Pauline Galvin: ‘When people get together, the magic happens’

September 10, 2020
Pauline Galvin is on the right of Sue Bolton (in red). Photo: Chloe DS

Long-time community activist Pauline Galvin is standing as part of the Sue Bolton Moreland Team for a spot in the Moreland City Council in the elections on October 24. She is the lead candidate for the South Ward, which covers parts of Brunswick West and Brunswick East. She was interviewed for Green Left by Jacob Andrewartha.

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Why are you standing for council with the Sue Bolton Moreland Team?

I have a huge amount of respect for the work Sue has done on council. I also have quite strong socialist leanings: I describe my political colours as green and red. I’ve always had a strong interest in environmental issues, combined with a social perspective.

I am inspired by the way Sue ties a bigger picture analysis to local issues. To address problems, you need to have an analysis of why things happen rather than just concentrate on putting out spot fires all the time.

Sue’s openness and responsiveness to community members has been inspiring. Standing as an independent with Sue means we can be more responsive, more open and be a “clean broom” through council as well.

What sorts of issues do you want to raise?

The biggest thing is the climate emergency. I’ve been involved in climate campaigning, particularly around forest issues, for quite a few years. But it has become apparent that climate action is happening in the cities where councils are helping people reduce their carbon footprint.

I became involved and I met Sue on the picket line of the East West Link action. It was such a great experience. I saw what is possible when concerned citizens get together and get organised.

Suddenly, you have a lot more political reach than just “Concerned of Coburg” writing another sternly-worded letter to a newspaper. It’s when people get together that the magic happens: that’s the strength of a community campaign.

Transport is a major climate emergency issue because of its carbon footprint. Yet governments just keep building more and more mega-roads, spending money that could be better spent on the community.

In Moreland, those working on public transport issues intersect with others working on climate emergency issues, making it a very fertile place to be working.

Did your politics change after being involved in the East West link campaign?

The biggest change came when I discovered how much party politics is about putting the agenda of the party, rather than seeking the best outcome for the community.

Unless you get people being “squeaky wheels”, what happens is what suits those in power — whether that’s to get more votes or make lots of money for their political mates and donors. It is very rarely for the benefit of the community and the generations who will have to live with it.

The Sue Bolton Moreland Team is running on the slogan of ‘Community need, not developer’s greed’. Why did you decide that?

There has been a lot of development in Moreland in the past few years, and it is time to look at the outcomes. The primary concern is how much money developers are making. They are cramming a lot more dwellings onto a small footprint and more people than the suburbs’ infrastructure was designed for. They are not putting in transport for these extra people. They don’t provide access to parks and other amenities.

We need a more holistic approach: how are new residents integrating into the community and are their needs being met? We need to prioritise the community rather than who can make a quick buck.

The COVID-19 lockdown has shown me the importance of community development. Moreland Council should be supporting groups that do community development work, particularly around food and housing security. Those networks strengthen a community and give it resilience so when something happens there is already a network in place to help.

I want to push better governance on council. We should be looking into whether council is doing a good job and how do the outcomes compare to other councils? We need to ask what we will do to put a benchmark into place which involves not only knowing how we are doing, but what we are going to do differently.

We also need a system of overview to check back with what council is doing. Is what we are doing getting the outcomes we want? If not, we need to fine tune what we’re doing. Governance is critical to a quality assurance system cycle.

Can you talk about the platform you are campaigning on?

The climate emergency is crucial and Moreland Council has made some good first steps, but we need to crank up what we are doing.

There is the issue of toxic industrial waste: Brunswick has a long history of industry and there are a lot of old factories. There was a development on an old dry-cleaning site where the whole ground was riddled with toxic waste. The council needs to keep accurate records of the historic usage of land and how that affects future developments.

Community involvement is another thing I’m passionate about. If people are involved, we will get different perspectives, a fresh-eye approach so that those unintended consequences are snipped off so much earlier.

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