BRONWYN Pike is packing boxes in her North Melbourne electoral office, two days after she quit politics. Even though she hasn't been based in Peel Street since her election to state parliament in 1999, it is clear the move out of her official office has her reflecting on the past 12 years.
Still draped on a couch is a woven cloth, a gift from the Somali community. A stencil portrait of her likeness lies on a near-empty desk.
She announced her resignation from state parliament on May 7, ending a career spanning more than a decade in Labor government in charge of health and education portfolios.
"It really has been a very busy time," she says, almost with surprise.
After the 2010 election Pike decided not to run in 2014.
She shoots off a list of achievements over the past 12 years, including rebuilding North Melbourne Primary School, helping deliver the new Royal Children's Hospital and granting asylum seekers access to public hospitals. She says the work she did for those with the greatest need brings the most satisfaction – such as replacing the Kensington high rise with modern housing.
Ms Pike says she wants to continue to work for the community and develop policy outside of public office. She admits her time in opposition has been frustrating, but says her exit will help renew the party.
The byelection for the seat will be hotly contested but she is adamant Labor can win. "It will be hard, of course it will be hard."
Brunswick-based Labor MLA Jane Garrett said Ms Pike is a champion for social justice. Some high profile voters are more critical.
Melbourne City councillor and long-time Carlton resident Jackie Watts says she hopes the next Melbourne MP will engage more with the community.
Residents' action group the Kensington Association supported Ms Pike's achievements, posting a public letter on its website highlighting her part in uniting the neighbourhood into one council boundary and protecting J.J. Holland Park when it was threatened by plans for an East-West tunnel.
Inner-Melbourne resident and former melbourne lord mayor Kevin Chamberlin said he hoped the next Melbourne MP worked for the electorate for their entire term of office, not just in the month before an election.
"The great disappointment of Bronwyn was her failure to get the [former] state government, of which she was a senior member, to not proceed with the East-West link tunnel - which the Labor government supported right up until its defeat."
"People will have different views," Ms Pike says, "but you try to do the best for the most with an eye to what's fair."
Pike was the state's longest serving female minister, which she attributes to the success of the Labor government, but she says gender has always been an issue. "I've always said a woman in politics has had to be twice as good and twice as humble about it. What is most important is competence."
"I don't leave with any regrets, I don't bear anyone any malice and I don't reflect on anything bad at all. I just think it's been a great privilege and it's been a lot of fun."