Gender Equity Strategy
There has been a tremendous amount of positive feedback, media coverage (and requests for the copy of my speech!) following the July Ordinary Meeting of Council, when Council unanimously supported the development of a Gender Equity Strategy for the City of Greater Bendigo. Here is what I had to say:
“Wellbeing and fairness feature prominently in the Community Plan 2017-2021 as a key goal to achieve for our municipality’s success and journey towards being the ‘World’s most liveable community’.
How much of this success will be related to achieving Gender Equity and the process of being fair to women and men? I pose to Council and the community, a great deal, but it is still a long and hard road ahead.
Residents and ratepayers voted with their feet and it delivered a new Council, which for the first time featured a greater number of women than men. This alone is a triumph and the opportunity I now have in front of me as one of those Councillors is great step towards Gender Equity. Now more than ever, the legacies of previous and continued inequalities around me are so obvious.
As a young and new female councillor, nine months into our Council journey, I believe that the contribution of female insights, experience and wisdom has created an environment that challenges the status quo whilst exploring the many issues which created the current climate and the ways we can work together to change things. My experience to date has confirmed that contribution to the way decisions are made, strategies explored and paths taken have far less substance without female input.
As a female Councillor, it is now glaringly apparent to me that a troubling ‘norm’ has been established, accepted and perpetuated as the ‘cut and thrust of politics’. This has resulted in those in public office being exempt from expecting that communication and interactions with the public will be respectful, tolerant and create value in a democracy.
This might be considered by the populace as ‘life in the public office’ but until someone starts challenging and changing the narrative, it will continue and worsen.
It is as if our gender represents some sort of Achilles heel.
Numerous instances have now highlighted to me that as a female, the communities’ interaction changes with the mere language that is used and directed at us, aiming to hurt, and as such we are considered targets. It is as if our gender represents some sort of Achilles heel. I am here to say this heel is strong and unwavering. I will call out behaviour and action that aims to weaken our role as equals in the community every single time.
The time is now. We will not sit on our laurels; we will remain steadfast and elevate our focus on pursuing gender equity. We all know that across Australia women and men have different benefits, access to power, resources and responsibilities. To ensure fairness, Council strategies must be able to compensate for women’s historical and social disadvantages that prevent women and men from operating on an equal playing field. It is now well known that gender inequality has been identified as the key determinant of violence against women.
This situation is amplified in rural and regional areas. The Loddon Mallee region has the second highest regional incidence of reported family violence in the state! Including three of the 10 Local Government areas in the state with the highest incidence of reported family violence, and six of the Loddon Mallee Local Government areas have an incidence rate higher than the state average. This fact alone is compelling enough that our Council’s pursuit for gender equity is a priority. Doing nothing is not an option.”
120-150 Sullivans Rd, Strathfieldsaye – Staged Subdivision (173 Lots)
I voted to support the proposal for a 173-lot subdivision of land; dwellings and works on parts of the site currently covered by the Land Subject to Inundation Overlay; the removal of native vegetation; and removal and creation of easements. The subdivision is to be undertaken in 8 stages. The proposed lots will range from 427 to 1,338 square meters in size.
I attended a consultation meeting, with both objectors and applicant present, a site visit to meet with objectors and spoke to the applicant in the lead up to the application being considered.
Features of the subdivision include:
The township structure plan adopted in 2009 is specifically relevant to this application
The township structure plan adopted in 2009 is specifically relevant to this application and Precinct 15 (the site of the subdivision) is described as an area with a vision of “Suburban development”. With preferred density of 300m² - 1,200m², the plan is very clear in that it anticipates a conventional ‘suburban’ type of subdivision for this site.
Concerns in relation to increases in traffic were considered with the review of a Transport Impact Assessment Report (prepared by the proponent) by officers. The impacts have been assessed by expert City officers who have formed the view that the impacts on the road network are acceptable and meet City standards (subject to the conditions being applied to the permit as recommended).
A concept landscape plan was prepared to accompany the application that demonstrates the sensitive creek interface will be appropriately treated and have dwellings actively fronting it, as opposed to turning away from it. Existing and proposed road reserves will be landscaped utilising a mixture of native plant species, creating a visually attractive vegetated network. Detailed landscape plans will be required to be submitted to the City prior to each stage of subdivision. An integrated water management system will also be designed for the subdivision to ensure the quality and quantity of water run-off meets the relevant required standards and will not have an adverse impact on the broader area.
Objectors have raised concerns about flooding and anecdotal evidence about the levels of flooding that have occurred historically on the site. The application was referred to the NCCMA (North Central Catchment Management Authority), Goulburn Murray Water and the City’s Engineering and Open Space units. The NCCMA required extensive further information around flooding and drainage impacts. Two separate technical reports dealing with these issues were prepared by the applicant for assessment by the regulators, including the City’s Development Engineer. The result of the assessments is that the drainage concept is acceptable, subject to review of the detailed design plans, and all bodies consent (conditionally) to this aspect of the application.
The application did not propose to provide a dedicated area of open space; though the verge, which will be added to the existing creek reserve, will provide for passive recreation. The reason why the application does not propose an area of open space is that officers have determined that the broader open space requirement for this development is best served by providing a direct link from this estate to the open space network provided in the Imagine Estate. The funds that the City receives (prior to a statement of compliance for stage 1 of the subdivision) will be used by the City to construct the pedestrian bridge shown on the landscape master plan and associated works.
In conclusion, all relevant authorities and internal departments have been consulted and provided no objections subject to the conditions contained in the report. The application was recommended for approval on the basis that it represents an acceptable outcome with regards to the requirements of the Greater Bendigo Planning Scheme.
Tannery Lane Road Reserve in the vicinity of Nankervis Road and Tannery Heights Drive, Mandurang – Removal of Vegetation and Roadworks
Last month Councillors unanimously voted to defer the decision on road works along Tannery Lane while further information was provided and issues raised by objectors to the application were considered. This month the item was represented for consideration.
Tannery Lane is increasingly used as commuter route (cars and cyclists) between Strathfieldsaye and Spring Gully areas. The road is currently narrow, deteriorating and creates dangerous sections if overtaking cars, cyclists or pedestrians.
While Council continue to plan and approve housing subdivisions (and develop facilities such as the Tannery Lane Sports Complex, which have very high patronage) in growth areas such as Strathfieldsaye, we are equally responsible to ensure works to upgrade infrastructure such as roads that service the passage of traffic to surrounding suburbs and commercial activity areas are fit for purpose, safe and maintained to current standards. As such I supported the decision to grant a permit for removal of vegetation and roadworks at Tannery Lane Road Reserve to enable the upgrade to create a clear zone for safety improvements as part of stage 2 of the road upgrade, because I believe the benefits for improved road safety for our community outweighed the environmental impacts of the works.
What else is happening?
Yvonne Wrigglesworth is a Councillor in the Eppalock Ward, City of Greater Bendigo Council.