Upcoming Council Elections

Thank you to the many individuals and community organisations that have shared their time over the past seven years. It has been an absolute honour to represent the Loughnan’s HIll Ward and the Mullum Wards in the City of Maroondah.

We accomplished a lot over these years, including new investment in community infrastructure, a focus on public transport advocacy and a Council that responds to needs in the community. During my time as Mayor I reversed twelve years of budget deficits and improved the accountability of Councils by encouraging debate and discussion during Council meetings.

I was the first elected Councillor to regularly maintain a blog, documenting my Council activities and to engage communities through social media. I provided a range of contact options to ensure that constituents were able to easily make contact with an elected representative.

After seven years I will not be renominating at the upcoming Council elections. I would like to thank the many people who have offered support and encouragement for providing the opportunity to respond to their concerns.

We have a great seven years together but it now time for me to focus on my career and other pursuits. I like the people of Loughnan’s Hill Ward and the Mullum Ward for the opportunity to serve as their elected representative.

Conclusion of the 2010 Mayoral Year

This evening Maroondah City Council held its Statutory Meeting, whereby the Mayor is elected for the 2011 Council Year. While I have enjoyed the challenges experienced throughout this year I chose not to seek re-nomination as Mayor and Cr Tony Dib has been unanimously elected as Mayor for the oncoming Council year.

Maroondah is truly fortunate to have such a vibrant sense of community and I would like to thank the many community organisations and individuals that I have met throughout this year. While the volume of work undertaken as Mayor is immense it is also incredibly rewarding to meet the many people that are dedicated to their local community.

2010 has marked the year that Council delivered financial sustainability, ensuring that future Councils will be able to invest in community facilities and services. Maroondah City Council has finally reversed over 12 years of annual financial operating deficits to ensure that Council is able to meet future challenges. In addition, partnerships with neighbouring Councils have been strengthened and Maroondah is at the forefront of a newly formed alliance between the six Councils containing Central Activities Districts and the City of Melbourne.

Furthermore, Council has reaffirmed its commitment to Reconciliation through incorporating the Acknowledgement of Country at all Council events and Council meetings. Likewise, reforms to strengthen accountability and governance through encouraging debate and discussion were undertaken, including the rearrangement of the Council Chamber to ensure that Councillors are able to see members of the public present at Council meetings.

Council’s advocacy for an accessible, safe and integrated transit interchange for Ringwood proved successful and I congratulate the incoming State Government for their pledge to overhaul Ringwood Station.

Lastly, I would like to thank my colleagues for their support throughout this year, being Mayor is an incredible experience and I wish Cr Tony Dib all the best of success in the year ahead. I will be continuing as a Councillor for the Mullum Ward and I welcome feedback from residents and the community.

November Broadcast on 98.1 Radio Eastern FM

Radio Eastern is a community based organisation located at Wyreena Community Arts Centre, that broadcasts on 98.1 FM.

Each month Councillors are invited to participate in an on-air interview on 98.1 FM and this morning I discussed upcoming Council activities, as well as reflected on the year as Mayor. During the interview I highlighted the governance reforms that were undertaken this year, including the encouragement of debate and discussion in the Chamber and presentations through deputations to Council. This ensures that decisions are being made in an open and transparent nature and ensures that community groups and individuals can make formal presentations to Council.

In relation to upcoming events I discussed the the Maroondah Festival, which will be held on Sunday the 7th of November. The Festival is Maroondah’s largest event, featuring community organisations, interactive displays, music and stage performances, including dedicated areas for community, business, sustainability, fitness and a youth precinct.

I also reminded the community that nominations for Maroondah’s Australia Day Awards close on Friday the 19th of November. The Australia Day Awards provide an opportunity to recognize prominent Maroondah citizens and community events.

Details on the Maroondah Festival and the Australia Day Awards are available from the Council website at www.maroondah.vic.gov.au.

