Mayor's Column – 10 March 2023
Published on 05 April 2023
Participation takes many powerful forms
This week had me thinking about participation in council work and decision-making in a number of ways. Most recently, prompted by International Women’s Day on Wednesday, it was about the participation of women in local government. Women comprise 43.8% of councillors across Victoria, and while this is a leading statistic for Australia, there’s still work to be done if we’re going to achieve the state government’s goal of 50 per cent representation by 2025.
Initiatives like the Women Leading Locally Fellowships and organisations like Women In Local Democracy (WILD) Geelong provide great opportunities and pathways for women passionate about their local communities. The offer mentoring, training and support in key areas like leadership and governance. The next local government election in Victoria is in 2024, and it’s incumbent on all of us to encourage more women to get involved. I always welcome discussions about local government and the experience of being both a councillor and Mayor, so if you’re thinking about it and want to know more, get in touch.
My first citizenship ceremony as presiding officer put a spotlight on the participation of new and diverse community members, and reminded me how our policy and service provision benefits from reflecting the range of people and experiences in our towns. Fred from the USA and Juan Pablo from Chile are the newest Australians to call the Borough their home, and it was a privilege to hear stories about the people and places that have shaped their lives. Both men are already active members of our community, and we look forward to their ongoing participation in civic and community life.
A presentation to Sustainability Victoria with Queenscliffe Climate Action Now President Kitty Walker on success and longevity of community partnerships, expanded on this concept of diversity of participation. On this occasion, I was thinking about the value of deep participation. The Climate Emergency Response Plan is the product of considered and ongoing participation of First Nations Traditional Owners, individuals, volunteers, community organisations, clubs and businesses who collectively want to mitigate and respond locally to the impacts of climate change. The depth of participation that informed the CERP when it was first created and continues to guide its implementation and review makes it both unique and effective.
Then it was a meeting about federal funding available for the creation of Veterans and Families Hubs that reiterated how essential the participation of those with lived experience is. Hosted by Federal Member for Corangamite Libby Coker and Matt Keogh, Federal Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Defence Personnel, the engagement session was attended by members of the Queenscliff Point Lonsdale RSL and local service people, who made the point clear – the services must be brought to the veterans, not the other way around. There was agreement that local voices must be heard, and this message informed a robust discussion.
In thinking about participation from our key stakeholder, the people in our community, I’m pleased that we’ve scheduled another run of listening posts across Point Lonsdale and Queenscliff. These are opportunities to meet with Councillors informally at a range of locations across the Borough, to ask questions, make suggestions or get to know more about how local government works generally. We’re kicking off the 2023 listening post season at the Hub, Wirrng Wirrng in the Auditorium (or out in Field Park if the weather permits) on Thursday 16 March between 12-1pm. Your participation is welcomed and encouraged.
In the following editions of this column, you’ll meet my colleagues, the four other Councillors who comprise the Borough of Queenscliffe Council – Cr Fleur Hewitt, Cr Ross Ebbels, Cr Michael Grout, and Cr Donnie Grigau. With the responsibility of the Governance and Finance portfolio, you’ll be hearing from Deputy Mayor, Councillor Hewitt in the next edition.
To all in the Borough of Queenscliffe on Wadawurrung Country, we’ll speak again in a few weeks.
Cr Isabelle Tolhurst
Mayor, Borough of Queenscliffe