Rebel public forum plan


Hannah Hammoud

After having her proposal for a public forum shutdown by her colleagues, councillor Maria Kerr has decided to take community engagement into her own hands.

At the most recent council meeting, council said it would not introduce a regular public forum meeting, a proposal that was originally raised by Cr Kerr in July.

Cr Kerr’s proposal called on council to establish a regular public forum that would be open to the community to ask live and unscripted questions of councillors.

With the proposal abandoned by council, Cr Kerr is now welcoming residents to meet with her face-to-face through her own scheduled monthly drop-in sessions.

“The reason why I have created these sessions is because my motion was not carried. I’m turning a negative – the fact that council was not in support of a public forum – into a positive and taking the initiative myself,” she said.

The council officer’s report cited already established community engagement activity in Brimbank and the review process underway for council’s Community Engagement Policy as reasons as to why the public forums should not be introduced.

Cr Kerr said she wants residents to be able to ask questions to her directly, as opposed to at council meetings where questions must be submitted beforehand and are read aloud on behalf of the resident.

“I have taken it into my own hands and I want to show the community that I am there for them, I am accountable and I want to represent them,” she said.

Cr Kerr said she took the initiative from fellow councillor Virginia Tachos who has also created monthly drop-in sessions to meet with the community.

“My doors have been open and it’s been fantastic. I have had a wide range of people coming to meet with me and I think this formula really works. Community engagement needs to be organic and where people feel free to talk,” Cr Tachos said.

“More and more people have told me that they don’t want to email or text… they prefer face-to-face engagement and I think there is room for that.”

Cr Kerr’s first drop-in session will take place on Monday, December 11, from noon-1pm at the Brimbank Aquatic and Wellness Centre Cafe.

Cr Tachos is available every Friday from 10am-noon at the Keilor Community Hub by appointment only, up until December 22.