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Victorian Greens announce Sri Lankan as leader in lead up to polls

Sri Lankan born Australian legislator Samantha Ratnam has become the new leader of the Green’s Victorian branch, the Herald Sun reported.

The former Moreland Mayor was announced as the surprise choice today, with current upper house member Nina Springle taking the deputy position.

Ms Ratnam is replacing retiring former leader Greg Barber in the Legislative Council, and will officially enter the chamber tomorrow.

“This is an exciting time for the Greens. The balance of power in both houses is within sight and we’re working hard to take the first step with a win in the Northcote by-election,” Ms Ratnam said.

“It’s an honour to be appointed by the Greens MPs, who are all leaders in their own right. As a social worker and councillor I’ve witnessed state government failures first hand.

“Victorians are the most progressive people in the country and we deserve a government willing to lead on the big issues.”

Ms Ratnam flagged a focus on pokies, political donations and removing coal from the state were all on the agenda.

“I am excited, humbled and honoured to stand here today. We are excited to shake up the a Victorian Parliament,” she said.

Despite being new Ms Ratnam was confident saying the Victorian Greens had a “highly competent team” to support her.

However, Ms Springle admitted the move could be seen as controversial.

“We are a self-contained unit,” Ms Springle said.

“I am sure our federal colleagues will respect our decision.”

Member for Melbourne Ellen Sandell said there were no other members considered during the leadership discussions.

Integrity and Treasury and Finance are two new areas of focus.

It is understood the new leadership is a bid to bring in a “changing of the guard” and freshen the party.

The Greens are also hoping to win another lower house seat in the coming months with candidate Lidia Thorpe in a tight contest with Labor candidate Clare Burns in the Northcote by-election.

Ms Ratnam ran for the federal seat of Wills, in northwest Melbourne, last year but failed to win it from Labor.

She was born in Sri Lanka and fled the country in 1987 as a child before arriving in Australia with her family.

The leadership announcement comes after former Victorian Greens Leader Greg Barber said he would step down from his seat.

Weeks before, he had flagged he would not recontest his seat in the upper house which will be taken by Moreland councillor Sam Ratnam.

Mr Barber told media he was leaving politics to go fishing.

“I’ve been a very busy Green, for more than 15 years,” Mr Barber said.

“I’m going to have a little rest, do some fishing and think about my future plans.”

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