Maroondah Business Week Breakfast with David Schwarz

Maroondah Business Week is an annual Council initiated program that aims to promote and enhance businesses within the municipality. The Week consists of workshops, tours and networking events offering a range of activities to cater to the business sectors within Maroondah.

One of these events is the Maroondah Business Week Breakfast, which featured David Schwarz as the speaker. David was a former footballer and Vice-Captain for Melbourne Football Club and discussed the challenges he faced during this career, including a gambling addiction, which he spoke about candidly during the breakfast session.

Alex with David Schwarz and Cr Rob Steane at the 2010 Maroondah Business Week Breakfast
Alex with David Schwarz and Cr Rob Steane at the 2010 Maroondah Business Week Breakfast

David’s openness set him apart from some of the speakers of other years and he spoke candidly about the difficulties in establishing a post football career. David’s comments reflect the need for ongoing perseverance and the advantages of networking within businesses and provided a number of parallels between his experiences and the challenges facing business.

As part of the proceedings I had the opportunity to introduce Maroondah Business Week and the speech I provided is available in this post:

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Manager of Marketing Services at Eastern Volunteers

Eastern Volunteers is a community based not-for-profit organisation that provides volunteer assisted transport and volunteer recruitment across the Cities of Maroondah and Whitehorse and the Shire of Yarra Ranges.

I had been a board member of Eastern Volunteers since July 2008 providing oversight and direction for the activities undertaken by the organisation. Eastern Volunteers has grown considerably over the past few years and now has 14 part-time staff supported with approximately 100 volunteers.

This morning I accepted the position of Manager of Marketing Services for Eastern Volunteers, which means I will not be seeking re-nomination to the board at the annual general meeting. This new role will focus on expanding the marketing activities of Eastern Volunteers, ensuring that the organisation is able to continue to expand and deliver its services.

The role is part-time enabling me to undertake my Council commitments, as well as my employment with Eastern Volunteers.

The Age: State failing to act on bus reviews

Over the past several years the State Government progressively undertook a review of bus services across metropolitan Melbourne, examining network coverage, route configuration, operating span and frequency.  The reviews were conducted along council boundaries, with Maroondah’s being undertaken last year, with the final report and recommendations not being made available until this year.

Unfortunately the implementation of these recommendations, which largely consisted of more frequent and longer running services, has been mixed. The Age has reported on the implementation of these reviews:

Maroondah mayor Alex Makin said his council had staged a public meeting in January last year, and later hosted two state government workshops. Many of the recommendations made by consultants after the review had not happened.

The bus service reviews identified short, medium and long-term priorities, with a series of recommendations that aim to improve bus services. While the short and medium term priorities had identifiable timeframes, the long-term initiatives, many of which included new routes to serve areas of Maroondah without bus services, lack an implementation plan.

Furthermore some of the short-term initiatives, including proposed frequency improvements, for route 670 along Maroondah Highway, one of Maroondah’s most highly patronised services, have not yet been delivered despite the review stating that this would begin in the middle of this year.

The State Government must deliver improvements to bus services to ensure that the bus network is a competitive form of transport.

Launch of Brush Strokes Exhibition from the Croydon Stroke Support Group

The Croydon Stroke Support Group provides peer support to people with stroke and their carers. The group has a strong emphasis on social inclusion and provides a range of art based programs to restore confidence to people with stroke.

This morning I was invited to open the Croydon Stroke Support Group’s Brush Stroke exhibition, which is being exhibited at Maroondah Federation Estate in Greenwood Avenue in Ringwood. Brush Strokes, includes a range of mediums, including photography, sculpture and painting, some of which were collaborative pieces made by several members of the group.

Brush Strokes is the inaugural exhibition to be held in the Long Gallery, within the former school building of Ringwood Primary. The building, which is now used for community space will complement the existing cultural focus of Maroondah Federation Estate, providing additional space for the arts within Maroondah.

In addition, I had the pleasure of launching Left of Tomorrow, a book by Wendy Lyons, a person with stroke and a member of the Croydon Stroke Support Group. Wendy’s book details her experiences with stroke and the challenges she faced.

