Socialist campaigner shares her vision for a democratic council

Sarah Hathway on the hustings in Geelong.

Sarah Hathway, who is running for Socialist Alliance in Greater Geelong City Council, put her vision to a candidate forum on October 7, organised by the Lara Community Network Group on Waddawurrung country.

“Some people might tune out at hearing the word ‘socialist’, but I’d like to explain my vision for community activism supported by local council. I’ve witnessed how socialist councillors in Moreland and Yarra in Melbourne and Fremantle in Western Australia have won changes by working with local residents who drive the process.

“I think that can be done here too. It could be for relatively small asks — addressing road safety by installing a pedestrian crossing — or it could be around the bigger issues regarding inappropriate developments or projects that need funding.

“From what I’ve seen, it’s only by organising with communities that we have a hope of getting services, keeping services and making council more responsive to residents.”

Hathway said she had been inspired by Sue Bolton in Moreland City Council, who argues that a good councillor works as hard as a good union delegate. “You have to take up people’s every day issues, as well as the bigger picture issues, in the same way that a good union delegate on the job would,” said Hathway.

Hathway lives in Norlane with her partner and 2-year-old daughter. She grew up in Geelong, attending school, TAFE and university and is now a union organiser in the health sector. She said she was prompted to run to secure more services for Norlane and Corio, which have been neglected. It’s possible to do this if council genuinely engages with residents and communities.

“Local government needs to be a place where residents have a say in the running of the local area. Why is it that footpaths, tree coverage and other vegetation and park infrastructure are absent from Norlane, Corio and Lara? It’s not because the locals like it.”

She said that democracy on council would mean ensuring residents have the information, are consulted and that plans are not presented as if they have already been decided on.

“It means absolute transparency and accountability to residents. It also means having integrity in how you portray yourself and your values as a councillor.”

Hathway pointed to working people’s disengagement with all levels of government as symptomatic of the decisions being made.

“People don’t know what is being discussed at local council level unless a big scandal hits the Addy [Geelong Advertiser]. People are too busy to trawl through the council’s website to find minutes and read reports. If elected, I commit to organising regular residents’ meetings to hear from you directly on what we need to do.”

Hathway said she is also committed to ensuring that council takes the science on climate change seriously and “commits to looking after vulnerable residents who don’t have a lot of money coming out of the COVID-19 recession. We can already see the high unemployment figures getting higher and affordable housing options shrinking.”

She said the City of Greater Geelong should provide good jobs with good wages and conditions for locals, and help tackle casualisation and precarious work. “There needs to be a strong commitment to local procurement to support Geelong-based services and businesses and encourage local employment opportunities.”

[To find out more and help the campaign visit Sarah Hathway’s Facebook page.]

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