Community pushes back against Geelong City Council’s proposed cuts

June 13, 2023
Geelong West residents campaigning for their libraries. Inset: Sarah Hathway (left) with a petition. Photos: Save Geelong West Library/Facebook

Sarah Hathway, who is tipped to become the newest member of the City of Greater Geelong (CoGG) for Windermere ward, believes the Northern suburbs residents are about to be let down again.

The Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) recount following the resignation of Councillor Kylie Grzybek at the end of May will not be held until the day after the CoGG councillors on a draft budget on June 27.

The draft includes millions of dollars’ worth of cuts to many services, including libraries, and the loss of at least 19 jobs.

Hathway told Green Left on June 5 that the countback could and should be held before June 27. When she raised her concern with the VEC she was told that it was “practice for the VEC to liaise with council” regarding advertising the countback.

Hathway wonders why the VEC is taking advice from CoGG, when the council’s executive “have a vested interest in their budget passing and likely don’t want another person on council who is going to vote against it”.

“This is incredibly disappointing as it means residents in Windermere ward will only have one councillor there, when other wards have three,” Hathway said.

She said she still had not heard back regarding formal complaints she had made to the VEC and Minister for Local Government Melissa Horne regarding the recount date.

Hathway is a Corio resident, community mental health worker and mother of a pre-schooler. She knows the cuts will impact those who are most disadvantaged.

Windermere covers Norlane, ranked the most disadvantaged suburb in Victoria in terms of education, unemployment, median income and health conditions based on the 2021 Census.

The neighbouring suburb of Corio was ranked third most disadvantaged in the state.

A community campaign against the council cuts has been significant with street rallies, protests at council meetings where police have barred residents entry, petitions, a public meeting by Save Geelong West Library and nearly 1000 anti-budget cuts submissions.

Cricket writer and library lover Gideon Haigh, who grew up in Geelong, has contributed some biting satire about the council’s poor behaviour.

Apart from some concessions, such as shortening the opening hours rather than closing three libraries and delaying opening libraries in the burgeoning outer suburbs, it appears the CoGG Council will try to tough out the opposition as the pro-cuts councillors seem to have the numbers.

Hathway is not easily deterred and is organising a community meeting with Socialist Alliance to oppose the budget cuts at Labuan Square in Norlane on June 20 at 5.30pm, at the newly-opened Lab Square Commons space.

[A union community rally and march against the cuts is being organised by the Australian Services Union and Geelong Trades Hall Council on June 24 at 10am outside the Geelong West Library.]

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