News and resources

CiVic - Issue 7 - August 2014

E-magazine

Index of accessible version

President's report

By Bill McArthur, MAV President

With the State election coming up in November, the next few months will provide an important opportunity for local government to influence the agenda and commitments of the incoming government.

The MAV has finalised its draft Call to Parties document, which outlines the commitments we seek from all parties for the coming four years. The Call to Parties includes priority issues previously identified by members through our strategic planning process earlier this year, recent metropolitan and rural/regional member forums, and State Council resolutions. It covers eight key themes: State-local government relations; regulatory and self reform; planning; environment; transport and infrastructure; community services; public health and safety; and emergency management.

The draft was sent to all council CEOs and MAV representatives for member feedback. We are now in the process of finalising the document so it can be sent to all political parties ahead of the election.

I recently sat down with Local Government Minister Tim Bull to discuss the direction that the government sees councils heading in post-election. It is pleasing to see Minister Bull’s strong stance against the Victorian Labor Party’s rate-capping policy. Minister Bull recently stated that Labor’s threat to cap council rates at CPI would strip more than $1.1 billion from local government budgets over three years. We know this would have devastating effects on councils’ ability to maintain community infrastructure and services.

Despite rate-capping being announced as an election promise by Victorian Labor, after thorough inspection of their 2014 Platform there is no mention of rate-capping. Under the local government section of the Platform, the rate-capping policy is absent. It clearly states that Labor will ‘Recognise and support the autonomy of councils in setting rates and municipal charges’.

We have made our position clear on rate-capping; it is a destructive policy that severely damaged the funding capacity of the sector for a generation. We hope that a united voice from local government will convince the Victorian ALP that their ill-conceived policy deserves to be shelved in the best interests of all Victorian communities.

I hope to see many of you at our upcoming Annual Conference and Dinner on 23 October, until then, enjoy this edition of CiVic.

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Editor's note

By Kristi High, Editor

In this edition, we introduce a new regular column – Technology. As more and more councils turn to technology for time, cost and resource savings, we will be showcasing some of the innovative projects being led by MAV Technology.

The MAV Technology projects we are going to be sharing over the coming editions are solutions that are practical for, and available to, councils.

I am always interested in innovations your council is implementing in the technology space too.

As a print journalist, starting in the early 1990s when we didn’t have email or internet (and yes that was a mainstream daily newspaper!), I must admit I still haven’t exactly made best friends with simple technology. Yes, I’m the one still buying a diary and pens, oh how I love pens. I recall a current council communications officer once poking fun at me for my pencil case that I carried (ok, carry) around.

However, that is changing. CiVic does have a Facebook page, and I plan to use this more and more to communicate with councils about what’s coming up in CiVic and how you can be involved. ‘Like’ us – please? Our iPad app now has around 1,500 subscribers and before the next edition we will be on Twitter!

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Opinion: Trains Not Toll Roads - advocating for public transport

By Jackie Fristacky Yarra Mayor, Lambros Tapinos Moreland Mayor

In July, Yarra and Moreland city councils voted unanimously to seek a judicial review in the Supreme Court of the State Minister for Planning’s approvals for the East West Link (EWL) and the State Government-appointed Assessment Committee’s recommendation to the Minister.

We are taking this action because the EWL is an issue of monumental significance to our communities. We believe the Minister’s approvals for the EWL were provided without a robust and transparent business case justifying the project.

Victorian municipal councils followed the Assessment Committee process and persuaded the expert committee to recommend changes to the design of the proposal only to have the committee’s legitimate concerns and recommendations rejected by the Minister.

We are also concerned that the Assessment Committee, appointed by the Victorian Minister for Planning, was not given the business case and could not assess triple bottom line – economic, social, and sustainability impacts – required under legislation.

Both Yarra and Moreland councils have always fought for social justice, increased health and wellbeing, better planning and public transport for our residents. Under the Local Government Act, advocacy in the best interest of our community is a statutory role that we take very seriously.

Neither council takes the expenditure of ratepayer’s money lightly. We know every dollar counts and that our communities expect more of council than just roads, rates and rubbish. Our communities expect their council to protect their interests, which is exactly what we strive to do.

Any project of this multi-billion dollar scale must be supported by evidence before receiving Ministerial approval, especially when it requires compulsory acquisition of properties. In the case of the EWL, the approval process was rushed and grossly inadequate. The Minister’s rejection of the findings of his own Assessment Committee that key elements of the project are unacceptable, leaves our councils with no option other than to seek judicial review by the Supreme Court of the decision-making process.

East West Link’s impact on our communities

The East West Link through the heart of Melbourne will have a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of local communities, local heritage, inner city traffic congestion and liveability.

Spending $20 billion on the EWL stages will divert funds from vital and long overdue public transport projects essential to alleviating traffic congestion and to providing residents in outer suburbs with more sustainable transport choices than just driving.

Traffic experts know that the EWL is likely to increase, not reduce, traffic on the already congested inner Melbourne roads such as Hoddle Street, Flemington Road and Chandler Highway. Further, induced traffic will add to congestion on Hoddle Street and Flemington Road, these being the only exits to access the city area.

In addition to this, we are unable to estimate the impact of potential ‘rat running’ by drivers to avoid tolls as the toll costs are contained in the State Government’s secret business case.

Community support

Yarra launched its Trains Not Toll Roads campaign in June 2013 with 430 people packing the Fitzroy Town Hall. Moreland joined the campaign six months ago with its own similar town hall style meeting.

Since then, thousands of people have become connected, engaged and active in the campaign which fundamentally supports better public transport (specifically Doncaster Rail) and opposes the EWL.

More people than ever are taking public transport. They are showing their support at public rallies, festivals, transport forums, street stalls and family events. They are writing to the media and sharing information via social media. They are displaying Trains Not Toll Roads signs on front fences and shop windows. The community’s dedication has even seen them turn up rain, hail or shine every Friday morning over eight months for peaceful protests at the Alexandra Parade/Hoddle Street intersection holding signs ‘Toot for Trains’ and ‘Every train takes 800 cars off the road’. These receive constant toots of support from drivers.

The campaign has attracted 10,000 plus Facebook followers and thousands of posts and tweets. There has also been more than 20,000 signatures collected on hard-copy and online petitions. Signs in opposition to the tunnel are everywhere to be seen in inner Melbourne.

Local government support

While five councils have resolved to support the Trains Not Toll Roads campaign, many others have resolved to prioritise public transport ahead of the EWL. Yarra and Moreland are among councils in the Metropolitan Transport Forum which supported the ‘Wrong Way Go Back’ campaign. Yarra is also a member of an active Doncaster Rail Working Group of six councils.

