Cathy McGowan: Member for Indi

Mann Lecture - September 11, 2014 - transcript

THE MANN LECTURE 2014

What I would like to do tonight is tell you a personal story. In doing so, I’d like to share some perspectives that I have about the river and about the communities about being a local person living in that community. There are three agendas I’d like to share with you. Firstly I welcome the opportunity that the Mann family has given me in this invitation to talk about a topic that’s been dear to me all my life.

The second thing is that as the Federal Member for Indi, one of the things that happened during the campaign is that the community said they wanted to think about the future and to imagine a different future. So in preparing this talk, I thought I’d throw out some challenges. And while I don’t want you to agree with me on the challenges, I hope I open up some ideas for community discussion and debate.

The third agenda in my talk tonight is that currently the Parliament is discussing a legislative agenda that’s going to totally and utterly change the way education, and particularly tertiary education and universities operate. And I’m keen that our community has some input into that debate.

In 1901, the Mann family settled on the river. And at the same time, my great-grandparents were living up at Mitta. I’d like to speak a little bit about parallel lives, and not only along the river, but I specifically want to talk about this area of Albury-Wodonga and my experience of being a citizen of this community, and the history that goes back to great-great-grandparents. Again, I think like the Mann family, our relatives would have known each other.

I want to have a discussion about the river, how it is a physical thing that you have to swim over, and also how the government has made man-made barriers that create an enormous amount of work for us if we want to bridge them. I’m hoping that in the future we, as a community, can think more seriously about what these bridges are and how we built them, because it’s a huge cost to us to cross them.

There are three parts of the talk. I’d like to begin with some of my family history and my history of the river. I’ll talk about what we know works in terms of bridge building. And then I’d like to finish with what I see as some of the opportunities for the future. Hopefully then we’ll have time for some discussion.

My great-great-grandparents were miners from Cornwall. And they settled outside of Rutherglen in Cornish town. My great-great-grandfather worked as a miner in Eldorado and Staghorn Flat which is near Yackandandah. He was killed in a mining accident at Staghorn Flat, leaving his widow and six children. They had recently selected some land up on the Mitta River, just west of Tallangatta where the Hume Weir is now.  And my great-great-grandmother, a widow with all these children cleared the land. One of her sons was called Albert, and it’s Albert I’d like to talk about tonight, because he was my great-grandfather, Albert Terrill.

When I was researching the story, I was reminded of family stories that we would talk about as we grew up and about how the river created some good stories. One of my aunts has written a book about the Terrills of Rutherglen. I want to read from this book because it sets the scene: the river has been a barrier for a very long time, and communities have found a way of overcoming these barriers in the way that communities do. And there’s lots we can learn from it.

“Victoria, from the time of separation from New South Wales in 1951 was an independent colony with its own borders and customs officers who regulated trade between the colonies. Duty was imposed on all goods crossing the border into Victoria. New South Wales was a free trade state. And there were custom stations at every big bridge along the Murray River. The duties charged were heavy and controlled the process of everything that was bought to New South Wales.” My great-grandfather, Albert’s wife was Mary Ann - her birth name was Welch from Rutherglen.  Mary Ann, would recall shopping expeditions in Corowa and Albury saying that after purchasing new clothes they would change and wear them home to avoid paying the large customs duty.

In 1892 the border tax was raised from 5 shillings to 30 shillings per head of cattle. This almost killed the Wodonga stock market and the stock taxes were greatly resented by both buyers and sellers. Albert Terrill’s grandson, also called Albert, remembers when he attended Wodonga cattle markets during the early 1940s, hearing stories of droving along the Murray as stock were smuggled across the river although no one openly admitted to dodging paying the duty. However, it's believed that Albert and his cousin, Harry Terrill, were very proficient at smuggling both sheep and cattle across the border. And Harry’s son, Jim, remembers his father saying that Albert, my great-grandfather, knew all the easy crossings of the Murray River, both sides of Albury, and frequently made use of them. That would be very easy in summer when the river would be very low when driving stock across would be a simple matter.

It was not so simple, however, to avoid the roving custom officers. Jim said that either Albert or Harry would arrange for the custom officer to be at a certain crossing point where duty was paid for a small number of stock. And in the meantime, the other partner would move a large mob across the river at another point. The Federation of Australia in 1901 opened up the border to free trade, and the days of the Terrill smuggling was over. I’m sure there are many local stories along similar lines of how people ‘got across’ bureaucratic boundaries like that.

