Council to provide for the needs of community

November 23rd, 2020Council to provide for the needs of community

JEN Bray is one of the two new councillors for Birch Ward and is well known in the Hepburn Shire for her extensive work on community issues. Her commitment to projects such as the Daylesford Skate Park, festivals, youth, and improving the schools, led to many people encouraging her to run as councillor in the recent elections.

Cr Bray is also one of the founders of the grass-roots movement Community Voice which she said aimed to shift the process of local government in Hepburn Shire towards participatory democracy by encouraging continual community participation.
“I’ve always been active in the community because it gives twice; it adds value to the community but it’s also really rewarding for me personally. People have seen me stand up for the community and wanted me to advocate for them.

“My background is in performing arts, event management, running festivals and community events and teaching. I’ve worked at the Victorian College of the Arts and NICA (National Institute of Circus Arts). I grew up in the country, moved to the city to study and work, but came back to the country to raise a family. I’ve lived in Hepburn Shire for 20 years.
“I wanted to become a councillor because I wanted to change the dynamic between council and community. I see it as a collaboration. Council are there to provide for the needs of the community. The community can offer expertise and insights into making things work. Rather than it being an ‘us and them’ situation, I’m hoping we can change that to ‘we’.
“My number one goal is to find a way for council and community to work collaboratively on decision making. This is actually something that will be mandated by the new Local Government Act 2020. It may seem like participatory democracy is a grass-roots buzzword but in fact it’s already written into the new legislation. It’s something council is required to implement. It’s exciting to be part of this process.
“Given that I want to listen to the community, my key goals will stem from what the community expresses. I’m also passionate about a rethink of our tips and how we can do waste management better: salvaging, recycling, organics. I want to keep on track with Hepburn Shire Council’s goal to reach net zero emissions by 2030.”
Cr Bray reflects on how the Hepburn Shire can move forward after the challenges of COVID-19.
“I want to ensure that a social housing policy is put into place as soon as possible. We need to support the most vulnerable members of our community. I want to make sure that stays on the agenda.
“Council needs to reach out to those who that have been hardest hit by COVID-19; mental health and domestic violence have been exacerbated throughout the lockdowns. Council can play a role in linking people to relevant services. We need to support local and that includes business, agriculture, and the arts.
“We’re in a challenging time. But I have a lot of faith in the strength and creativity of this community. By harnessing that energy and working together I believe our shire will really grow and thrive.”

With six of the seven councillors recently elected to the Hepburn Shire being new to the game, a sense of optimism and hope exists for more positive interactions between community and council. This weekly series by Sandy Scheltema will explore the new councillors’ hopes and wishes for the shire.

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