To find out more about the campaign visit
trainsnottollroads.com.au or visit www.yarracity.vic.gov.au or www.moreland.vic.gov.au

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The Biggest Thing Since Middelfart

Clever tag lines, creative imagery and punchy messages are replacing standard approaches to community awareness and engagement at Melton City Council.

Confronted with traditionally low responses to community events, surveys and other activities, Melton’s move to more creative campaigns is improving participation from its residents.

For key council events and programs looking to grab attention, Melton is moving its corporate style guide to one side and instead taking its creative lead from some of the nation’s big corporates.

Customer Engagement Manager Dan Hogan said councils were massively diversified businesses and to have a one-size-fits-all approach to communications did not make sense.

“So, like Unilever or Mars, we promote according to our individual services or products, developing unique advertising campaigns for maximum effect,” he said.

Sound expensive? Not necessarily, according to Melton City Council.

“Like all councils, we have budget constraints and usually it’s the creative that advertising companies charge a premium for,” Mr Hogan said.

“We start the process by pooling our internal resources across the relevant departments to brainstorm a central campaign theme or idea.

“You would be amazed at some of the great ideas that come from council staff, and people love working through the process.

“Once we have the idea, we develop a nice, tight brief and outsource just the execution.”

The first campaign to receive some creative license from council was the opening of the Melton Library and Learning Hub, a $22 million facility predominately funded by council.

“The obvious solution was to take a hero shot of the library, slap an ‘Opening Soon’ banner across the ad and write 500 words describing everything in it,” Mr Hogan said.

“But, it needed to be more than just an appeal to likely users of the library. We needed to communicate the value of this enormous investment to the whole community – whether they ever step foot in or not.”

Melton set out to develop a creative campaign that would impress upon everyone that this facility was an investment in their lives, the municipality and the township.

“We wanted to show that the future was bright and great things happen where they live – it needed to be understood as a source of community pride,” Mr Hogan said.

“To achieve this, we needed an iconic idea that would get our message across that this was the biggest thing since sliced bread, King Kong, or even man on the moon.”

Since this was the first campaign to make a significant departure from more traditional approaches, the whole organisation was involved.

“Council was comfortable with the direction our brand management was taking, looking at things differently, so they had some level of confidence in taking a more innovative approach than anything we had done in the past,” Mr Hogan said.

A creative agency was engaged for the execution of council’s ‘Biggest Thing Since’ idea and a few options were presented to council for a decision.

“By providing a range of options, you’re bound to end up somewhere in the middle and mostly everyone is satisfied,” Mr Hogan said.

“It does take some courage though; no one ever got fired for delivering the status quo.”

Council has recently launched a new creative campaign asking for help to name new suburbs.

Residents have been given three names for each of the 11 new suburbs Melton needs to establish to accommodate its rapidly growing community.

While the concept of asking residents for input into naming may not be unique, the creative and execution of this campaign certainly is.

The five week ‘Got a better suburb name?’ campaign adds humour by highlighting some of the poorer choices given to suburbs from around the country, and the world.

To save Melton from names like Bell End, Cockburn, Middelfart or Pratts Bottom, the community will be exposed to the suburb naming campaign via a diverse media mix of direct mail, posters and flyers, local newspapers and online from council’s website and Facebook page.

In discussing some of Melton’s recent campaigns, Mr Hogan is quick to explain that a corporate style guide still needs to be maintained and corporate identity protected.

“For corporate reports, the Annual Report, grant applications and other council documents, the corporate brand and style is still a very important part of your brand hierarchy,” he said.

“However, for consumer facing brands, assets and facilities, they need to be able to stand on their own. The Council brand will benefit from a knock-on ‘halo effect’.”

The creative campaign idea has also been proven successful internally at Melton.

To create awareness of the Council Plan and help staff understand the document and how it affects them, Melton introduced a little bit of fun into the workplace with a carefully produced video campaign.

Mr Hogan said a series of four 90-second infomercial parodies were emailed to staff explaining how and why the Council Plan was indispensible to everyone.

“The Council Plan is such an important document, but it’s usually seen as a statutory requirement that just gathers dust for years at a time,” he said.

“For many employees, there was no sense of the importance of how it applies directly to them and their work.

“The infomercials demonstrated a multitude of ways in which common Council jobs were enhanced by the Council Plan – figuratively at least, because the applications shown certainly weren’t suitable for a modern workplace.”

Except for the main character actor, everyone else in the video was an employee.

On Monday mornings for four weeks a video was sent to all staff, kick-starting conversations and laughter about the Council Plan.

“It became a fun and easy way to introduce the Council Plan into more serious conversations, to unpack the document and align internal work plans. The campaign was effective in demystifying the document.”

CiVic requested to see the videos but the view-and-burn approach whereby they could not be saved or forwarded means the request was denied. Now that’s an internal campaign!

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Councils willing to share over a meal

Delivering meals to the elderly has come a long way since one lady started meals on wheels using her tricycle for transport in South Melbourne during the early 1950s.

A core part of councils’ home and community care services, delivered meals as it is more commonly known now, is becoming a sophisticated operation.

Council-run, purpose-built regional distribution centres are now located at opposite ends of Melbourne, offering a solution to the logistics and dispatch of thousands of meals every day to the elderly and people with a disability.

In April, Brimbank City Council opened its state-of-the-art regional distribution centre. With capacity to store up to 1,000 meals at a time, it shares many of the innovative design features first implemented by Greater Dandenong City Council in its purpose-built centre that opened in 2010.

Both centres are equipped with a modern cool room to allow easy storage, packing and distribution of meals produced by Community Chef.

Brimbank Manager Community Care John MacDonagh said council’s new facility was a big improvement on how council had delivered meals in the past.

“Our previous distribution centre was out-of-date and unfit for purpose,” he said.

“We looked at Greater Dandenong’s facility and saw an opportunity to be able to offer our community, and neighbouring councils, a streamlined service for delivering meals.”

Both Brimbank and Greater Dandenong are encouraging other councils to make use of their modern and efficient facilities.

“The key benefit of both facilities is that each can be used by other councils for storing and packing meals to their clients,” Mr MacDonagh said.

“This model has the potential to reduce operating costs for all councils by using a single regional facility to store and manage the distribution of meals.”

Greater Dandenong Manager Community Care Mary Rydberg said between four and six councils involved in Community Chef could benefit from sharing its council’s 1,200 meal-per-day capacity distribution centre.

“We have put a lot of time, effort and money into ensuring we have a refined, efficient system for delivery meals to our clients,” Ms Rydberg said.

“Our Regional Distribution Centre started operating at the same time we commenced our new meals delivery service from Community Chef.

“The Regional Distribution Centre is a pick, pack and delivery facility where Community Chef meals are stored on a rotating racking system, ensuring that the meals are rotated on a first in, first out basis.

“This method ensures the meals are turned over limiting food wastage.

“Picking is done by staff in the picking room and Community Chef’s food safety standards are met.”