I'd like to share a few stories from my own experience of growing up along the river. When I was little, our family would go down to Old Barnawartha which is just down the road from here. We'd spend the long summer days swimming and picnicking and really enjoying the river. My uncle owns land at Old Barnawartha. We’d regularly go there down there for family gatherings. The river is a special place of holidays and fun and relaxation.

But for me, it's also a river as a challenge because it seem to be one of those rights of initiation - you’d consider yourself grown up when you could actually swim across to the other side and then get back.

Now, I don’t know if many of you have successfully swum across the Murray River. It's not as easy as it looks because you've got the current. You have to actually swim hard to avoid being caught in the current in the middle. Then you have to get out and then walk up stream and swim back again. So for me, it was a rite of passage that when I finally swam the river by myself and came back to home, which was Victoria. So the river has always been a challenge for us and still continues to be. When we go down there for family holidays, swimming across the river is still a challenge for young people.

The second story I'd like to tell you about is of the olden days when you would go across to Albury to go shopping when there weren’t many shops in Wodonga.  Crossing the border meant the fruit fly crossing. And the inspection of the cars -- you weren’t allowed to bring fruit back. You could take fruit to New South Wales but you couldn't bring it back into Victoria. So the Victorian Department of Primary Industries had inspectors. In our family it was a big deal going to Albury, but the biggest deal was coming back when we got to the fruit fly guards. All the kids would line up in the car and on the call of one, two, three, we'd all yell out “No fruit.” Get the timing right, get the voice just loud enough - Mum and dad were in the front and away we'd go. Later in life I actually worked for the Victorian Department of Primary Industries and met Norm Jones, and he told us with great joy how they used to get terrified of us McGowan kids. But it was, again, a rite of passage.

I was so sad when that ended and the archway was moved to the Wodonga Racecouse. So for me then, the river was a barrier. It was a barrier to stop fruit flies. And as kids, we had no idea what that was. What was a fruit fly? Let alone why you need to have barriers to stop them. But certainly as I grew up, I came to understand the idea of quarantine and the movement.

To share with you a third story: I came home to live and bought a farm in the Indigo Valley. One of the things happening in the 1980s was to become part of the Landcare Movement. I was the inaugural secretary of the Indigo Valley Landcare.  In those very early exciting days when we were doing strategic planning, we'd go to workshops and we'd learn how to do strategic plans and value statements and all these exciting things that we've never come across before, the Landcare group introduced us to creek walks up and down the Indigo Creek.

It was fascinating, and even though I've grown up in the Indigo Valley, I've never been on a creek walk. We actually went on a walk to where the Indigo Creek joined the Murray River which is just east of Howlong. Starting where the creek joins the Murray and then working back and looking at salinity and erosion in the creek, and working with the community to address some of those issues of that tributary of the Murray. It was a very interesting time.

One day we had a speaker come and talk to us about catchment planning, and they had a map of the Indigo Creek catchment. But what they also had was a map of the Murray Valley. They showed where the Victorian border was and that everything stopped at the Murray River. And I remember our Indigo Creek Landcare group looked at it, and we saw the Murray River; on the Victorian side it was all bright green and had all the topographical colors. And the New South Wales side was all grey. There was nothing on the map. There were towns. And we looked at it, and for the first time we could see that Indigo Creek was part of the Murray Valley and that our salinity problems and our erosion problems would be replicated on the other side of the river, but we had no idea.

So we got talking about it. And we thought “Well, there must be Landcare groups over the other side.” And in fact there were! There was the Hume Landcare Group. And Judy Frankenberg and all those people doing exactly the same things as us. So we organized a Landcare trip, an excursion across the river. What an interesting day that was to see what they were doing. And we hadn’t ever even thought that we would have anything similar because we just didn’t go to New South Wales. Anyhow, it was such a mind-shattering experience to me of how being a Victorian in the Murray, I never even thought that we could learn things from what a different government system was doing on the other side.

So I've talked about the river as a challenge to swim across, the river as a barrier for fruit flies. Then with the experience with Landcare, I actually came to see that river as a bureaucratic boundary and how it really shaped how our community groups worked. As I grew older and I came back home and worked and got involved with different organizations. Some of the early work I had was with the Flying Fruit Fly Circus in the establishment of a school. I had the most wonderful experience of working with really clever educators and administrators. They wanted this Flying Fruit Fly Circus, which already existed, to be a school but they were absolutely convinced (and one of the people leading it was Bomber Perrier, some of you remember Bomber) that we needed both governments and the Commonwealth to fund this school. They insisted that it if had to be Albury-Wodonga, it had to be cross-border.

