Letters to the Editor

We fly the flag but are we living up to our commitment of reasonable representation of Indigenous people in local government?

We fly the flag but are we living up to our commitment of reasonable representation of Indigenous people in local government?

Firstly, I wish to acknowledge the Wadawrurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung people as the traditional custodians of the land on which our community lives. Secondly, I am very proud that my son identifies as an Indigenous Australian and that we have an active and growing Indigenous community with a rich and strong history.

I have had the honour of sitting and working side-by-side with some of our strongest, experienced and knowledgeable community leaders; members in our Aboriginal community. Their commitment to community inspires me and they have achieved a lot, but there's a lot more to do in Ballarat and the Grampians region.  

The journey of reconciliation started with the City of Ballarat and the Aboriginal community needs to continue with genuine commitment and results; not by my measuring stick, but by the Aboriginal people whose lives and culture are impacted by that journey every day.

The City of Ballarat's Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) 2014 - 2017 was developed from the Statement of Commitment adopted on 12 February 2003. In its second 'RAP', council has sought, amongst other goals, to employ staff who identify as being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people during the duration of the current plan. I have endeavoured to confirm how many Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people have been employed by council since the RAP commenced. To date, I have not received an answer. The current plan ends in 2017.

One of my goals as a prospective councillor is to strengthen the connection with, support for and development of Aboriginal organisations, networks and groups in the community and to ensure that council meets its requirements under the Local Government Act 1989 to act "as a representative government by taking into account the diverse needs of the local community in decision making'. I will do this by ensuring, to the best of my ability, that council's commitment to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to use a 'whole of organisation action planning framework' continues to be championed and actioned.

Pauline Fay, North Candidate, City of Ballarat Council elections

A new funding model based on collaborative councils needed for infrastructure costs

While Ballarat City's mounting debt has become a specific problem in financing the rapidly deteriorating roads and civil infrastructure here, more generally, local government is falling behind.

State and federal governments acquiesce to give, always with a slogan and a media moment for ministers, handouts under multiple inefficient mechanisms to patch the worst problems, but not address the real systemic issue of councils being incapable of comprehensive maintenance from just a rate base.

It's time local government raised its collective voice, and developed enough courage to challenge the other levels of government to channel federal tax dollars directly to councils, proportional to each local government roads and infrastructure burden.

A strong case will only be made if the spend has a robust and demonstrably cost effective administration in the larger than single council areas that would be functionally necessary. In essence, we need councils to operate at times as a coherent region, still elected locally, but able to sit down as a regional council to develop a plan for genuine road and infrastructure maintenance, then aggressively lobby for the dollars by direct support from our taxes.

It's convenient for state government to have councils to blame at times, but even they can't deny the terrible state of our roads. It's time local government had the will to change the paradigm.

Dr Mark Harris, Ballarat City Council candidate for Central Ward