March 14: Local Politics
By Leaders Forum 2018 participant Tess Astbury
As we say goodbye to the triumph that was Ballarat’s second White Night, many of us sit back and think about the progress that our city has seen over the past decade.
The ever-burgeoning food scene, vibrant arts community and continued reverence for heritage are all inspiring more diverse nuances for our city’s identity.
However, there is still work to be done and balancing such progress with the social health of our community during times of population and cultural growth maintains a challenge for our leaders, both within and outside government.
In thinking about the wants and needs that we have for our community, we often habitually look toward our local council, whose strength and cohesion will be a defining factor of the progress that our city will see into the future.
But it is here that challenges lie — a minefield of opposing political persuasions, contrasting agendas and a myriad of demands from an increasingly diverse local population.
Productively navigating these complexities is a task of immense responsibility and commitment beyond even many of the leaders within our community.
In the City of Ballarat’s council chambers, a mission statement provides backdrop for council meeting proceedings; “We, the Councillors of City of Ballarat, declare that we will carry out our duties in the best interests of the community and, through collective leadership, will maintain the highest standards of good governance”.
But what does ‘good for Ballarat’ look like? The question then arises as to what comprises good governance and over what issues?
At just one such recent meeting, the agenda consisted of decisions surrounding the naming of laneways, proposals for changes to the CBD streets and the relentless saga of commuter transport, all aligned with a simple but realistic summary of the role of local council — rates, roads and rubbish. Social initiatives, mental health programs and youth issues are largely missing from the conversation, cast into the grey areas between non-government, local, state and federal priority.
So, in looking at the state of Ballarat today and identifying the issues that need our attention, we are often left asking where does this social responsibility lie? And when we think we have defined these responsibilities, who will make sure that action is taken?
A critical part of the answer is one in which we can each play an integral part.
Advice from former City of Ballarat Councillor Vicki Coltman is straightforward; take responsibility, get involved, be informed and use our voices to be the change we want to see in our Ballarat.