I got the job of working with the Commonwealth government and the Victorian and NSW state governments to see if we could get combined funding. And we did. It was such an amazing experience. We were so proud of ourselves because we couldn’t think of any community group in the 1980s that had actually done this, actually getting the education systems to work across the border.

It was a huge discussion about where would it then be located. Would it be New South Wales? Would it be Victoria? And for a long time it was just over in Albury at the old factory. Do you remember the old factory, the Murray Performing Group, Fruit Fly area? So, I was part of that. And we got a huge sense that even though it was a bureaucratic barrier, if we were clever and we worked it, we could actually get combined funding.

Another example I'm really proud to be involved in was when we got mobile childcare funding, later in that period. We convinced the Commonwealth, the Victoria and New South Wales governments that we could have a farm-based childcare system that would work across our farming communities, would operate in both states and be funded by the two states and Commonwealth Governments – each had responsibility for funding different aspects of child care. Anne Bolder (the CEO) tells me it's still operating. It's now called the Community Early-years Childcare Service, and 20 years later it's still running and providing childcare in Henty, in Oaklands, in New South Wales, as well as Tallangatta Valley and Dederang in Victoria. And it's a mobile service. It's become a really important service and that became a real model for how we could get over the barriers of bureaucracy.

As part of that experience, I've come to understand that the river can also be a business opportunity if we’re clever. When we were getting childcare funding we encouraged each state to look at what the other states were doing and to operate in a collaborative way and come up with these really revolutionary ideas like “You too could fund the Flying Fruit Fly Circus School”.

The next example I want to move to is the example of the river as a watershed. During my 20s when I was coming back to live around here, I was doing some work with the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation. I was told to go and speak to a person called Ernest “Watershed” Jackson. Do any of you remember Watershed Jackson? He was an old man then, and the most amazing, wise, self-educated, visionary man who happen to live here. He had his wonderful wife Verna who was involved in Maternal and Child Health who’d been part of setting up the Maternal and Child Health Services all around the country in the 1920s.

Anyhow, I went to meet Ernest “Watershed” Jackson. He was a terrifying bloke, grey hair and, as I say, already very old. He sat me down and you know how sometimes older people get when they find out an interest in young people? They want to tell you everything at once. He explained to me that watersheds were really important and you needed to pay some attention to them. I must admit, I had no idea what a watershed was. So he got the map out and he explained to me that the Murray River had a watershed. The idea was, that he was so passionate about, was governance ought to be based on watersheds and catchments, geographical areas, that where we based governance on artificial spots never worked. If you could do to it in a catchment where people came together around water, you had a natural affinity for people to work together.

It made such an impact on me. I’d never thought of that idea before. I'd never heard it, and I put it away in the back of my head. Since then I have done quite a bit of research about Watershed Jackson. He was involved in setting up the Murray Valley League, and he advocated the concept of the watershed. He was also the founder of what we now call Catchment Management Authorities. The whole idea of CMAs grew out of his work. His work with the Murray Valley Basin also led to what we now know as the Murray-Darling Basin Commission.

But what's really interesting for me is that when I finally became a Member for Indi and looked at the map of Indi which starts with the Murray River up in the north, and goes down to the Great Divide to Kinglake in the south. If you look at the topographical map, Indi is an electorate of catchments. And we collect all the water that flows north of the Great Divide. That includes the Goulbourn River, the Broken, the King, the Avons, and the Murray Rivers. That's what Indi’s got, the towns, Wodonga, Wangaratta and Benalla on the plain but the rest of it is all these beautiful valleys with all these fantastic catchments. And interestingly enough, we've worked out that 50% of the water that falls in the Murray-Darling Basin falls in Indi, in our catchment. So Indi is a watershed in more ways than one.

Finally, I want to talk about the river as a divider. It's a challenge, it's a geographical barrier, it's a bureaucratic boundary, it's a business opportunity, it's a watershed but it's also a divider. During one of my experiences, I remember working in New South Wales and someone said, “Oh, she's a Mexican.”  “A what?” “A Mexican”. “Oh, no. I'm not a Mexican.” I don’t know if they still use that term. Where did that come from? We Victorians, never refer to the New South Wales people as Mexicans. They may have a nickname but we clearly are Mexicans, south of the border. It's something that's a bit derogatory but I never really got my mind around it.

