THIS YEAR, I ran in the Bass Coast Shire Election in Western Port Ward. I was the youngest female candidate in Gippsland certainly, and quite possibly the youngest female candidate in Victoria, as I only turned 19 at the end of September.
I received quite a few comments concerning my age. Some saw it as an advantage – a chance for “new/ fresh blood” to enter the council. Others said I needed more experience with the world before entering such a role. The statement seemed unconstitutional: according to law, any resident of Australia on the electoral role is eligible to run for local government. Are they saying there needs to be an amendment to restrict the age of councillors?
In a more specific context, several issues were barely mentioned.
The environment, for one, was just too big and scary. Hardly anyone wanted to touch it because then they might have to start saying some unpopular things.
Tourism was mentioned but no one seemed to have a plan to attract visitors all year round so local small businesses don’t suffer in the slower months.
The fact that automation will bring an end to our retail industry was neatly dodged by almost everyone.
What was mentioned constantly was consultancy and finance and the three Rs: rates, roads and rubbish. These same three loud-mouth issues that have been talked about forever.
There is a rate cap, roads are built under special charge schemes and we are part of a regional waste management group. Can we move on? Please? There are bigger issues here.
My main issue with the whole election was the fact that candidates sounded like clones. Everyone said the same thing: finances need to be handled better, there needs to be more consultancy, lower rates, cut costs. No one had a new idea, which is what Bass Coast sorely needs now. No one was thinking radically.
Come to think of it, no one was thinking further ahead than maybe five to 10 years. No one was thinking of 50 years in the future, when the coast has eroded away, the sea temperature has risen and the penguins have left, when our retail sector is gone thanks to eBay and other online sites, when all the young people have left to find work and there is no one to look after the old people.
These are the issues no one seems willing to address.
Allow me to address the new councillors: I know you want the best for the community. But you need to start making decisions for the future, not for the interim. You need to start making decisions with the Millennials in mind and the generations that will come after us. Don’t bow to the demands of the loud-mouths. Instead, make decisions that are still going to be benefiting us in 50 years.
Think about the environment and how you can protect it. Think about tourism and how to generate it. Think about where we can move our economy once retail becomes redundant. Think about how the council can support our artists and the community at large. Just think!
Because the truth is that the loud-mouths are going to die, you new councillors are going to die, and we, the Millennials, will still be left behind with what you made here now.
I know some Millennials have given us all a bad name. I know that sometimes we can be frustrating and seemingly only concerned with small, petty issues. But we are paying attention. We are concerned about the future of our home, our shire. We don’t want to leave, but it seems we have to.
When I talked to young people during this election, they were surprised I was standing. The universal reaction was “Why bother? No one is listening to us anyway.” I think it’s time to change that, don’t you?
I know there is a plan for a skate park and the council has a youth committee. But don’t patronise us with tokens and then tell us to go away when we ask for help. You can’t keep shutting us out from the big decisions. Because we are part of this community too, and we may well be the most important part of it – we are the future.
Don’t leave us with a mess because you were too afraid to spend too much or to upset somebody. Leave us with a legacy you can be proud of.