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Here's How The Nonnas Of Melbourne Could Make This A Historic Election

The Greens candidate for Batman is banking on winning over older, religious voters who are disillusioned with Labor's refugee policy.

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Unhappy Labor voters in the large Italian and Greek migrant communities of outer Melbourne are key to the Greens winning extra lower house seats this election, according to one Greens candidate.

A shot from first thing this morning when these ex-Labor members visited with a donation to our campaign! Thank you!

Alex Bhathal is running in the seat of Batman and told BuzzFeed News that locals aren't happy with the "absentee parliamentarians" from the Labor party that have represented the area for the last 20 years.

"People are asking me 'what's wrong with us, with our suburbs that they can't even live here, they can't find a little house that they'd like to live in'," she said.

Bhathal has become the favourite in the betting markets to win the seat after Labor MP David Feeney suffered a series of embarrassing gaffes on the campaign trail.

It's Bhathal's fifth tilt at the seat of Batman, which she calls the most progressive in the country. It stretches from the hipster suburbs of Northcote and Clifton Hill in the south to the Italian and Greek migrant communities of Reservoir in the north.

AEC / Via aec.gov.au

Since Bhathal first ran in 2001, the Greens' primary vote has been rising. At the last election she won a quarter of the primary vote, which puts her in striking distance of Feeney this year.

More than 60% of Batman residents are from migrant backgrounds and Bhathal told BuzzFeed News her secret weapon this year is Richard Di Natale - who grew up locally and has an Italian background.

Lukas Coch / AAPIMAGE

Bhathal said Di Natale resonates with the10,000 strong Italian- and Greek-speaking communities in a way that other leaders haven't.

"I'm getting calls from Italian grandmothers who are saying 'I really love Richard, I've never voted Greens before but my grandchildren vote Greens and now Richard's coming on board I really like the Greens and I'm going to vote for them."

"But it's not just Richard - it's asylum seekers. Asylum seekers is the driving issue of this electorate," she said.

Bhathal said her office has been overwhelmed by phone calls from Italians distressed by the footage of asylum seekers drowning in Europe and the treatment of people in detention on Manus Island and Nauru.

"The older migrants are in their 80s and still really politically active and engaged. Previously they've been the stalwarts of the ALP, now they're becoming increasingly disappointed with Labor [and their policy change to support boat turn backs] so they're starting to look for alternatives," she said.

"These people go to mass every Sunday, they belong to a religion where social justice and humanitarianism is deeply engrained, so I know [asylum policy] is a big issue for Catholic people."

"They're saying 'I just can't stand the cruelty anymore it's just terrible'."

BuzzFeed News repeatedly tried to contact Labor's David Feeney, who was unavailable to comment.

Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.

Contact Alice Workman at alice.workman@buzzfeed.com.

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