There's a whole lot of other issues that I want to talk about, about the river as a divider. We've talked about cross-border anomalies and about the difference in our education systems. For 5 years I was the chair of the Board of Catholic Education in Wodonga, for the Wodonga schools in the Catholic school system. And we constantly struggled because New South Wales teachers got paid significantly more than they did in Victoria. So our best teachers would hop across the border because they got paid more money. We constantly said we want to be the employer of choice. We want the best teachers but we couldn't pay them the money that New South Wales was offering.

So there are a whole lot of issues. I'd like to briefly chat about the river as a problem and some of the cross border anomalies that happen. At this stage I'm going to stop for a little bit so you can have a break. And you might just talk to the person next to you about your most annoying cross-border anomaly. Of all the ones that exist, what makes you the most cross?

So, licenses seem to be people’s main bugbear. I'll come back to that later because I want to talk about what I’ve learned along the way from my experience. And I'm hoping you'll think about what your experiences have taught you as you’ve moved along the way. I’ve got a few stories to share with you about some really good practices that we've got as a community. We actually know how to build bridges and we've been really successful in doing it. And I'm very keen for us to do more.

I want to tell you a little bit of a story of the Murray Valley League. The Murray Valley League was set up in 1944, 70 years ago. Some of you would know Adrian Wells, who’s currently writing a history of the Murray Valley Development League. I'm quoting from his book here, he says “Following the Federation, the mood of regional Australia in the 1990 --1900s was one of optimism and frustration. Rural people feeling increasingly remote from urban decision makers began demanding that greater attention be given to their needs. They felt the governments were concentrating too much on city development and issues -- and that this was hindering progress in the country. This sense of observation played a key role in the establishment of a number of movements and organizations that demanded change too and investment in in-land Australia including the Murray Valley.”

There was a man called Gunner Vernon Lawrence who fought in the Second World War. He ran the bus line between Albury, Mildura and Adelaide. He was the first organizing secretary of the Murray Valley Development League, and he later wrote “The opinion of the Albury Municipality was clear. Albury Municipal Council believe that planning was a fine concept but felt it could not stop the Murray River.” So in February 1944, the council wrote to the Board in New South Wales and Victoria arguing that the State Committee could not adequately undertake regional planning tasks because it was limited to State boundaries. The Council sought support to organize the Murray Valley on a regional basis believing firmly that the Murray River and its tributaries deserve special consideration. They ended up forming the Murray Valley Development League at a meeting in Corowa where 300 people turned up to form that organization.

In talking to Philip Moore who was one of the early secretaries of that organization, he tells me that it worked from a planning basis, to a catchment basis, to an integrated land management process in its whole way of thinking. And as a direct consequence of the Murray Valley League, the Murray-Darling Development Commission was formed.

The Murray-Darling Development Commission has to be one of the forerunners in that area. We got all the relevant Governments working together, and it works at that very high level all the way down to manage the Murray-Darling system. Now, it might not be perfect but it's certainly is an amazing institution of government, of cooperation, of working together to manage some very complicated issues. So it grew out of the work of the Albury Council, calling a meeting, getting people together saying they want things to be different. And what a fantastic effort it was, unsung, and it goes about minding its own business. So to the people who got that going, I think we need to say thank you. And then we can think of the river as one of possibilities. If they could do that in 1940 - 44, there's surely opportunities for us to do something similar now.

I'd also like to mention another really wonderful contribution was made by the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation. On the 21st of May, 1974, Gough Whitlam and Tom Uren did all the work, with  Robert Askin and Rupert Hamer. They came up to Albury-Wodonga and created the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation. They had a target population of 300,000 by the turn of the century. This was all happening in the 1970s and 80s when I was old enough to pay attention to what was going on. I would go to many, many meetings and community meetings with my father and the visionary work that they did, the planning that they did, the wonderful thoughts that they had for a light rail between Albury and Wodonga that went from Thurgoona to Baranduda. I remember going to one meeting and looking at the maps of where it would go. And it was mind-boggling that someone would even think that that would come to pass. That's in my sight, a light rail for Albury and Wodonga.

