I HAD never anticipated becoming the oldest Member of Parliament to ever be elected in Australia, but that is exactly what happened when I put my hand up in the 2002 South Australian state election. I had always been comfortable in my role as a pastor, but I had begun to recognise a worrying trend in Australian politics and I knew change would not happen without intervention.
The Liberal Party, which I had voted for since 1949, could usually have been relied upon to protect our Judeo Christian traditions, but by this stage was already drifting away from its conservative position on the issues that were most important to me, my family and most in my community.
I knew I had to take action and together with my son Ashley, who had discerned the same need, formed a party to stand for the very principles we could see were being abandoned. When I heard Cory Bernardi was breaking away from the Liberal Party to form the Australian Conservatives, the reasons for his decision echoed my own for establishing Family First.
I had many of our loyal supporters reach out to me following Cory's announcement, instinctively suggesting we join with him to create a strong, effective and synergistic conservative force in state and federal politics.
To them, it just made sense.
When Dennis Hood, who inherited my leadership of Family First, told me that he felt merging with Australian Conservatives could be the right move but only with my endorsement, I had no hesitation in offering my absolute encouragement and support.
Indeed, over many years I had admired Cory for his solid commitment to maintaining a conservative stance on moral and social issues, even when feeling the pressure from within the Liberal tent to relax his views. Some observers may conclude the amalgamation between our parties only eventuated due to Family First's recent challenges federally; however, the truth is, it was inevitable.
Judging by the response to Australian Conservatives by way of financial membership and registered support and now combined with Family First's grassroots campaigners, existing infrastructure and two strong performing sitting state MPs, it is certainly a movement poised for success.
The amalgamation can only serve to extend the influence, reach and impact of the conservative vote in South Australia at all levels, and that has always been the objective.
Anyone can perceive the growing trend worldwide toward conservatism, reflecting an innate desire for stability and adherence to traditions and values that have stood the test of time.
In Australia, this has been most evident in the rise in the number of minor and micro parties on the "right" side of politics who have capitalised on the growing disillusionment of voters with the two major parties.
The result however, is that they are each competing for the same votes and resources from those who seek to support a party that will uncompromisingly uphold and defend conservative values in our parliaments.
The only way forward whether it be through further amalgamations or less formal arrangements - is to recognise the need to combine the numerous conservative voices to counter the relentless attacks on our freedoms by leftist politics.
As the founding father of the Family First Party, I am immensely proud to have been part of a venture that defied all the odds since its inception and which surprised even its harshest critics.
To see it now merge with Australian Conservatives and be part of a movement rife with possibilities and potential is greater than what I had ever envisioned and for that, I am humbled, grateful and optimistic.
PICTURED: Article author and Family First founder, Andrew Evans
This article originally appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser newspaper, Wednesday 3 May 2017