An address by Greater Geelong Mayoral candidate Bernadette Uzelac
at the launch of her campaign at
The Wool Exchange Entertainment Complex
20 September 2012
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming tonight and thank you for your support.
Last month I announced that I would be a candidate for the first ever directly elected mayor of the Greater Geelong Region.
Today I am proud to say that I have put action to words by officially nominating for that office.
My motivation to nominate has arisen from my desire to see the Geelong region progress to the greatness it deserves.
I want to see ideas move from the realm of talk into action. As a community and business leader I am passionate about this region and, like most people, I want to see Geelong succeed.
I have not been ‘put up’ as a candidate by any group, organisation or individual nor do I represent any sector, business lobby or political party. I am motivated purely by my own desire to help make Geelong a better place to live and work
I grew up and was educated in Geelong and am a graduate of both The Gordon and Deakin.
I started my own business here in Geelong from an idea and grew it over 23 years to become one of Geelong’s largest recruitment firms until moving on from the business some 4 years ago.
I am proud of the fact that through my business many careers were launched and countless Geelong families were assisted through the creation of employment opportunities.
I understand how important it is to have a job. Economic prosperity and having opportunities to work are two of the key foundations and backbone of all great cities.
The Mayor of the City of Greater Geelong must have vision and the courage to stay true to that vision. Our city needs a values-based leader that can cut through the rhetoric and bring the relevant groups together.
The journey to becoming a great city starts with the desire to think big and think outside the square. There are many challenges that Geelong needs to address.
Of high importance is the basic right of every citizen to have the opportunity to work as is the ability to attract investment into the Geelong region.
By growing our economy through supporting our business community, especially our small business sector, we can secure the foundations of our economy.
In our region we have many issues surrounding public transport, infrastructure, parking and the Geelong CBD, all of which deserve a long term visionary approach for future planning and growth.
All of these issues need to be considered in the context of our built and natural environments and having regard to social justice.
We also need to support our vibrant arts, our cultural heritage and our community educational and training institutions.
All of which give us a sense of connectedness with our community and provide us with the values and abilities to become a great city.
I would seek to move the debate on from the issues to actions.
That is by seeking answers on how we measure the health and well being of our city; how we compare with other leading regional cities and what are the metrics needed to benchmark our city and seek to incorporate these into the strategic plan for the city.
Geelong has a unique opportunity to elect its Mayor for the very first time.
This is a wonderful opportunity for the people of this region to choose the most capable person to lead our city into the future with determination and ability.
I hope that Geelong citizens will engage in the debate, share their opinions and help elevate our city to a new level.
To those ends I am tonight unveiling the broad themes of my campaign to create an even better region for our people.
That theme is “Investing in Geelong” and by Geelong I mean the Greater Geelong Region from Lara and points North to Breamlea in the South, St Leonards in the East and Fyansford in the West.
It is a diverse region. From agricultural pursuits, manufacturing, retailing, service industries, tertiary education and health through to tourism and our coastal villages, Geelong and its regions has a lot to offer.
Its very diversity is one of its greatest strengths.
So, as I said, my theme is “Investing in Geelong” and by investing I am not talking simply of physical infrastructure, but rather the real assets that make “Great investments in the Greater Geelong Region.
The investments I am talking about are investments in our:
Culture and The Arts;
Businesses; and our
These to me these are the investments that count.
And I want to touch on each one briefly one.
First our people.
People are at the core of what a Council should be about.
Fostering and nurturing opportunity for all is essential if we are to grow.
I want to see our young people given every opportunity to fulfill their potential.
And I want to see those young people thrive in our community, not be forced to leave it for jobs and career opportunities outside our region.
We have an excellent education system here with our primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, but too often our young people, those that will build our future, drift away.
From my perspective, our council can play a significant role in establishing frameworks that encourage people to stay.
That means encouraging and actively seeking new investment to create jobs.
It means skilling our workforce. We have, as already noted, some of the best educational facilities in the state, but some of the lowest educational attainments.
Council can assist by supporting and working with the various educational sectors to deliver targeted training to meet the skills needs of the future workforce of the Greater Geelong Region.
However, it is not only our young people that count.
A stable and safe environment is essential for families. Council must, and I will, ensure that we have the best services available from child care, kindergartens through to access to community services with an emphasis on health and well being.
And we must not forget those people who have contributed to our region, but have now retired.
These people have a wealth of experience, knowledge and skills that can be tapped into as mentors, which is something I will foster.
But council must also ensure that the services we provide serve the needs of those who are not only active in the community, but also those who are less able.
This means access to transport, services and community facilities.
Now I would like to touch on my second investment and that is what I term community.
And when I say community I am not simply talking about community infrastructure, I am talking about a sense of community.
A community that strives for common values, pride and supports itself.
That to me includes volunteering.
I note from the City’s latest annual report that the percentage of residents involved in volunteering has decreased by 12 percent since the last biennial survey.