They talked about regional universities, and Albury-Wodonga being a university city, where people would flock to live in the country. And it's certainly something that has been achieved. I don’t think we've reached the full potential with that idea. They also talked about the importance of environment and of keeping the hills treed. I want to acknowledge some people for the work and the impact they had on me on - not only the planning, but knowing that these things were possible. There were three women; Liz Waters, Shirley Rutherford and Kath Davy who worked in community development and neighborhood houses. They taught me that you have to be deliberate in building community. Community doesn’t just happen. You need community workers who are skilled, they need to be paid, and they need to have houses, and then they need to have an agenda. If you put community workers in neighborhood houses in these new suburbs, they will build community. And I think Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation did such a fantastic job in welcoming newcomers and creating a wonderful environment for people to live.

The other person I'd like to acknowledge in this category is the landscape designer, Susan Campbell. Many of you know that Susan was responsible with others, for getting all the hills treed, and the pathways that we go through. If you fly into Albury-Wodonga, even walking around it now, it's just the most superbly nestled city in a beautiful environment. I, for one, love the trees and love watching the light on them and the parks and the bypass through them. It was all deliberate, people sat down and said, “We’re going to make this happen. We’re going to make this a really livable city.” And they did it.

But what I particularly learned from the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation experience was the importance of having a vision, and that if you just imagine it into the future, then people will make things happen. I think they have that here in Albury-Wodonga. No longer could you say that Wodonga was a struggle town. Rapidly, Wodonga’s day in the sun is coming. And with the redevelopment of demand land in the centre of town, it's going to make a huge difference to our community. But we need to envision it. We need to imagine it into the future.

I checked out the legislation that set up Albury-Wodonga. And the purpose of the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation was to encourage more balanced development in Australia and provide an alternative to city living. And surely, the time is right for more development in regional Australia and an alternative to the city living.

The Murray Valley League is an excellent example of good work. I think AWDC did a fantastic job. There's an example I'd like to share with you that didn't work so well. It was in early 2000 when Bob Carr and Steve Bracks make an announcement and they got the wrong bridge – they went to Bethanga Bridge. Do you remember? They told Albury-Wodonga we were going to come together as one city. It must have been an election year. They came down to tell us how to do it. It was a resounding flop and was unsuccessful in the extreme. So I think what we know from this that a top-down approach doesn’t work, and being told to do things hasn’t got a good future. But we do have lots and lots of examples of community working cross-border and working really well together.

Some of the things that I think works so well for us is our local media. ABC cross-border, except that we get New South Wales news at 7:00 in the morning, and the rest of the time it's Victorian news. We need to do that better. The Border Mail I think does a really good job. And I think the TV media is very balanced. You get a good sense of regional there. Tourism Murray Valley I think does good work. Parklands Albury-Wodonga is a resounding success of cross-border work. And local government corporation up river and down river seem to work better than Albury-Wodonga but if you go up to Tumbarumba and Towong Shire, they share resources, they share offices, they have very close relationships, and also down the river, that works well.

But I think to me the outstanding example of really good bottom-up cooperative work is Albury-Wodonga Health Services. It's not perfect and everyone will tell you their story of how it doesn’t work. But the fact that we actually got those two mammoth health departments to agree and it's working, and we've now got a new chair on the board and a new CEO, so there's a real opportunity to actually make that work even better. But I think there's a whole lot of lessons about that. And tonight I want to acknowledge Tom Keating with the role he played but also how Harvey Ballentyne did all the back and forth, back and forth for about 10 years trying to get all the nitty-gritty stuff done.

Now, you'll have your favorite example of what works as well. So you might just be thinking about  -now I want to move on to the closing part of my address. 70 years ago the Murray Valley League came about because people wanted something better, and they made it happen, and they achieved a miracle. And I want to share a quote that's inspired me in standing to be a member of Parliament, and I constantly think about it because I think if we can imagine into the future, not as a destination but as a process, we've got a lot of opportunities. And the quote goes “But the future is not some place we’re going to but one we are creating. And the paths to the future are not found but made. And the making of the paths changes both the maker and the destination.” I just want to read it again because I just love it. “The future is not some place we’re going to. It doesn’t exist out there. It's one we are creating. We create it now. And the paths to it are not found but we make the paths. And the making changes both the maker and the destination.”

