Page 4061 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 17 November 2015
MR ASSISTANT SPEAKER: I call Ms Fitzharris on the matter of public importance.
Mr Rattenbury: Oops! Mr Doszpot has disappeared.
MS FITZHARRIS (Molonglo) (5.07): I was not going to rise. Mr Doszpot obviously thought it was not so urgent to address this matter raised today by his colleague Ms Lawder. As a former executive member of the Gungahlin Community Council—perhaps the only MLA in this place who has been a former executive member of a community council—I am very pleased to talk about this today.
As members have noted, community councils certainly do play an important role in the public debate. I know our officials across many ACT directorates put in a lot of time and effort going along to brief members of the community about local issues. In the Gungahlin Community Council we are frequently joined by officials from the Economic Development Directorate and from Capital Metro. Certainly Roads ACT are always very generous with their time at the Gungahlin Community Council and, more recently, the Public Housing Renewal Taskforce.
Community councils do a great job and they do help the government to provide a forum for more detailed consultation. I certainly enjoy the debates and getting to know other members of the community. For the record, it is a great opportunity for people to go along to meetings, find out more about local matters that are being raised, have a say on planning processes or just raise an issue that needs to be addressed.
For the most part, being on a community council, as others have said, is rewarding and another way to become involved in your local community. Indeed it certainly also is an activity that does require a lot of input from very dedicated volunteers. For the record, I still regularly attend the Gungahlin Community Council meeting and also the Belconnen Community Council meeting.
But as much as I do appreciate the work our community councils do, they cannot and will not be the only way we communicate with our communities, as members have recognised this afternoon. If all we did was go to community council meetings, we could not argue that we have fully consulted with our community. Why is this? It is because community councils, although they do have very dedicated members, do not necessarily reflect every aspect of our community, nor does everyone in our community get their information only from community councils.
For example, the 2011 census tells us that the median age of people in Gungahlin is 31, and that slightly more women than men live in Gungahlin. I doubt there is anyone younger than 31 who regularly attends a Gungahlin Community Council meeting and for the last two years there have been no women on the board of 14 members and, I think, among the seven members recently elected this year. In fact, very often I am one of only a small number of women who do attend the meetings.
Mrs Jones indicated why this might be: because many women in their 30s and 40s may have parenting responsibilities that prevent them from heading out to a meeting on a Wednesday evening. But certainly the Gungahlin Community Council