Voices 4 Indi, a group that campaigned for Ms McGowan in 2013 and 2016, has placed advertisements in local newspapers calling for aspiring independent MPs to step forward.
The group will hold a forum in Benalla on 12 January, where its members will question applicants and choose a future independent candidate.
- Ms McGowan won the seat from the Liberal Party in 2013
- She says she will not retire until her successor is ready
- One of her former staff is in with a chance of winning a state seat which falls within Indi
Interviewed on ABC Goulburn Murray, Ms McGowan said this did not necessarily mean she would be retiring at the federal election due next year.
“I’m the daughter of farmers. And at some stage, every farmer has to do succession planning,” she said.
“I’m not going to stay the Member of Parliament for Indi forever, and we’ve got to begin a process of handing on the baton [and] teaching people how to do the job.
“I’m not going to go until I can be really happy that this lovely community that I love and care for is going to be in even better hands than it is now with me.”
Ms McGowan, a former Liberal staffer, won the seat from long-serving Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella by 439 votes in 2013.
Ms Mirabella was the only contesting Liberal MP to lose their seat in the election.
In 2016, Ms Mirabella recontested the seat — which stretches from Melbourne’s northern and eastern fringes to the NSW border, and includes the centres of Wodonga and Wangaratta. But Ms McGowan increased her margin to 8,705 votes.
Ms McGowan said the timing of her retirement would depend on the readiness of her successor.
“We’ll open the process and in due course, when we’ve got a successor and we’ve done all that work, and the person wants to start, maybe next year, or maybe three years away, or maybe even six — though I don’t think it will be six — we’ll work through the details,” she said.
“And if the person’s not there, I’m certainly not going to go away and leave us bereft.
“I’m going to make sure that we get the right person for this job, and it will take as long as it needs to.”
Ms Hawkins ran as an independent candidate against sitting Liberal MP Bill Tilley, who was 226 votes ahead of Ms Hawkins as counting continued early this afternoon.
Meanwhile, another aspiring regional independent, Ali Cupper, was poised to win the seat of Mildura, with a 281-vote lead over Nationals MP Peter Crisp.
Successor must love the community: McGowan
Ms McGowan said she would remain in the community after she left Parliament, and would be available to serve as a mentor to whomever took over the seat.
She said she did not have an individual in mind, but she had given thought to the qualities her successor would need.
“The person’s got to love the community,” she said.
“They’ve absolutely got to get that it’s not about them.
“This job is a representative job, and you’ve absolutely got to listen to all the community.
Voices 4 Indi spokeswoman Alana Johnson said the group’s supporters had “overwhelmingly endorsed” the succession planning process in a recent survey.
She said aspiring candidates would be asked to sign the group’s values statement and endorse its philosophy, “The Indi Way”.