For me that's an example of the Murray Valley League. They got together and they changed the future of Australia with the end result being the Murray-Darling Basin Corporation. So my challenge to us tonight is what do we imagine the future in 70 years to be and what would be our legacy, our gift to that next generation. So in 2084 at the Mann Lectures, what are they going to be talking about? And I'd like to think that this period of time mark the whole next age of the 21st Century and how our communities paved the way for regional development in a really serious way. And we did it around catchments and watersheds.

We have lots of models that we can use. We have really good local government, we've got good leadership, we've got wonderful places like this university. When I was doing the research today and yesterday, Philip Moore said that one of the things that worked for the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation is when Gough Whitlam was there, he ran up to the Murray Valley League and he said, “Look, we've got to get on to this really quickly, all the governments are of the same color.” And I have to say at this point in time, in 2014, all the governments are the same color. It wouldn't take too much energy to put a bit of pressure onto both of them going to the election in Victoria in November and New South Wales in March to ask them what their policies are in regional development. What are their policies for Albury and Wodonga? And I think they don’t have any. So we could do the work for them. We could actually say, “Well, here's what we want you to do.” So it's timely. And I think there's a bit of a sense in government that what happens in these communities is worth paying some attention because they might do an Indi.

I think I've painted a story but I'd like now to talk about the cost, because we as a community suffer badly because we’re at the end of the railway line out of Melbourne to Wodonga, and because Albury is at the end of the railway line out of New South Wales. That's another thing we have done well is get uniformity on the railway line gauge.  Tim Fischer has been a major player in solving the problem of 2 separate lines. There’s a huge cost to cross border anomalies. We lose political ground, we get played off against each other. They say we can't do it, or ‘go to New South Wales’, or ‘you haven’t got the population base’, or ‘you're too far’, whatever the excuse is. When they don’t want to service us, they find a reason, whereas in fact we should be as strong and as powerful as Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong. We’re easily the equivalent but we don’t carry nearly the weight that those regional cities do, and we lose out constantly because of it.

As a community, we lose our energy and our enthusiasm and we get stuck with all the duplication and all the red tape, and it just becomes hard work. When I talk about this in Parliament I have one of my other colleagues who sits on a border, a woman called Justine Elliot. She's a member for Richmond which is Tweed Heads and Coolangatta. She says to me “You got no problems at all, Cathy”. She's got Queensland that still have daylight savings. So I've talked to her about this conversation I'm having tonight. She was very keen to say, “If you guys get a group together, you can come up to Coolangatta and Tweed Heads. We'd be happy to join up with you, come up with some ideas and we’ll see what we have in common.” So there's an offer there for a partnership. My sense is that if we said we wanted more cooperation and engagement, what would it take and what would we need to do?

I want us to pause here for a second and talk about education because at the moment in Parliament the government is putting legislation through that will fundamentally change how school education is funded. And there's a huge reaction going on because the new system is designed for the cities, the G8s, the Sandstone Universities. They're the ones running the agenda. What I have discovered is that if you’ve got a solution and you put it to government and if they can say yes to it, they will. They really don’t like people coming up and describing a problem. At the moment in rural and regional Australia, we describe a problem to them - I admit I do it as well. I went to see Mr. Pyne and I said, “It's not going to work.” And I explained to him the problem, and he said, “Cathy, come back with a solution.” I thought “Gosh. It’s going to take a lot more money that what you're currently allowing now for that.” 

So I think it comes back to us. If we are going to have the quality education, I think we need to be much, much more competitive. That's going to take a community to do that, and it's going to take schools and universities getting together, really having a plan of how we need to fund it, how we need to grow it, how we’re going to provide accommodation for people, how we’re really going to make the transport work, how we’re going to get the internet up, how we’re going to get the broadband up so that we can do what we need to do. And it's going to be a community like ours that says, “Well, here's what’s going to work for us.” Then come to representatives like me, and Susan Ley and say, “Here's what we want you to do.” And at the next election, I have to say, people will be coming to Albury-Wodonga and to Indi and say, “What do we do to get your vote?” Hopefully you will have some really strong ideas for things that you want government to do. But we need to have solutions.

Talking about solutions, my experience has shown me that what works is it's when change is driven by the community - it's owned by the community, and the community wants it. It works when institutions take responsibility first. And in our case, we’re lucky because all our major institutions have community advisory boards, and we've got really good representation in our major institutions. I know that the New South Wales Government have put in place a cross-border commissioner, James McTavish. He works three days a week. Wouldn't it be great if we had a Victorian cross-border Commissioner too?  Then a Commonwealth cross-border commissioner – and then we have three people working, not necessarily at the legislative area, but working with the more low-hanging fruit and picking up the work that the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation did on this as there's lots to be done.