Councils can expect financial, operational and sustainabe benefits from joining Brimbank or Greater Dandenong regional distribution centres while continuing to provide their own personal touch to delivered meals.

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Councils’ own mega kitchen

Brimbank and Greater Dandenong are among 22 shareholder councils in the innovative Community Chef program.

Meals are prepared on a daily basis at Community Chef’s $24 million kitchen that opened in Altona in November 2010. Due to the unique cook-pasteurise-chill process, the meals have a 30-day shelf life.

Meals are purchased by councils from the facility and moved to their own storage facility.

The four seasonal menus are designed to meet the nutritional needs of older people and an independent Dietician verifies each recipe. Community Chef patron Gabriel Gaté provided advice on meal choice for the inaugural menu to ensure a variety of high quality meals were offered.

Community Chef was the initiative of a group of councils that decided in 2004 to undertake a joint venture to achieve greater control over standards and achieve economies of scale and higher standards for their delivered meals programs.

The impetus for the project was that council’s faced with uncertain supply, quality, variety, nutritional value and price, plus the need for significant investment in new equipment and physical facilities.

Community Chef CEO Joe Ciccarone said councils needed to find a better solution for delivered meals.

“Councils needed an innovative solution that would guaranteed supply of quality meals at an affordable price that met the diverse needs of residents,” he said.

After significant research, including the completion of a feasibility study, risk assessment and detailed Business Plan, 13 councils formed Regional Kitchen Pty Ltd, a company established to purchase the land and build the production facility that would then be leased to a second company, RFK Pty Ltd trading as Community Chef.

The council owned and operated production kitchen was designed by international award-winning architect and Industrial Engineer François Tesnière, and is the first in Australia and one of only five in the world. Cutting edge technology ensures the highest standards of food safety, increased efficiency and a work environment that focuses on OHS and environmental sustainability.

Shareholding is limited to local government, which provides benefits to councils.

“One of the key advantages of councils becoming shareholders is the ministerial exemption they receive from going to tender for the provision of meals for their delivered meals programs,” Mr Ciccarone said.

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RCV gets creative

From small ‘fruit breakfast’ beginnings in a local orchard one Sunday morning, a rapidly growing movement of artists and fruitists calling themselves (f)route has attracted funding under a Rural Councils Victoria (RCV) program to support the use of technology in creative industries.

Rural Councils Victoria has provided grants of $10,000 each to East Gippsland, Hepburn, Baw Baw and Corangamite shire councils to deliver technology-related initiatives as part of its Creative Industries project.

An incubator for creative entrepreneurs, (f)route is collectively run by East Gippsland Shire Council and (f)route Inc.

East Gippsland Manager of Major Projects and Economic Development Tim Ellis said

(f)route was a social enterprise that valued art, fruit, environment, good travel, slow conversations and regional communities.

“The (f)route hub is an exciting project that will create great opportunities for economic development and tourism in the region,” he said.

“(f)route will become a community hub for learning the business and IT ‘ropes’ necessary to build financial sustainability from their own creativity – with a lot of help from the whole (f)route team.”

(f)route Project Leader Andrea Lane said the program was about creating an (f)route, artist-made travel bureau that will help participants build business skills, strengthen networks and create a strong online presence.

“The Rural Councils Victoria funding will allow us to launch a hub built on five years of network building and concept development. And a tonne of volunteer effort,” she said.

Around 5,500 creative businesses are located in rural Victoria, employing more than 11,000 people and contributing about $710 million annually to the state’s economy.

The creative industries include artists, journalists and writers, IT and web development professionals, public relations practitioners, scientists and researchers, town planners, architects, graphic designers and cultural workers.

RCV Chair Cr Rob Gersch said people involved in creative industries have many good ideas, often think outside the square and make their own opportunities.

“Through the Creative Industries project we can support some of these good ideas,” Cr Gersch said.

“As the first part of this project, we commissioned research which revealed that technology solutions meant many creative industries could operate from rural locations and it also told us that rural creative workers have higher patterns of relocation from Melbourne, interstate and overseas.”

An Expression of Interest process took place earlier this year as RCV searched for technology-based demonstration projects in rural communities that would retain and harness the economic benefits of creative industries for their communities.

Hepburn and Baw Baw will use the grant funding to develop a business case for each of their regions. Hepburn’s business case will look at establishing a co-working hub for people working in creative industries, while Baw Baw wants to engage with key stakeholders and lobby for the inclusion of a creative hub in the redevelopment of the Warragul Arts centre. Part of Baw Baw’s project will include actions to remove 3G blackspots or facilitate 4G coverage.

Working with local business networks, Corangamite aims to encourage businesses and employees to support teleworking and co-working initiatives. The grant will also be used to promote Corangamite’s participation in National Teleworking week and trial the Corangamite Creative Hub.

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Sector Connector – Push, pull and permeability

By Verne Ivars Krastins, BSC (Hons), Fellow LGPro

They say Australia is built on the back of migration. We’re not alone of course. Humanity has been migrating from one place to another ever since it could walk that far.

Indigenous Australians migrated here tens of thousands of years ago, then a hiatus for about that long (with exceptions), and finally the Europeans came. Nothing’s been quite the same since.

You can distil migration to two factors – push and pull.

Commonly, people migrate to escape circumstances, possibly war, persecution or poverty. This is the push. Others migrate because the grass looks greener, and often they have the wherewithal to migrate comfortably. This is a pull.

Before the rise of nationhood, the push and pull was in balance with nature. Climates came and went, and as populations grew humans moved around in sync. The main barrier was if others settled the new land first. You either fought it out, amalgamated or kept moving.

The days of unhindered migration, when push and pull was a response to environment, are long gone. We now live in a world of highly defined, protected and regulated borders.

This changed the nature of human migration entirely. Governments could regulate the push and pull with laws and various levels of security. They could adjust the permeability of their borders to suit preferences and policies. They could be selective.

In the age of borders, Australia’s migration story began with British colonialists.

For breaking the law in the motherland, settlers were given free passage to the new land. Those who survived incarceration became productive, many to be pastoralists and miners spreading civilisation across Terra Nullis.

Australia’s immigration was predominantly Anglo-Saxon well into the 20th century, thanks to the White Australia Policy, an amalgam of laws regulating the border to favour the British. But the 1940s shook things up.

After the Second World War, there were limitless numbers of post-war Europeans looking for a new life, and Australia needed people. We relaxed our standards and got a shot in the cultural arm, so much that in a generation, Con the Fruiterer would seem more Aussie than Italian.

The world war also focused on one of Australia’s greatest fears – the hordes to the north. Japan’s part in the global chaos proved the point. There was a ‘Yellow Peril’ there; communism was on its way.

