September 3rd, 2023Just sayin’…
By Donna Kelly
Had some interesting chats with Hepburn Shire Council CEO Bradley Thomas and Mayor Brian Hood last week.
The council put out a media release which says aggressive behaviour towards Hepburn Shire Council staff is on the increase and reaching unprecedented levels.
Mr Thomas said in the release that recent incidents had highlighted the lack of respect shown by some people towards council staff.
“Staff are regularly feeling intimidated after being approached in the street or in other public places, like the supermarket, and verbally abused, sometimes shouted or sworn at. We acknowledge that we don’t always get things right and sometimes mistakes are made, but that does not excuse poor behaviour towards staff.”
Later Mr Thomas said over the phone that it was a phenomenon that was happening in many council areas – mostly country. He thinks that with the end (sort of) of Covid, and the sky-rocketing cost of living, that people have had enough and feel they have the right to have their say.
Cr Hood said council staff, and councillors, were entitled to have a safe workplace. “Verbal abuse and threatening behaviour is simply not acceptable, and that includes cowardly online abuse. Council will do everything within its powers to protect its staff and councillors. We will not tolerate aggressive, abusive or threatening behaviour.”
Cr Hood said he was not a psychologist but, in his latest mayoral report to council, also called out the irresponsible behaviour of some media which “emboldens some elements of the community and fans the flames of dissent”.
Now, when I read that I was a bit annoyed. But after talking to Cr Hood I think it is more about mainstream media and not local media.
Also, The Local is very much a professional outfit, accredited as a newspaper through the Victorian Country Press Association and the federal Country Press Association. We employ qualified, professional journalists to write our stories and they are done with the utmost consideration. Yes, now and again, we might have a bit of a rant about council, but I think it is pretty much merited. The Rex, handing over aged care, the drooping Bleakley Street units, terrible satisfaction survey results.
But, that is no reason for anyone to harass or intimidate council staff or councillors, who are only doing their job, and probably for a pretty limited salary. Complain sure, but always remain respectful. And do it in the right way.
Sadly, keyboard warriors abound, saying things online they would never say to anyone’s face, and many people don’t realise just how small our rate base is. We are lucky to get roads, rates and rubbish done. And I know we still pay rates while the roads remain rubbish but most of them belong to the state government and not the council.
When we started The Local, Kyle asked if we should open an office in Daylesford. No, I said, no way. When I worked at The Advocate, in the Coles carpark office, people would line up to pop in and rage away for 30 minutes. One woman spent her time telling me I was a piece of shit – and then left saying “I feel better now”. I did feel like shit after that. I have been emailed: “Do you want to die?”. True story.
So next time you need to vent your spleen about a council issue, make a reasoned call, send an email or maybe decide if it’s just you having a bad day.
People might think I am mellowing in my old age but I just think we all should be treated respectfully. Who knows what’s going on in the background? Just sayin’…