This is a disturbing figure.
Council can play a role in encouraging volunteering to build a stronger community.
I am also concerned that the same survey reveals that the percentage of residents who feel multiculturalism makes life better has also fallen by 12 percent.
If we are to have a cohesive community we must encourage volunteering and also develop policies which demonstrate the benefits of multiculturalism.
A cohesive community that draws on all of its human assets and works toward common goals underpins society.
We must never lose sight of the value of community and what it means.
To help foster this sense of community I will have an audit conducted of all our community groups to determine the precise number of community groups in our region and to assess their needs.
There are a large number of groups from the micro to the larger and established not for profit organizations that operate in the Greater Geelong Region.
By conducting an audit will be better able to serve their needs.
Culture and the Arts underpin a vibrant civil society.
As mayor I am going to foster this sector.
Society without culture is no society at all.
The Greater Geelong Region has its arts precincts, centres for the performing arts, art galleries, public art spaces and community cultural groups.
However, my vision is not just for precincts, as valuable as they are in fostering the arts, but rather to have art embedded throughout the community and region.
In Bilbao, Spain, there are art elements scattered throughout the city so that art is part of the richness of everyday living.
What I would like to see is something similar for the whole region, not just central Geelong.
I will encourage developers of new building to incorporate artistic elements and public art in their buildings and also encourage existing owners to adopt the same principles by retrofitting their structures.
I see no reason why art cannot be embedded in our society. It makes us richer.
As you would be aware I have spent my life in business. First establishing my own recruitment company and more recently as the Executive Officer of the Geelong Chamber of Commerce.
I know business and I know what it contributes to our community.
Without a successful, vibrant business sector jobs opportunities whither and funds for council diminish affecting the services we can offer.
Every empty shop or factory is an opportunity lost.
How we support and foster the micro and small business sector, which employs more than 60 percent of the workforce in the region, is critical,
The role of council is to create a framework that encourages existing business and fosters new ones.
To do this our regulatory regime must reflect the realities of conducting business in the region.
Direct subsidies are not an option, but we can create the right environment to invest.
Our environment is critical to our lifestyle and health.
And I am not simply talking about the natural environment, but also the built environment.
First, the natural environment.
We are blessed with a beautiful coast line, bay and ocean on our borders.
We are also endowed with wonderful bush land, parks and open spaces in both the city and regional areas.
These are natural assets that cannot be squandered and need protection.
There are always competing interests that have to be balanced. I am not for development for development sake and I will, as mayor, err on the side of conservation as my starting point with any development.
I want to develop new parks and natural passive recreational areas. And in doing this I would encourage community ownership and caretaking of these parks.
I would like to see these new parks and gardens, as well as existing ones, linked with green passages.
And this brings me to our built environment and sustainability.
Our built environment; our buildings; our factories and shops are the environments where we spend the majority of our time.
It is so pervasive, that we often don’t notice it. I want to ensure the preservation of our existing built infrastructure, where appropriate, to guarantee that future generations will be able to appreciate our past.
I want to see new buildings that blend with the landscape and cityscape rather than offending it.
And I want to see a city that is bicycle and pedestrian friendly. In fact, I want to see a network of bicycle paths criss-crossing our region.
Now, what I have outlined above are the themes that would run through my mayoralty.
Over the coming weeks I will be releasing detailed policies on each of these themes.
I look forward to your feedback.
But before I finish I want to outline to you a specific policy that I am taking to the election which feeds into these themes – People.
My Open Government Policy.
I intend to stream council meetings live across the internet as part of a strategy to open the council to greater public scrutiny and accountability.
By broadcasting proceedings councilors will be more accountable to the ratepayers they represent.
With annual revenues of $260 million ratepayers deserve this level of transparency.
I will also ensure that podcasts are produced of council proceedings for people who are unable to view the internet stream.
I am determined to make council as fully transparent, accountable and accessible as possible.
Federal parliament has audio and visual streaming as does state parliament.
I see absolutely no reason why a council with revenues of $260 million shouldn’t have the same accountability and exposure as federal and state parliament.
Another plank of my Open Government policy would be to have a live mayoral question and answer blog the morning after each council meeting.
This will allow immediate feedback on questions constituents may have about the previous night’s council meeting or any other issue that they wanted to raise.
A further measure will be to introduce a system of non binding plebiscites where constituents can vote on contentious issues.
Council can sometimes seem remote from the people it represents and accessibility and participation through these measures is a step toward bridging that sometimes physical and bureaucratic divide.
This will help create greater accountability for council and will be a useful tool in helping with council deliberations.
I see these initiatives as an investment in participatory democracy and accountability which I believe will be welcomed by people in the Greater Geelong region.
Ladies and gentlemen, as I said at the outset, my decision to nominate arose from my desire to see the Geelong region progress to the greatness it deserves.
Under the broad themes I have outlined and the detailed policies I will release we, as a community, have the chance to achieve that greatness.