The Indochina wars, meant to halt the invasion, are history now and we are still a democracy, but they did generate another cultural infusion. To their credit, politicians accepted responsibility and welcomed refugees from those parts, bringing the Asian even deeper into our social fabric.

And now from more battlegrounds, we’re experiencing another wave of migration. The Desi, the Middle Eastern and the Northern African are priming the country for another cultural evolution.

This potted history explored the push, pull and permeability that drives and regulates immigration. You’d have to conclude though that push factors are the strongest, and the displacement warfare creates is the strongest of all.

As hard as governments try to ‘protect’ their borders, and without world peace, the weight of numbers may well win out in the end.

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Technology: Food sampling on the go

A more efficient system for food sampling is being rolled-out to Victorian councils.

MAV Technology has developed an app in partnership with the Department of Health to streamline the processes of collating food sample data.

Forty councils participated in the pilot and testing process of the app’s development, after initial testing was completed by Boroondara, Maroondah, Whittlesea, Corangamite, Maribyrnong, Melbourne, Bass Coast, Surf Coast and Geelong.

From September, the app will be offered to all Victorian councils at no cost and with five years of maintenance support.

Councils are required under the Food Act 1984 to take a statutory number of food samples to ensure restaurants, cafés and other outlets are dishing out food that is safe for human consumption.

Project coordinator Steven Welsh
from Corangamite Shire said the app would make life easier for council officers responsible for food safety in their municipality.

“This app removes the need for handwritten, paper-based forms, offering time and money efficiencies for councils and increased accuracy in their reporting,” he said.

The app, developed by leading software and mobile solutions provider Acresta, runs on IOS, Android and Windows devices.

It features default text options for repeat information like council name and officer. This function, along with combo and selection boxes, reduces the amount of data to be keyed in.

Mandatory fields are enforced to enhance accuracy, and photos can be uploaded.

A pre-printed barcode provides a unique reference ID for each food sample. The report can be exported to a PDF file in a similar format to the original paper form. A file that gives councils the data in a format that can be imported into their own corporate systems is also available.

“This very streamlined approach to food sampling is attracting great interest from Victorian councils that are embracing mobile technology, which helps them do their job more efficiently,” Mr Welsh said.

New name, re-newed focus

MAV Technology is the former Local Government Information and Communications Technology Group (LGICT), which was established in 2004.

This change occurred in March and while the group has a new snappy name and professional looking re-brand, MAV Technology is also a stamp on progression.

The inclusion of MAV in its name, allows the group to capitalise on, and contribute to, the brand strength of Victorian local government’s peak body. While the name has changed, MAV Technology will continue to be governed by an executive committee, elected from its membership annually.

MAV Technology currently has members representing 78 out of 79 councils, made up mostly of IT managers and officers committed to delivering council and community services more efficiently and effectively.

As an independently funded group, MAV Technology develops, supports and funds IT projects that help deliver business outcomes for councils and their communities. It also provides communication channels and events for members to share ideas, resources and experiences, and is a valuable platform to engage and cooperate with other levels of government.

For more information visit www.mav.technology or email Lisa Bennetto at lbennetto@mav.asn.au

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Queenscliffe’s plan to fortify the future

By Jessica Chappell

In May this year, the Borough of Queenscliffe concluded a year-long festival of events that celebrated its 150th anniversary, having been gazetted on 4 May 1863.

Reflecting on 150 years of history and of civic service, and the quality of life it has bestowed upon locals and visitors, the Borough of Queenscliffe is partnering with its community to build a plan for the future.

To do this, council is using best practice community engagement to design a local tourism and economic development plan that increases economic activity and local employment while protecting everything that sustains this uniquely resilient municipality.

At the forefront of this is a tourism plan for Fort Queenscliff, which will explore its potential as an iconic tourist attraction for the area.

The plan for the fort is just one of the Borough’s initiatives helping to fortify the future. Other projects include master planning for local tourist parks, a new economic development strategy planned this financial year, significant improvements to revitalise the Point Lonsdale Foreshore access and visitor platforms, and the recently completed Ferry to Pier Boardwalk project.

The Fort Tourism Plan Project has received support from all levels of government – resulting in a total investment of $125,000. This includes a $55,000 grant from the Federal Government, $20,000 from Tourism Victoria, $35,000 from Regional Development Victoria and the Borough of Queenscliffe’s own funding of $5,000 and $10,000 in-kind contribution.

Fort Queenscliff was developed from the 1860s as a defensive citadel and as the military headquarters for other nearby fortifications. It is included on the Commonwealth Heritage List because of its association with Victoria’s, and Australia’s, military history and the early maritime history of Melbourne and Port Phillip Bay.

A council infrastructure study in 2009 identified the fort as the most significant tourism development opportunity in the municipality.

The site has a rich military and maritime history and, from its position on Shortlands Bluff, offers commanding views of Point Nepean and Port Phillip Heads and enjoys remarkable landscape and scenic attributes.

The fort was an operational military base until 1946 when it became the Army Staff Training College. In 2001 it housed the Army’s Soldier Career Management Agency and 12 years later the Department of Defence relocated the National Archives Centre here. In the last two years the Department of Defence has determined that a significant proportion of the fort could be used for tourism activities.

This opportunity sits perfectly in a municipality where tourism is the most significant activity, accounting for about 45 per cent of the local economy. Council believes the fort can continue to make an important contribution.

Queenscliffe Mayor Helene Cameron said the Fort Queenscliff Tourism Plan was the first step in increasing the range and quality of experiences available to visitors to the Borough.

“It brings together the three levels of government, the tourism industry and the local community in an exciting project that will have lasting economic benefits,” she said.

“It will ensure this iconic symbol of our past will play a key role in our future, whilst strengthening the local economy through increased visitation and employment.”

This approach aligns with council’s philosophy and underpins its commitment to community-based solutions that respond to new challenges and emerging opportunities.

The Borough of Queenscliffe aims to create and maintain a vibrant, safe and welcoming community that draws inspiration and life from its heritage, unique environment and connection to the sea. It also seeks to protect and enhance the region to ensure the village lifestyle, which is lived and loved locally, remains.

The Fort Queenscliff Tourism Plan is part of a broader strategy to enhance tourism opportunities and facilities within the Borough of Queenscliffe, Geelong, the Bellarine and Great Ocean Road.

About Queenscliff

Queenscliff is a place where many Victorians hold fond memories. It could be summer holidays on the beach, or catching the ferry from Sorrento to Queenscliff for a day exploring the village and all of its historical treasures and heritage buildings.

For others, it is the ideal place to escape and unwind, the ultimate quiet coastal getaway with all the gourmet delights of the Bellarine Peninsula.

There is also a burgeoning breed of dedicated, grassroots, Queenscliff loyalists who are drawn to the Borough to revel in the live music scene headlined by the popular Queenscliff Music Festival. This annual event is a highlight among local and regional arts, culture and community events held in the Borough each year.

