Pandemic has brought people back to reality: Don

December 20th, 2020Pandemic has brought people back to reality: Don

CR DON Henderson asks to meet me at Caleembeen Park. He proudly tells me he was recently successful in achieving funding after lobbying for 12 years for upgrades at the popular swimming spot, including making it more accessible for those with disabilities.

“Generations of kids have come here, jumped off the tower, swam in the dredge hole built in the gold mining days. We used to have Miss Creswick here.” He points out where the catwalk was.

Voted in for his fourth term with Hepburn Shire Council, Cr Henderson tells me he got the highest percentage of votes for a councillor in a multi-ward in Victoria. “At a time when people were dissatisfied and kicking councillors out of office, I increased my vote by 10 percent. My way of consulting is a bit different. I like to get out in the community and meet people in their own territory. I’ll go up to the young people at the top of the tower and ask them how they feel about things in the town. There’re still people here who knew my parents and grandparents. I have that legacy of trust. I know the satisfaction survey said people were dissatisfied, but for years Creswick has led the way in the shire with people being satisfied.”
Born in Creswick, he has strong connections to the area, with his ancestors coming here in the early 1850s as goldminers and woodcutters. He tells me about his background. “As a child growing up, we had no electricity, just kero lamps and fridges, I was 18 when we got power. I started work in ’64 as a carpenter and joiner apprentice. I worked in almost every phase of the building and construction industry, and I was the secretary of the Builders Workers Industrial Union. I spent 20 years working in Melbourne looking after industrial relations on projects such as the City Link Tunnel, then went back to the building industry. I moved back to Creswick in 2008, I wanted to come back, this has always been home, the other places are just houses lived in.
“I ran for council because I didn’t like the way the council was running, I had a problem with the planning permits taking too long, I thought that needed to change. I was elected straight away 12 years ago. This time I ran because there’d been a lot of instability in the council. I wanted to see that the good work done by previous councillors didn’t get wasted, and I wanted to support the shire. I’ve got a big commitment to the staff of the shire.
“The top three priorities for me are to get the projects done that we’ve already committed to, such as the 100km Creswick trail bike track. I want to see the Rex project finished. I voted against the Rex project because I thought it wasn’t in the right place, and it would be too expensive. But once it was through, I supported it. I also want to see the Trentham Community Hub finished. I want stability, what I promised is nothing new, I promised more of the same to get projects done.
“The council must support its community. In some ways I see the pandemic as positive, it’s brought people back to reality and looking after each other in the community. On the other hand, its destroyed businesses and family lives. The shire needs to do everything it can to support the community, we need to make it easier for business to operate, we need to be careful about how we deal with money. We’re going to be stretched financially, we need to do things that our community benefit from. Every dollar we spend needs to be accounted for. We must be caring for our community, for the most vulnerable in our community.”

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 explores the councillors’ hopes and wishes for the shire.

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