Minister rallies councils for First Nations referendum

Local government minister Kristy McBain has told a meeting of Victorian mayors, councillors, CEOs, executives and senior officers that she hopes local government will play a role in moves to enshrine a voice for First Nation’s people in the constitution.

Kristy McBain

Labor is planning to hold a referendum in 2023 to entrench the Indigenous voice to parliament in the constitution, possibly between May and November.

In his budget speech last week treasurer Jim Chalmers announced $1.2 billion “in practical measures” to close the gap for First Nations people and communities, and to begin preparations for the referendum on a Voice to Parliament.

Addressing the 2022 MAV annual conference in Melbourne on October 13, Ms McBain said she was proud to be part of a government that was taking seriously representations from First Nations people, and she hoped local councils would get involved.

“I really want local councils to play a role in this, and I think we can,” she told delegates. “Because no other level of government extends to every town and village across this country. Only local government does that.”

Advocating for local government

Ms McBain, the former Bega Shire mayor, said she was a strong advocate for local councils and had spoken to around 150 councils, as well as local government authorities, peak bodies, joint organisations and regional development bodies to make sure she was across issues confronting the sector.

These included jobs and skills, housing, health care, financial sustainability, economic development and regional frameworks.

Ms McBain also said she would shortly reconvene the Local Government Ministers Forum of Commonwealth, state and territory local government ministers in ALGA.

“There are some real big conversations happening nationally and we need to make sure that each state and territory and the federal government are working in collaboration and rowing in the same direction,” she said.

Award winners announced

Meanwhile, the minister also used her address to the conference to announce the winners of the 2022 National Awards for Local Government.

The awards were established by the federal government almost 40 years ago to celebrate local government excellence across 11 categories including safety, transport, infrastructure, community, environment and diversity.

Ms McBain said this year’s awards, which received 5,300 votes for the 141 eligible nominations, acknowledged the collective challenges facing local government.

These included environmental sustainability and energy transition; diverse, safe and collaborative regions; growing and changing demographics and workforces; and the ever-increasing need to be prepared and adaptive.

Category award winners for 2022 are:

  • Moorabool Shire Council (Victoria) for its Hide + Seek Music Festival project, in the Creativity and Culture category
  • Sunshine Coast Council (Queensland) for its Sunshine Coast Mobility Map – Connecting Community Infrastructure project, in the Productivity through Infrastructure category
  • Moreton Bay Regional Council (QLD) for its Moreton Bay City project, in the Regional Growth category
  • City of Canning (Western Australia) for its Hillview Intercultural Community Centre project, in the Cohesive Communities category
  • Mitchell Shire Council (VIC) for its School Crossing SafetyCam Initiative, in the Road Safety category
  • City of Belmont (WA) for its Belmont Safeguarding Families Advocacy Service, in the Addressing Violence Against Women and their Children category
  • Bathurst Regional Council (New South Wales) for its River Connections project, in the Indigenous Recognition category
  • Broken Hill City Council (NSW), for showcasing female leader – Kathryn Graham, in the Women in Local Government category
  • Broken Hill City Council (NSW) for its outstanding trainee – Katelyn Schenk, in the Career Starter category
  • City of Vincent (WA) for its What the FOGO? We’ve got a Better Bin System sorted! project, in the Waste Management category
  • Ipswich City Council (QLD) for its Forewarned is forearmed – Ipswich Integrated Catchment Plan project, in the Disaster Preparedness category

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