For those unfamiliar with its history, this is the last remaining ‘Borough’ in Australia. It was the only Local Government Authority to survive untouched by former Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett’s mass restructuring of 1994.

As such, the Borough is unique not only for its geography, natural environment and heritage, but also for its municipal history.

At the time of the 2011 ABS Census, the Queenscliffe municipality was home to about 3,000 people. With 33.7 per cent of the population over the age of 65 years, the ageing population is high.

A net generator of jobs with a comparatively high number of non-residential property owners, the Borough’s overnight population swells to over 15,000 people in the peak tourism season of summer, and experiences even higher population levels when major events and festivals are on.

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The road to water sensitive design

Maroondah City Council is adding basic water sensitive urban design techniques to road upgrades as it looks towards becoming a water sensitive city.

A recent $1.4 million upgrade to a council-owned road originally built to rural standards incorporated a water sensitive urban design to meet the community’s growing needs.

Brysons Road connects the Maroondah suburb of Warranwood to popular Wonga Park and two local schools.

A major municipality arterial, the road had no kerb and channel and limited pathways. In 2011 it was identified as in dire need for improvement and a conventional road just would not fit the bill.

With safety concerns due to sharp bends in the road, excess vehicle speeds, limited access to properties, and poor pedestrian facilities, a complete re-look at the design of the road was in order.

“Growth in the region meant the rural road was no longer meeting the needs of the community,” Team Leader Engineering Services Steve O’Brien said.

“The objective of the project was to upgrade and improve the road, whilst introducing traffic calming techniques and protecting the existing remnant vegetation and the amenity of the area.”

An opportunity to upgrade the road from rural to urban, and federal funding, meant this project was a perfect contender to incorporate water sensitive urban design techniques.

“We looked at the project in layers. We knew exactly the areas we had to protect and we knew we had the opportunity to protect it,” Mr O’Brien said.

“For example, there was significant existing remnant vegetation along the length of the road that was actually watered by the road, given the presence of open drains, as opposed to conventional underground drainage. As part of our works we wanted to ensure this native vegetation remained and devised a sustainable way to manage this as part of the road improvements.

“A conventional road project would not have met all of the project objectives and would have resulted in the majority of the existing vegetation being removed, or ultimately dying.”

The final design introduced a series of custom traffic calming devices like narrowed longer raised pavements, central islands and pedestrian refuges to slow traffic through the bends without impacting on the significant vegetation, home to native species of birds and wildlife.

The drainage design allowed water to continue to run off the road into open swale drains to water the existing trees and additional planting was allowed to ensure that the open drains were stabilised. Weed species were also removed along the length of the road as part of the project.

The drainage design incorporated basic elements of water sensitive urban design to clean the road water and slow its travel, mirroring pre-road conditions and taking pressure off nearby creeks.

To complete the road project, crossovers were redesigned to improve safety and access for residents and pathways were included for the majority of the length of works. The old road material was re-used and stabilised, reducing wastage for the project, the street lighting was improved along the length of the project, and some indented street parking was provided.

The final result was a council arterial road built for purpose.

“Brysons Road is a good example of how a basic approach to water sensitive urban design can be incorporated into a road upgrade,” Mr O’Brien said.

“By continuing to incorporate water sensitive urban design into our projects, whether it is a full blown program of techniques or basic, achievable techniques like Brysons Road, Maroondah will be on its way to becoming a water sensitive city.”

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A ride to stop homelessness

Banyule and Moreland city councils have found a way to deal with abandoned cars on their streets while tackling youth homelessness.

The councils donate abandoned cars to charity organisation Kids Under Cover, which sells them and uses the proceeds to build studio homes for young homeless people or those at risk of becoming homeless.

Moreland joined Kids Under Cover last year and promotes the Donate Your Car program on its yellow abandoned vehicle stickers.

In the last 10 months, the Moreland community, along with all council’s unclaimed impounded abandoned vehicles, has resulted in 134 donated cars with 95 sold to raise $40,350.

Banyule is Victoria’s second Kids Under Cover partnership, joining in April this year. Council is hoping the rising increase of abandoned or unregistered cars will have the silver lining of helping a great cause.

Last year, 603 cars were reported abandoned or unregistered in Banyule, representing a steady increase each year since 2006 when the figure was only 129.

“Under this exciting partnership, the yellow stickers that we put on unregistered cars or those suspected of being abandoned, give owners three options: moving the car to private property, donating it to Kids Under Cover or waiting for council to impound it,” Banyule Mayor Craig Langdon said.

If council impounds a car, it can be donated to Kids Under Cover if it is not claimed within 21 days.

“We think this is an easy and very effective way for us, and Banyule residents who no longer want their old cars, to make a difference to the lives of young people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless,” Cr Langdon said.

Cars donated to Kids Under Cover are auctioned for free by Manheim Auctioneers with 100 per cent of the proceeds going directly to preventing youth homelessness.

The money raised helps Kids Under Cover build relocatable one and two bedroom studios that are put in the backyards of young people’s families or carers.

Kids Under Cover National Chief Executive Officer Jo Swift said Donate Your Car is a unique and innovative approach to preventing youth homelessness.

“By building studios, complemented with scholarships and mentors to homeless and at-risk young people, we are able to keep families together and keep young people engaged in education and with their community rather than resorting to living on the streets,” she said.

“This program is making an incredible difference to the number of young people we can help and we hope that other councils around Australia will follow the lead of Banyule and Moreland councils.”

More than 3,500 vehicles have been donated from across Australia since the Donate Your Car program started in 2006.

How Donate Your Car Works:

  1. Council is notified about an abandoned car.
  2. Online registration check is done.
  3. Impending impoundment letter is sent to the owner and sticker placed on the vehicle. Impending impoundment letter and sticker include option to donate vehicle to Kids Under Cover for free. If donor proceeds with donation, Kids Under Cover notifies council of car donation and collection date.
  4. If the vehicle has not been moved in 14 days, council tows the car and sends a letter to the vehicle’s owner advising of the impoundment.
  5. If the owner cannot be contacted or does not want the vehicle but has not elected to donate it to Kids Under Cover, council tows the vehicle. If it is not claimed within the timeframe given, the car can be donated to Kids Under Cover.
  6. Kids Under Cover auctions the car and receives all of the sale proceeds.

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Monash steps in when Baby Makes 3

The innovative healthy relationships initiative that targets first time parents, Baby Makes 3, is being rolled out across Victoria’s metropolitan and rural councils with an underlying aim to prevent violence against women.

Funded by VicHealth, Monash is among the growing list of councils implementing the Baby Makes 3 program, which was trialled in  2009–11 by Whitehorse City Council in partnership with Whitehorse Community Health Service.

