We need your voice in our community’s future.

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In 2014 we must remove our apathy and complacency and replace it with courage and conviction – we need your voice in our community’s future.

As ratepayers of this community, ambulance we all have a place at the Council table with our voices and our votes.  Our voice is guaranteed by our democratic traditions, and removing any apathy and complacency within our community will see a major change in attitude from our civic leaders.

The Civic Hall debate is just one example of a small number from the ‘top end of town’ disproportionately influencing what is good for our community.

The ‘top end of town’ I refer to is led by the Committee for Ballarat (C4B) who I generally applaud for its lobbying of many worthwhile projects.  However, with regard to the Civic Hall, the C4B is at odds with the general community’s view of retaining the hall due to its strong support for business, which favours the hall’s demolition in order to provide for further commercial development opportunities.

I am to understand that of the membership of the Committee for Ballarat, only 50% participated in its internal survey to determine the fate of the Civic Hall.  However, the survey results from half of the membership indicated that the majority favoured the demolition of the Civic Hall.

In contrast, Council’s Morgan Research community survey showed over 70% of the community wanted the Civic Hall retained.

However, despite the community’s view, it would appear that a majority of councillors paid more attention to the views of the Committee for Ballarat rather than those of the general community they represent on this matter, and voted for the hall’s demolition.

Let me state clearly that I am biased.  I simply cannot understand why any individual or group can justify demolishing the Civic Hall, a solid, usable structure that will last for centuries and can be adapted for a diversity of community and some business activities such as expos.

Has the C4B read the state government’s policy on adaptive re-use?  What is the position of the current state government and the Minister for Planning on the Civic Hall issue?

Dare I say the state government will avoid at all costs getting involved with such a controversy so close to the November state election. Is it true the Minister for Planning Matthew Guy doesn’t want the Civic Hall demolished?

Let me remind everyone that the proposed multi-storey development at the corner of Mair and Camp Streets cannot go ahead due to lack of investor interest, as there is no demand for more office accommodation in the CBD.

May I also remind the C4B that there are other sites across the CBD that could be developed or redeveloped (adaptive reuse of buildings). We are a city of history and heritage.

I think we can see a major issue developing of Council favouring influential lobby groups with their own vested interests at the expense of the general community’s voice being listened to.

To counter this development, would I and others be wrong in suggesting that we (the community) start our own Community Committee to provide an alternative viewpoint, in many instances, to those with vested interests?

We live in the city that developed the foundations of democracy in Victoria and Australia.  It is simply what sets Ballarat apart from any other community in Australia.

Then why don’t we uphold those values as outlined in the Ballarat Reform League Charter of 11 November 1854?  Basically put, “that it is the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in making the laws he is called upon to obey …as the people are the only legitimate source of all political power”.

Ballarat desperately needs community leadership that represents general community views rather than just those of business and sectional interests.

A community leader must respect the views of their community, listen and ask many questions, communicate on all levels and be understood, allow access to all information, be willing to work to understand the needs and desires of others and consider all options in order to lead in the right direction.

The community must have confidence that its opinions and thoughts will be heard and taken into consideration. Currently this is questionable!

Council rightly ran forums to gauge the community’s views on the future of the Civic Hall , however the results have not been released. Is it because the Council bureaucracy simply didn’t like the outcome – ‘that the community wanted the hall retained’!

Community members have a right to be fully informed on issues that will affect them.  In this instance, it is the Civic Hall, but on a more general level, the community needs to know what is being proposed to develop the social fabric of our community and increasing and improving the ‘people’ places and spaces for such development.

By not engaging and listening to their community, many of our councillors need to think very carefully about their future representing this community, particularly those that have state or federal political aspirations.

The community rightly expects its elected representatives to be just that, truly representing the community’s overall views, not just the views of sectional interests.

I also want to make it clear that I am not anti-development nor anti-business.

To my mind, those wanting the Civic Hall demolished are not putting the community’s interests before their own. They do not view the Civic Hall as a community asset worth preserving. They are looking for a commercial outcome as versus a community outcome.

I have run a successful business of my own. I am, however, very concerned about the majority of people/ families in our community that need social and physical infrastructure to support their health and well-being, particularly when you consider that some 50% of people over the age of 18 are on some form of welfare support.

Combined with a large percentage of residents on low income, it is our collective responsibility to support them with community access activities.

Ballarat be proud, be informed and engage in the debates for your community and your family’s future.

Far from being inconsequential, social interaction through community participation, particularly in arts and culture, expresses the very essence and identity of a community. Whilst necessity is the mother of invention, creativity is the mother of the arts.

Culture is as necessary to the community’s general wellbeing as are advancements in science, medicine and technology.

Many decision-makers often find it difficult to appreciate the intrinsic social, cultural and economic value of community engagement through the arts and recreation and their importance for a healthy and vibrant society.

Funding for community initiatives is too often deemed a luxury in times of austerity.

However, community engagement is a vital element of the economy by way of its contribution to employment in many areas including IT, tourism, major events, sport and recreation and, of course, the visual and performing arts industries themselves.

With social inequality rising in Ballarat and across Australia, we need to work to support those feeling isolated and disengaged from their community. They should be encouraged to participate in our community’s social life, which will, no doubt, improve their personal wellbeing.

Communities flourish when there are places and spaces for people to come together and share rewarding experiences. We are gregarious beings who must socialise to remain healthy in body and spirit.

Let’s work collectively and leave a legacy for this community and for the future and our children.

Let’s be rid of apathy and complacency and employ courage and conviction. It’s up to all of us!  Have your say.

Categories: Blog, Uncategorized
This post was written by , posted on May 3, 2014 Saturday at 11:09 pm

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