At the moment the state and federal governments are all the same color and they're all crying out that the red tape is their major issue.  If our communities could actually say -- of all the communities in Australia, we can solve a lot of their problems and give them huge kudos by dispensing with some of the red tape - then there are less problems for us here.

So in my closing comments, great-grandpa, Albert Terrill, wasn’t the first to break the rules. I've got a bit of that in my background. It takes a little bit of push and shove, but I think we’re up to it. My real thinking is - if not now, then when? How long can we prepare to keep going with all the problems that we know we face? And if not us, then who? Which generation will take the lead into the future? 70 years ago the Murray Valley League did wonderful things, and Watershed Jackson and what he did for the river. Perhaps we could do for governance.

 

24 Oct 14|Read More »

Indi Weekly Scoop - No 4 - October 17 2014

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  • Education in Indi
  • Indi funding news
  • International Rural Women’s Day brekky
  • Regional Development on menu
  • Canberra beckons

Education is a key commitment for Cathy. She was out and about early in the week listening to how different education providers in Indi give kids the best environments to thrive.

Monday started with a tour of the Goodstart Early Learning Centre in Wangaratta.  Childcare plays a significant role in our communities, providing the quality of care and education critical or each child's development. The Government has released the Productivity Review Report and Cathy is seeking feedback on the recommendations and how they will impact childcare services in Indi.

The ‘Centre Care and Education for Youth Program’ is helping VCAL students in Wangaratta prepare for their future. Cathy’s visit to the program on Monday included a certificate presentation to student Mya Meadows for winning the 2014 Anne Pennington Award. Congratulations and well done, Mya! During the visit, Cathy listened to the concerns the students have about the lack of employment opportunities and infrastructure catering for their needs. Cathy will follow this up with Rural City of Wangaratta to see what has been done to provide this infrastructure. The students also need support to get jobs - the challenge is to create the right conditions for youth employment to increase.

Independent schools give parents choice in their children’s education. Cathy met with Independent school principals about the key issue of long-term consistent funding. This remains a major issue and principals have called on Government to provide the Independent sector with equal funding to public schools.

Cathy set the Twittersphere abuzz during her speech at the Australian Regional Development Conference on Thursday. The speech focused on the direction of education in regional Australia and the importance of making tertiary education available to local students. Legislation is currently before the Senate and Cathy called on participants to develop a set of key operating principles to ensure regional education services are not disadvantaged by the proposed changes.  

Congratulations to the Women's Wellness Network for bringing together almost 100 people at Delizie Cafe in Myrtleford to celebrate International Rural Women's Day. Cathy listened intently to guest speaker Sister Brigid Arthur’s inspiring talk on her experiences of working with asylum seekers, particularly among young people and children who are in detention in Melbourne. Sr Brigid suggested rural communities could provide relief for refugees and a public meeting will be held soon in Myrtleford to discuss what can be done.

In Indi funding news, two more ANZAC projects have received funding from the Federal Government’s Anzac Centenary Program: Chiltern Athenaeum and Eskdale Primary School (see below for details). Seventeen ANZAC Centenary Grants have now been approved in Indi.

Men’s Shed members in Indi are always busy with projects and two members from the Wangaratta Men’s Shed found time this week to come into Cathy’s office and hang some artwork. The Oxley Knitters donated Symphony of Threads to be displayed in the foyer and Wes Furs and Bernie Morrow (pictured) did a professional job hanging the box-framed piece of art. Thanks gentlemen!

Parliament resumes next week and Cathy has a busy week:

  •  Question Time on Monday
  • Update on Indi/Farrer Light Rail Project
  • Introducing Sister Brigid Arthur to crossbench senators to discuss amendments to legislation
  • Meet with Senators to discuss improvements to the Higher Education Bill 
  • Speak on the Rural Research and Development Amendment Bill and Albury Wodonga Development Corporation Abolition Bill
  • Welcome three volunteers

 

 Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program approved projects

  • Chiltern Athenaeum - $505 – replace Middle Indigo Shire State School honour roll
  • Eskdale Primary School - $750 – plant a Lone Pine and install plaque at school

 

17 Oct 14|Read More »

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