Baby Makes 3 helps couples explore changes in their relationship immediately following the birth of their baby, negotiate parenting responsibilities, and maintain equality and respect in their relationship during the transition to parenthood.

After identifying four potential sites for the Generating Equality and Respect Program, and Baby Makes 3, Monash chose Clayton after a feasibility study was done. This showed existing connections with stakeholders and community was strong in Clayton and partnerships were already in place, alleviating a lot of groundwork that would otherwise have been needed before the program could start.

Council is delivering Baby Makes 3 in partnership with MonashLink Community Health Service to mums and dads attending the new parent group program at the Clayton Maternal and Child Health Service.

The first Baby Makes 3 families completed the program late last year. Since then, three further groups have taken part in the two-hour, weekly evening sessions. Monash is aiming for at least nine groups to participate before funding concludes at the end of 2015.

As part of the new parents group, Monash mums and dads are invited to attend the five weekly group sessions held during the day. Baby Makes 3 runs over the following four weeks, kicking off with an informal family night for parents to get to know each other.

After family night, the next three weeks focus on developing and maintaining healthy relationships during the early stages of parenthood. The sessions are facilitated by both a male and female facilitator, who guides the group through discussions on topics such as communication in the relationship, societal expectations of mums and dads, and gender roles and equality, such as the household division of labour.

Monash Program Manager – Generating Equality and Respect Natalie Russell said the program was important for new families.

“Baby Makes 3 is offered at a time when couples are negotiating their new roles as mums and dads and they can be open to receiving new information,” she said.

“The aim of this program is to help families understand the pressures they are feeling and come up with strategies to deal with their relationship as it changes.

“We hope to help new parents communicate better with each other and deal with societal expectations that come with their new role as parents.”

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said the program had already helped hundreds of new parents to adapt to life with a baby.

“The beauty of Baby Makes 3 is that it gives both partners a new understanding and respect for the role of the primary care giver,” Ms Rechter said.

“It’s about raising awareness of the often unrealistic pressures put on mothers and promoting equality in relationships.”

Monash new parents Jo and Peter Eady completed the program following the birth of their first child, David. Ms Eady said the couple enjoyed the program and gained some great insights into how to communicate more effectively.

“It was good to remind ourselves how to be a couple as well as parents, how to make time to be together and how to communicate with each other,” Ms Eady said.

While Baby Makes 3 is not openly promoted as a gender equity or prevention of violence against women program, it is a VicHealth and council priority to target first time parents, since the transition to parenthood is a time when women may be vulnerable to violence.

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New lease on life for remnant river gum

A Moonee Valley City Council project to revitalise one of Melbourne’s last remaining areas of untouched native bushland saw stormwater flow aboveground at Napier Park recently for the first time since the 1960s.

The project was first proposed in 2009, following discussions between council and the community about the declining health of majestic river red gum trees that have stood guard over Napier Park’s unique habitat for more than 250 years.

The important trees had suffered a gradual decline in health since the 1960s, due to lack of water, after stormwater that previously flowed through the park was redirected into kerbs and then underground through concrete pipes.

To remedy the situation, council landscape architects recreated the original ephemeral water course by constructing a swale that would provide a sustainable water source to irrigate the park. The swale also works to remove pollutants from the water before the overflow enters local waterways such as Five Mile Creek, Moonee Ponds Creek and into the Yarra River.

“We’re very lucky to still have these remnant river red gums, given all the development that has happened around them,” Moonee Valley Mayor Jan Chantry said.

“It’s important we continue to work with the community to protect this unique example of pre-European native bushland.”

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Now screening at Dandenong

A giant video screen has become a new community focal point for residents living within the Greater Dandenong municipality.

Sitting pride of place within Greater Dandenong City Council’s new outdoor civic plaza, the giant screen plays 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It is part of council’s new $64 million civic centre that opened in April.

Included in the outdoor civic centre is an open-plaza community meeting space that features a stage.

With room for around 2,500 people, the civic space can host a range of festivals and events.

Recently, soccer fans enjoyed all the replays and highlights of the Soccer World Cup on the big screen and hundreds gathered to watch the final live.

Greater Dandenong Engineering Services Director Bruce Rendall said the giant screen was a great place for people to meet.

“We hope to attract hundreds of people, just like in Federation Square (Melbourne CBD),” he said.

“It’s all part of the plan to attract people to Dandenong.”

A new regional library, spread over two levels, has also opened in the new civic space.

The complex also features interesting community art like striking cobblestone paving imprinted with designs by artist Paul Carter.

Inside council chambers is a large perforated wooden panelled wall displaying a stunning image of a river red gum – an iconic image of the region’s original landscape.

At the opening of the civic centre, Greater Dandenong Mayor Jim Mementi said the new centre had been in planning for years and the result was ‘marvellous’.

“For years we’ve dreamed of a state-of-the-art building to serve the whole community and offer a one-stop shop for council services – and now we have it,” he said.

“This is all part of the major transformation taking place in Greater Dandenong.”

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In brief

Chapel St info kiosk

Stonnington City Council has provided $50,000 funding to support the implementation of new information kiosks in the popular retail, nightlife and hospitality precinct of Chapel Street.

Working with traders’ associations to promote and support local business, the new kiosks will provide a powerful tool for visitors to connect with Chapel Street.

The kiosks are also expected to improve the Chapel Street experience for visitors, locals and the business community, and help provide an environment where all businesses can flourish.

Cardinia gold

Cardinia Shire Council is the first Australian organisation to receive Investors in People gold accreditation. Council received its first Investors in People award in 2003, followed by bronze accreditation in 2010. It has since been working toward the gold accreditation.

CEO Garry McQuillan said creating and encouraging the right organisational culture was one of the most important roles for any leadership team.

“This accreditation shows that council recognises that our success relies on the quality of our employees,” he said.

Council was required to meet 165 out of a maximum 196 evidence requirements to receive the gold level accreditation, as assessed by the Investors in People group, however were successful in meeting 186 requirements.

War memorial lights up

Moreland City Council is restoring an historic memorial in the Brunswick Town Hall foyer that honours local soldiers who fought and died in World War 1.

The jointly funded project between council and the State Department of Planning and Community Development has already provided a new lighting system to adequately illuminate the memorial.

Moreland Mayor Cr Lambros Tapinos and the Honourable Damian Drum MLC opened the first phase of the refurbished memorial recently and paid tribute to the memory of the soldiers.

“The new $10,000 lighting system, funded by the State Government, allows us for the first time in 80-odd years to properly see the names of those who served,” Cr Tapinos said.

“Moreland matched this contribution and is looking to further restore the Honour Boards during the centenary of the Great War.”

The memorial bears the names of 550 local men who were killed and another 1,900 who served and some who enlisted but did not embark before the war ended.

