous MP Sophie Mirabella has rarely been mentioned by name by Ms McGowan during her six years in the job, but the reference to Indi's failings of the past is clearly a point made about the former Liberal MP.

The rivalry between the two women over two elections in 2013 and 2016 will define much of both their political history.

"It was embarrassing," Ms McGowan said.

RIVALRY: The moment Sophie Mirabella confronted Cathy McGowan live on Sky News, broadcast from a Wangaratta pub, over false allegations Mrs Mirabella "pushed" the Indi MP.

RIVALRY: The moment Sophie Mirabella confronted Cathy McGowan live on Sky News, broadcast from a Wangaratta pub, over false allegations Mrs Mirabella "pushed" the Indi MP.

"There was never anything to it and we knew there was nothing to it. The people who were pushing the case took it all the way to court," she said.

"The magistrate said it should have never have got this far. That was a bit of a pity."

She grew to become one of the key figures in federal politics, holding power as an independent when a Coalition government holding a slim majority needed her vote.

While Ms McGowan struggled to get "collegiality" with National Party MPs, she did form working relationships with some Liberals - particularly her "absolute favourite" and former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

He was willing to work with her on the mobile phone towers and inquiry into inequality in regional Australia. "It's just so sad that he had to go, he would have carried that through. (Prime Minister) Scott Morrison doesn't have the same passion," she said.

ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE: Cathy McGowan and former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull had a strong working relationship in Parliament.

ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE: Cathy McGowan and former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull had a strong working relationship in Parliament.

Other favourites were ministers Dan Tehan and Christopher Pyne who she dealt with on education, David Littleproud from Nationals on the drought funding and Labor MP Anthony Albanese, who she said was her other half of an "odd couple" fighting for high-speed rail and other regional issues.

As she nears the end of her political career, Ms McGowan has become more vocal about her frustration with the Nationals, questioning whether the party can represent regional Australia.

"If they don't do it, then people like me who would rather not be the voice for all rural and regional Australia - I'm happy to be the voice for Indi - will have to, there's no one else," Ms McGowan said.

THE BEGINNING: Cathy McGowan, her nieces and nephews, and orange supporters arrive in Canberra in 2013.

THE BEGINNING: Cathy McGowan, her nieces and nephews, and orange supporters arrive in Canberra in 2013.

The announcement in January that Helen Haines was chosen by Voices for Indi to carry on the "orange independent" mantle followed months of speculation over whether Ms McGowan would try for a third term.

"There were so many parts to that decision. Did I go for another three years? Or who would be the candidate?" she said.

"I spoke to a huge number of people about that and in the end it was a personal decision from me, but I could also see that Helen Haines was ready to go ...She probably wouldn't be there in another three years."

The MP has no regrets, saying it was the right decision.

"I like the idea of a relay because it feels like this is just the first leg of the race," she said.

Ms McGowan's final task will be her valedictory speech on Thursday, which she revealed will be a thank you and message for the youth who started her political journey.

"What I'm basically going to be speaking about is a call to action for young people to get involved in politics - don't get mad, get elected," she said.