THERE are always pivotal points in life, politics and relationships, and as I consider the huge honour of being the Mayor of Mildura I look back at a few points which galvanised my direction and made me want to participate in our representative and deliberative democracy.
As a restless 26 year old with a trade and too much to say, I thought the best way to change the world was to put advertisements in the newspaper, asking people to meet in Jaycee Park and talk through the problems of the world.
No press, no politicians and no idea how alive and well our inherited Westminster system was and how little it cared for my singular view of the world.
These meetings went on for a while, but there was no core, no theme and no structure to hold the juvenile passion for political change in place.
So, like many first attempts at navigating intricate and complex systems, it fell away.
It’s interesting to reflect on what we learn as we grow, and up until I purchased a house at 30, the responsibilities of a householder, ratepayer and voting citizen were very vague.
This was a time of reshaping my world view and looking more closely at the services all governments deliver through taxes and rates, and the politics that can be played around these funding realities.
I was very happy to call out the issues I saw as wrong but had little knowledge of how the system worked, how it had developed and in many cases how it delivered in our country for a large number of citizens over many years.
A slow and steady period of work and learning brought me to the 2016 council election. Being voted in offered a clear insight in the intricacies and complexities of Municipal, State and Federal Governments.
Nutting out how these multi-platform service deliverers worked was fascinating but not altogether straight forward.
This was huge. No more guessing, no more speculation. There was a chance to be involved, ask the question and have a serious answer provided.
The answer may not have been to every single councillor or community member’s liking, but that is the nature of a democracy. It is the embodiment of debate, checks and balances and the continual need for funding.
As a second-term councillor my goal for the community is to encourage participation – our core action is listening with the understanding that we have picked up from where previous councils have left off.
Our leadership is strategic, and we as councillors set the standard for communication with our community; a balance of listening to people and letting people know what or where the council is up to on any given topic.
These decisions are critical in bringing the community along. So, in the shadow of JFK I ask, “it is not what your council can do for you but what you can do for you council?”
This is not a trick question! This is not about increases or cost shifting, this is about how we as an elected body hear you, our community, and how we communicate that through our CEO to the staff to implement.
As Mayor I make a commitment to listen and participate and my colleagues have echoed this theme through our first few weeks together.
To have our community participate, get involved with consultation, and explore the possibilities our region has is central to developing active communication.
The development next year of our next four-year Community and Council Plan, which is our organisation’s guiding document, is a powerful way for the community to do this. I encourage as many people as possible to participate in the consultation process of this document once it starts.
This, too, puts the onus back on us, the elected. We need to keep our community informed of the processes we go through to make decisions for the benefit of the region.
An example of this method of engagement and consultation is Mildura Future Ready and Mildura South Regional Sporting Precinct, put together through community engagement and a strategy to match the changing needs of our growing municipality.
The great result from the State Budget on Tuesday shows how working together with a vision for the future based on engagement can deliver for Mildura Rural City Council.
* Cr Jason Modica is the new Mayor of Mildura Rural City Council