Melbourne Music Strategy

Melbourne City Council has released the Melbourne Music Strategy 2014-17 outlining how it will continue to work with, support and enrich Melbourne’s music industry over the next three years.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said music was a vital part of the city’s cultural scene but the industry is also an enormous economic contributor.

“Each weekend, around 97,000 people attend music performances in the city which generates $5.4 million in ticket sales, entry, hospitality and merchandising,” he said.

“This strategy supports all elements of Melbourne’s music industry: music venues and the musicians, audiences, producers, teachers, concert halls and buskers.”

Written in consultation with the music industry, the strategy focuses on six major themes of: visibility; promotion and positioning; spaces and collaboration; funding and support; policy reform and advocacy; and research and information.

View the strategy at http://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/enterprisemelbourne/industries/design/MusicMelbourne/Pages/MusicStrategyMelbourne.aspx

Fighting breast cancer

Campaspe Shire Council partnered with Echuca Regional Health recently to offer a unique exercise program for local women fighting breast cancer.

The YWCA ENCORE program is a free, gentle exercise program specifically designed to target areas that have been affected by breast cancer by increasing mobility, flexibility and strength while building positive self-esteem.

Participant Amanda Barlow said the program was an excellent mix of exercise, relaxation and information.

“Week by week, the exercises became more challenging and we found we were working harder physically and gaining more flexibility,” she said.

Another participant, Margy Derby, said the program had made her feel special.

“My life has changed for the better and I feel as if I’m a new person. I feel fitter than I have in 20 years and I’ve made beautiful friends. I feel I can finally get back into the life I once loved, and not just give up,” she said.

Council is seeking funding to continue the program.

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Events

August

Fruit Bottling Workshops at Rayner’s Orchard

Date: Now-30 September
Venue: Orchard, 60 Schoolhouse Road, Woori Yallock
Description: Learn how to bottle your own fruit – peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots and other varieties – in the custom-made bottling kitchen at Rayner’s Orchard. You even get to take home any fruit you bottle.
Need more? See: Rayners Orchard

Vanished Into Stitches

Date: 8 August-9 November
Venue: National Wool Museum, 26 Moorabool Street, Geelong
Description: Artist Ruth Marshall showcases her intricate knitted textiles in this truly unique exhibition.
Need more? See: Vanished Into Stitches

September

Kyneton Daffodil and Arts Festival

Date: 4-14 September
Various, see website
Description: See the beautiful daffodils that saturate Kyneton and its surrounds and enjoy arts, crafts, gardens, flower shows, markets and hospitality. Highlights include the Festival of One Act Plays, the Antique Fair, ferret racing, buskers and scarecrows.
Need more? See: Kyneton Daffodil and Arts Festival

Coal Creek Pirates Day

Date: 28 September
Venue: Coal Creek Community Park & Museum, 12 Silkstone Road, Korumburra South
Description: Dress up and head to Coal Creek for a pirate treasure hunt, family games, boat races at the lake and a competition for best dressed pirates.
Need more? See:  Coal Creek

October

Heathcote Wine and Food Festival

Date: 4-5 October
Venue: Heathcote Showgrounds, Chauncey Street, Heathcote
Description: Taste Heathcote wines from over 50 producers, along with regional foods and produce in one central location over one great weekend. Pop into the tasting seminars and enjoy live music.
Need more? See: Heathcote Wine Region

Mildura Show

Date: 17-18 October
Venue: Mildura Recreation Reserve, Twelfth Street, Mildura
Description: After 66 years this agricultural show is still going strong. Local businesses and farmers come together to showcase their businesses, farm equipment and animals. Includes all the elements of a show – competitions, displays, entertainment, and of course showbags and side-show alley.
Need more? See: Mildura Show

November

Beechworth Celtic Festival

Date: 7-9 November
Venue: Beechworth, Ford Street, Beechworth
Description: Picturesque Beechworth hosts a three-day festival celebrating Celtic music and culture. A full program of live music, theatre, dancing, comedy, pipe bands and a street parade has something to offer every age group.
Need more? See: Beechworth Celtic Festival

Melbourne Music Week

Date: 14-23 November
Venue: Various, see website
Description: Melbourne Music Week brings together many creative industries to create a colourful mash-up of music, art, multimedia and film. Industry veterans perform alongside new talent, and Melbourne’s celebrated venues are ignited alongside the city’s hidden gems.
Need more? See: Melbourne Music Week

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Easy law advice every day

The Victoria Law Foundation has launched a new website that could help councils support their communities with answers to legal questions.

The website, www.everyday-law.org.au, brings together easy-to-understand legal information in one spot, helping people find legal answers, learn about the court system, or search for free or low cost law services.

The website covers a wide range of the most common legal problems from what to do if you don’t see eye-to-eye with your neighbour to where you stand when it comes to dividing your house, cars, kettles or cats.

Victoria Law Foundation Executive Director Joh Kirby said the Everyday Law website was designed to give people a good place to start when they have a legal problem.

“The law is an essential part of people’s lives,” Ms Kirby said.

“So the more people understand the law, the better off they’ll be. If we know our rights and responsibilities, the more likely we are to make better decisions about legal issues and protect ourselves.”

That’s the theory, but in practice a lot of legal information is too complicated for what most people want.

“We know that councils are one place people go to for answers,” Ms Kirby said.

“But, often the questions go beyond the responsibility of council.”

Everyday Law can help councils direct people to find accurate, easy‑to-understand legal information that can help.

“Rather than starting with a Google search, which might uncover out-of-date and irrelevant information, Everyday Law is an authoritative starting point for people with a legal question,” Ms Kirby said.

With only rigorously reviewed information selected for inclusion on the site, Everyday Law helps people find clear, accurate and useful legal information. People can also use the site to search a directory of legal services, to find the ones most appropriate for their needs.

Everyday Law can also help answer questions about how the legal system works. It includes useful background on Australia’s legal system and the courts so people can expand their knowledge on where laws come from, and who does what and why.

The website’s ‘in the news’ section goes behind the 24-hour news cycle to fill in the gaps on hot-button legal issues. It provides explanations around legal terms like mandatory sentencing and can clearly outline changes to Acts and Legislation.

Councillors and council staff can refer community queries to the Everyday Law website or link from their own websites.

Top 5 ways to use everyday-law.org.au

When faced with questions from your community about legal issues, Everyday Law is a good place to start to:

  1. Answer a legal question
  2. Find free and low-cost legal help
  3. Learn about the legal system
  4. Understand legal issues in the news
  5. Find out about local legal events

The website includes links to more than 1,500 easy-to-understand legal resources, sourced from more than 150 organisations.

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Councils welcome refugees

Refugee Week was celebrated by many Victorian councils signing a Refugee Welcome Zone declaration.

