President’s Column – 24 January 2020

ALGA President David O'Loughlin gestures at a lectern

The Australia Day celebrations this long weekend gives us chance to stop and celebrate with our community.

Councils will proudly bring their communities together with events like citizenship ceremonies, barbecues, and concerts.

We’ll demonstrate community cohesion and resilience, so important as this summer we’ve witnessed terrible bushfires across large swathes of the country, in addition to the persistent drought.

Amid the tragedies, we’ve seen the best of our communities, with local mayors and councilors out there supporting local residents, visitors and strangers, and leading local efforts.

I think of people like NSW Bega Valley Shire Mayor, Councillor Kristy McBain, Kangaroo Island Council Mayor Michael Pengilly, and other uplifting local leaders across the country.

I think also of councils throughout the nation all offering to help out their fire-affected counterparts with personnel, equipment and money now, or in the coming weeks and months.

This generosity, this selfless spirit from councils big and small, all keen to help however they can, is just one of the things that make me so proud to be part of Australia’s local government.

Our local councils best know our communities, and are able to best determine what help is needed and where relief can be deployed.

That local knowledge is something that the Australia Local Government Association, state local government associations, and I have been emphasising in our meetings and discussions with the Commonwealth and State Governments in recent weeks.

I also underscored resilience and local government-led recovery efforts last Friday in Canberra at the Prime Minister’s bushfire roundtable.

Reconciliation and truth-telling

Speaking of locally-led initiatives, it’s also important that we acknowledge that this time of year is also a difficult one for many Indigenous Australians.

We need to think about truth-telling in Australian history, and what role Local Government might be able to play in development an Indigenous voice to the Government.

I’ve written earlier about how as the closest layer of government to our communities, it follows that Local Government should consider what truth-telling might look like in each community.

We are good listeners, and we know how to help people tell their stories.

We are the best level of government at sharing stories and engaging with local people.

This means we can play a powerful role in truth-telling if we choose to.

We can also choose to consider our role in Closing the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

I look forward to learning from you about what your councils are doing, and reflecting these views when ALGA attends the next meeting of the Joint Council on Closing the Gap later this year.

David O’Loughlin
ALGA President