The Croydon Stroke Support Group has a strong focus on the arts and the restoring of confidence for people with stroke. In addition to photography, painting and sculpture, the group has also initiated a choir to provide people with stroke the ability to sing and regain their voices.

The Croydon Stroke Support Group meets each Thursday on a weekly basis, for details please visit www.strokeassociation.com.au/CroydonSSG.htm

Celebrating NAIDOC Week Initiatives at Marlborough Primary

NAIDOC week, which is held in the first full week of July each year celebrates Indigenous culture and has a strong educational focus during the week.

This afternoon I was invited to Marlborough Primary School, located in Heathmont, to attend the presentation of awards to two students who celebrated Indigenous culture through art. The students, in grades six and one, were selected from over 112,000 entries and represents the strong interest and respect Marlborough places on Indigenous culture.

As a former student of Marlborough it was great to be back at the school and congratulate these students on their achievements.

Maroondah Bizconnect Business Breakfast -Denso Automotive Systems Australia

Maroondah City Council holds regular business breakfasts designed to encourage networking and knowledge leadership amongst businesses within the community.

This morning’s breakfast included a presentation from Denso Automotive Systems Australia (formerly Australian Automotive Air), one of the nation’s largest automotive manufacturers, who discussed their unique just-in-time systems to ensure maximum efficiency with their operations.

Maroondah’s next business breakfast is held during Maroondah Business Week. Details on all of the Maroondah Business Week events are available at www.bizmaroondah.com.au.

The speech I delivered at the opening of the Business Breakfast is available within this post:

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Delegates’ Report: Thanking our volunteers, supporting cultural diversity and youth and reducing greenhouse emissions

On the 31st of July I attended an evening hosted by Maroondah’s Sudanese Community, where they shared traditional Southern Sudanese cuisine with the wider Maroondah municipality. Maroondah is home to almost 200 people from Sudan who share similar aspirations, in regard to employment and housing, like many other members of our community.

The food included lamb and cous cous combined with traditional Southern Sudanese cooking and ingredients and it is great to see all members of our community welcoming each other into Maroondah. Our municipality consists of people from a range of backgrounds and cultures and it is diversity that enriches our community and provides opportunities.

I congratulate the Sudanese community for bringing Maroondah’s communities together for the meal and for sharing their aspirations within the municipality.

On the 4th of August I had the pleasure of hosting the Community Volunteers Luncheon, providing an opportunity to acknowledge the work undertaken by the many volunteers within our community. Maroondah is fortunate to have many people committed to volunteering and working together to improve the wellbeing and amenity of our municipality.

The Community Volunteers Luncheon is Maroondah’s way of acknowledging and thanking the efforts of our volunteers and I would like to congratulate the many people who devote their time, energy and resources into improving our community.

On the 5th of August I attended a meeting organised by Common Equity Housing Limited (CEHL), the managers of the affordable housing cooperative in Larissa Avenue, Ringwood. The meeting provided an opportunity to meet prospective tenants of the development and to discuss Council’s plans for the Ringwood Central Activities District and the need for a State Government commitment towards Ringwood Station. It was great to see such enthusiasm towards the vision for Ringwood from the participants at the meeting. While Council was understandably concerned over the State Government’s removal of Council’s planning powers over the development, it is critical that we now work towards ensuring that the tenants of the development are a part of our community and able to partake in the same opportunities that we are all able to enjoy within Maroondah.

On the 6th of August I attended the launch of the Eastern Alliance for Greenhouse Action’s Solar Hot Water Program. The Eastern Alliance for Greenhouse Action is formed through six Councils within Eastern Melbourne, including Boroondara, Whitehorse, Maroondah, Yarra Ranges, Knox and Monash. The program will provide assistance in reducing household greenhouse emissions through solar hot water systems. An information session is scheduled for Thursday the 9th of September at 11am at Maroondah Federation Estate in Ringwood, where members of our community can learn more about this program.

I’ll be tabling the rest of my report.