Moira, Colac Otway, Shepparton and Ballarat shire councils, along with the Borough of Queenscliffe and Hobsons Bay City Council, all joined the Refugee Council of Australia initiative.

Over the past 12 years, 100 councils from around Australia have become Refugee Welcome Zones, which includes almost half of Victorian councils.

A Refugee Welcome Zone means a Local Government Area that has made a commitment to welcoming refugees into the community, upholding their human rights, demonstrating compassion and enhancing cultural and religious diversity in the community.

The Moira community, including local refugees, joined council at a celebration to sign the Refugee Welcome Zone Declaration.

Cr Maire Martin said the declaration promoted harmony, social cohesion and respect for human rights.

“Council has long been a supporter of multicultural initiatives and programs that further a sense of belonging within and amongst our mainstream and ethnic communities,” she said.

“Moira is home to a significant number of refugees from different countries. Becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone is an opportunity to highlight and reiterate our ongoing support and commitment to multiculturalism and recognition for the contributions of our multicultural and ethnic groups, including refugees, in our community.”

The declaration signing came at the close of a photographic exhibition called Restoring Hope, which featured stories from across Australia, along with a screening of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea – a moving documentary depicting the journey of a refugee and exposing the circumstances that lead to someone becoming a refugee.

“The photo exhibition and film screening were extremely moving and exposed the plight of refugees and asylum seekers, hopefully creating greater awareness and understanding within our community of the circumstances and decisions that lead refugees to their journey to Australia,” Cr Martin said.

Colac Otway saw the opportunity to become a Refugee Welcome Zone this year as taking a stand against racism.

Chief Executive Officer Rob Small said there were a number of reasons for Colac Otway to become a Refugee Welcome Zone.

“(By becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone) we are promoting harmony, social cohesion and respect for human rights in the local community,” he said.

“Through this (initiative) we’re taking a strong stand against racism and discrimination; and we’re raising awareness about the issues affecting refugees and fostering a culture of mutual respect and promoting an appreciation of diversity.”

The Borough of Queenscliffe held a formal signing ceremony during Refugee Week pledging its commitment to becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone. The event was led by Mayor Helene Cameron and Cr Sue Wasterval, and attended by the Refugee Council of Australia, Diversitat, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and the Executive Committee of Queenscliffe Rural Australians for Refugees.

“This year, Refugee Week’s national theme of Restoring Hope reminds us that, while a refugee’s journey begins with much trepidation, it also begins with hope,” Cr Cameron said.

“Refugees flee their homelands not only because of fear, but also because they have hope: they hope to find freedom, and safety and security for themselves and their families; they hope to be given a chance to start a new life and to do so without ongoing discrimination, fear of persecution, violence and uncertainty.

“Herein lies our opportunity as a proactive and responsive community to formalise council’s role as a Refugee Welcome Zone.”

Cr Wasterval said supporting the plight of refugees and asylum seekers was an issue many within the local community had raised with her.

“I am delighted we are taking this historic step today and it reflects the growing community interest in the plight of refugees and the role we can play to welcome new residents,” she said.

The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) Chief Executive Officer Paul Power said the Refugee Welcome Zone initiative was one way local councils could exercise positive leadership on refugee issues.

“Activities and initiatives introduced by local government include partnerships with community groups and service providers, Refugee Week and Harmony Week events, public forums, living libraries and community-based projects,” he said.

To become a Refugee Welcome Zone, councils sign a declaration. How this is implemented is entirely up to council.

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Five Minutes With … Cr Darren Pearce, Mayor Knox City Council

You have lived in the Knox municipality for 10 years, what do you love most about your community?

That’s easy – the people and the lifestyle. Knox is very much a family-oriented area. It’s wonderful to live in a community where, irrespective of residents’ cultural backgrounds, many share similar traditional values to my wife Susan and I. We also enjoy the green leafy streets and quality open space that, as a councillor, I am committed to protect for future generations.

How are you, Susan and your two children involved in the community outside of your official Mayoral duties?

Both of our children are involved with the local Scout group, so we help out at fundraisers and working bees where we can. Susan has been involved in playgroup and preschool committees, as well as previously being school council president at my daughter’s former primary school.

This is your second term on council, what inspired you to run in 2008?

My objective for nominating for council was the strong desire to ensure the council finances were being properly managed, and that rate increases were curtailed. After being elected, I soon learned the role and the issues of local government were far broader than just financial management.

Now mayor, how different is this role compared to previous years as a councillor?

In my view, the role of mayor is one of managing the key stakeholder relationships with the community, council colleagues, staff and other levels of government. Although, as councillors we all have a collective responsibility to make decisions in the best interests of the entire community, as Mayor I have the additional requirement to represent and uphold the decisions of council. As the public face and spokesperson of the council, I have a duty to protect and enhance its image.

What are some of your priority areas this year?

My objective for this year was to quietly, without any fanfare, go about ‘tying up a number of loose ends’ that have been, in some cases frustratingly, a work-in-progress over a considerable period of time.

Specific examples of what we have achieved so far this year include:

  • Finalisation of our draft housing strategy and structure plans to several of our activity centres
  • Finalisation of some complex land ownership exchange agreements between Council and private land holders
  • Completion of major repairs resulting from structural damage to our Civic Centre
  • Reaching our budget target to ensure there is now sufficient funding every year to maintain asset renewal of city infrastructure
  • Providing the funding in our income base to complete all outstanding new footpath and drainage projects in the city over the next 20 years.

If you could introduce one change in Knox tomorrow, what would it be?

If I had a magic wand, I would like to be able to convince the current and future state governments of either political persuasion of the critical need for improved public transport infrastructure projects in Knox, in particular the Rowville Rail and Knox Tram, that have been aspirations of our community for decades.

How has your experience as a small business owner assisted in your role on council?

When you are self-employed and pay for everything directly out of your wallet, you really appreciate the value of money. This gives you a heightened sense of awareness that being a custodian of public finances is a responsibility to be taken very seriously. There is no such thing as ‘free’, every program or service where community money is being spent, must be constantly evaluated for its ongoing value to residents and its financial sustainability.

Can you tell us something about Knox that most readers would not know?

Knox is the only suburban municipality in the Melbourne metropolitan area that is completely surrounded by a green belt giving it its own genuine, unique identity. There’s always plenty going on in Knox – join us at facebook.com/KnoxCouncil

What is your favourite pastime?

Given my heavy council and business commitments, I really do not get much time at present to have a regular pastime activity. I do enjoy reading military history, in particular those relating to WW1 and WW2. I have a collection of books written by great Australian authors such as Les Carlyon, Peter Fitzsimmons and Paul Ham that provide a good read on battles such as Gallipoli, Kokoda and Tobruk.

Where is your best getaway in Victoria?

As a family, we have enjoyed going to locations on the Bellarine Peninsula and the Bass Coast.