Councils conference brings near-dormant centre back to life

Senior representatives from Queensland’s 77 local councils have gathered on the Gold Coast this week for their annual state conference. Regional specialist Brad Cooper reports


Oct 23, 2020, updated Oct 23, 2020
Burke Shire Council staff experience Next World virtual reality technology.

Burke Shire Council staff experience Next World virtual reality technology.

The Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre returned to life this week, after coronavirus put the facility in virtual mothballs since March.

Appropriately the event that saw the centre almost back to its normal self was the gathering of mayors, councillors and senior staff from across Queensland’s local government sector for the annual LGAQ conference.

For more than six months, local government has played a key role in keeping their communities safe, while continuing to keep the business of grassroots administration and economic development ticking over in the face of pandemic adversity.

InQueensland was at the conference and will have more stories that emerged from proceedings in coming days.

In the meantime, here are a few highlights.

Domestic violence champions

The current Mayor of Aurukun Keri Tamwoy was on hand to accept an award on behalf of two domestic violence prevention champions named in honour of former Aurukun Mayor Alison Woolla.

May Ballie and Myrtle Foote, from the Aboriginal community of Pormpuraaw, were jointly announced as the winners of the award that honours a dynamic reform leader, who provided support for members of her community when they were experiencing abuse.

The two women are the co-founders of Pormpur Paanthu (Women’s House), providing a refuge and services to assist women and children experiencing domestic and family violence (DFV).

They have also been active in expanding the services to include a safe place, specifically for children, through vacation and after school care, childcare, as well as a DFV support service for men.

“When we first started out, we had women getting bashed up, and no other stronger people used to stand up and take women in. We used to take them in,” Baille said via video.

“The main thing was about children and the wives – looking after them.

“Back in those first days, we didn’t have counselling – we had to talk to the women and the men ourselves.”

Aurukun Mayor Keri Tamwoy and Redland City Mayor Karen Williams with the Alison Woolla award, created by Brisbane artist Laura Vincent. DFV. (Photo: Brad Cooper).

Speaking of her experience, Foote said there were some wonderful breakthroughs,

“When the council came back to me and said they have got a house available for the women, that was really for me, you know, I was so happy women can go to the place where they can be safe. It was a big relief for me,” she said.

“I’m so proud of working with my people in the community, with women and children especially.”

LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam said it was a privilege to honour the work of the two women.

“The work of May and Myrtle has a positive rippling effect through the community that will be felt for years to come and we are grateful to be able to recognise their work through the award,” he said.

“We look forward to holding the award in years to come to recognise the work that goes on across the state to prevent domestic and family violence.”

Sunshine Coast Mayor returns

Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson has been re-elected to lead the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) as its president for another four years.

LGAQ president and Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson.

Following the conclusion of the ballot, which included a challenge from Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill, Jamieson thanked the LGAQ’s member councils for their support and for putting their confidence in him to represent their interests as their chief advocate through a second term.

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill.

“Over the last four years I have listened to, and worked with, my local government colleagues to find new opportunities, help resolve some pretty significant challenges and secure new funding and programs to strengthen our member councils,” he said.

“I look forward to continuing this task, in what is arguably the most challenging time for councils and their communities in a century.”

LNP ‘Works for Queensland’ 

Queensland councils have welcomed a commitment from the LNP to continue the successful Works for Queensland program should the party win government at the October 31 poll.

LGAQ president Mark Jamieson welcomed the commitment from Shadow Local Government Minister Ann Leahy.

“This program has supported and created more than 26,000 jobs since its inception. It has become a critical program for local government in Queensland, especially right now as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis it has caused,” Jamieson said.

“We thank the LNP for their commitment to both this program and to the LGAQ’s Jobs Advantage initiative to address high unemployment in southeast Queensland.

“Councils can now be assured their communities will continue to benefit from these job-creating programs no matter who forms government following the state election.”

Burke video out front

Innovative use of virtual reality technology to overcome pandemic-related travel bans has won Burke Shire Council this year’s Butch Lenton Award – and a $10,000 bursary.

When the remote shire was isolated in the Pandemic Exclusion Zone – with nobody in and nobody out for four months – council leaped at an offer to take part in a pilot virtual reality workplace health and safety training program, covering everything from manual handling to working at heights.

Council will use its $10,000 bursary to fund a licensing agreement that will make the virtual reality training more widely available in the community.

Peak Services board member David Foster said Burke Shire’s approach could be a game-changer for many more councils.

“This is the sort of initiative that could support all councils and change the face of how we deliver training in remote areas,”  Foster said.

“We will consider how we continue to invest in this area to further build capability.”

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