On May 8, Bridgid O’Brien was elected a councillor of the City of Yarra following the resignation of another councillor. She will join Stephen Jolly as a second socialist on the council.
In an interview on Green Left Radio, O’Brien said: “It is great to have two of us [socialists] on council.”
She outlined her background: “I’m a socialist feminist with a strong environmental ethic and I’ve been a community activist in Yarra for almost 50 years.”
In the 1990s, O’Brien was a women’s officer at La Trobe University, where she helped get the new anti-sexual harassment policies up and running. She was also involved in a campaign to keep free education “which sadly we lost”.
In more recent years, O’Brien has been part of the organising committee for a community festival of all the local environmental and community groups, called Music from the Wetland.
One of the big issues O’Brien is interested in is “appropriate development that respects the aesthetics of our urban landscape, where heritage buildings are protected and new developments are sympathetic”.
O’Brien believes that “any large developments” should be “required to have at least 20% of low cost housing, because we want to protect the diversity of our community. We want to have students, artists, migrants and the Aboriginal community making up the rich fabric of the City of Yarra. We want art galleries, to protect the music venues to maintain the local community atmosphere.
“I’m also interested in the urban forest and biodiversity plans, protecting our green corridors, making sure they are all connected.
“I’m passionate about our wildlife. One of the joys of living in Yarra is that we’re living among other species so close to the CBD of the second largest city in the country.
“I’m interested in safer streets for cyclists and food waste for residents of apartments.”
O’Brien is also a self-described “passionate feminist”. “At my first council meeting I put up a motion to run free self-defence classes for women and LGBTIQ people.
“We need to do work on the safe injecting facility — taking into account the local residents’ concerns but also wanting to save lives.
“With re-election of the Liberals we have to watch that the East West Link doesn’t come back and we can’t give an inch on that.
“For me, the big issues are the environment as well as the issues that members of the local community bring to us and we want to deal with those in a sensitive fashion.
“I am very passionate about local government. That’s where you get to interact with the local community.”
As a socialist councillor, she said: “I will take up social justice issues, stand up for the small people, Aboriginal people, workers, protecting women’s rights in the workplace.” This is the work “Stephen Jolly has done for 15 years”.