Arley Black may have born and raised in the country music town of Tamworth, but Port Stephens is the nostalgic home for the newly appointed media adviser for Federal Labor member Meryl Swanson.
The 25-year-old former professional singer has distinct childhood memories of holidaying in Raymond Terrace where her grandparents, Geoff and Ann Black, resided for many years.
In fact, her family has a rich history as butchers in the Terrace.
“This has been a very nostalgic homecoming for me,” said Ms Black, who jumped at the opportunity to move to Port Stephens after her previous employer, Gai Brodtmann, announced she would not be re-contesting the federal seat of Canberra at the next election.
“At first I wasn’t sure how I would feel returning to a place that I was so familiar with as a child, but after walking the streets of the Terrace and meeting with some of my grandparents’ old friends I knew I had made the right choice.
“This place is very special to me.”
Ms Black’s connection with the Port extends beyond her childhood.
Hotel and club patrons may recognise the name, if not the face, performing at establishments such as The Spinning Wheel, Junction Inn, Seabreeze Hotel and the Shoal Bay Country Club.
Her publicist describes the former professional musician as “a charismatic multi instrumentalist/singer with the ability to keep the crowd engaged as she puts her unique spin on tunes such as current hits, soulful classics, upbeat crowd favourites and alternative music”.
However, what is not widely known about Ms Black is that music and her love for the outdoors has saved her life.
In 2016 Ms Black was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease with no cure, and in the rarest of cases which had doctors baffled for months she was also diagnosed with bronchiectasis, which has left her with a single lung.
“After getting over the shock of it all, doctors told me that no doubt my singing, combined with my love of the outdoors, and the constant use of my lungs had kept me alive,” she said.
“At one stage I was told that I may have to consider never leaving hospital again… I was 23.”
Ms Black quit her job working in communications with the YMCA in Sydney and headed for a three-month pilgrimage to Cambodia, volunteering her time in a home for abandoned children.
“I also travelled through parts of south east Asia hoping to find myself and it soon became apparent that I wanted to make a difference in the world of politics and public policy,” she said.
“I had never thought about political parties prior to this and although my family were staunch National Party supporters, aligning myself with the Labor Party was a no-brainer.”
Following more study and a successful internship, Ms Black was offered a full-time job with the Member for Canberra before making the move north on the staff of Ms Swanson.
“In addition to having a close connection with the Port Stephens area, I am very much aware of the major federal issues including the PFAS contamination at Williamtown and challenges with the NDIS.”
And while she continues to perform out of an endearing passion for music, Ms Black is firm in her conviction when she announces that her top priorities are the electorate of Patterson and the people of Port Stephens.