Meet the candidates: Maribyrnong City Council
15.10.2020

Meet the candidates: Maribyrnong City Council

Coulson Gardens - photo by Maribyrnong City Council
By Kate Streader

Introducing the candidates for Maribyrnong City Council and their priorities for the community.

City of Maribyrnong encompasses Braybrook, Kingsville, Maidstone, Maribyrnong, Seddon, Tottenham, West Footscray and Yarraville. It is broken up into three wards, two with two councillors and one with three councillors.

Visit the Victorian Electoral Commission website to see a map of ward boundaries.

City of Maribyrnong’s current councillors are Sarah Carter (Mayor) and Gina Huynh – River Ward; Megan Bridger-Darling (Deputy Mayor) and Cuc Lam – Stony Creek Ward; and Martin Zakharov, Simon Crawford and Mia McGregor – Yarraville Ward.

Meet the 2020 candidates for Maribyrnong City Council below.

River Ward

Two vacancies, 13 candidates.

Matt McCaul – Independent

Bars and restaurants in the city need to be supported through zoning, rates, service and, most importantly, capital works initiated by council in the public space [and] surrounding venues to re-enliven the area. Restaurants need to have outdoor dining experiences. If there is no room on the footpath, something needs to happen to the footpath space but then also the parking space can’t be taken out because other traders need it. [So I would] find some fine line where council would work with venue owners restaurant or bar to utilise the streetscape to have people eat outside have drinks outside, not just because of COVID but people who would drive past or walk past would see people out and about and want to do the same thing to facilitate these ideas. I have a signature idea and plan to create a capital works program that this city has never ever seen before. I call it SSIPs “Shopping Strip Improvement Programs”, basically a beautification of the streetscape in shopping strips even the local corner strips should get this treatment as well.
And also the continuation of the proliferation of little boutique bars in the city and expanding on that, but up to a point where the existing venues are not saturated. Footscray will be the next Carlton/Brunswick/Richmond – the inner city suburbs who have so much life about them at night. I want Footscray to be a destination suburb just like those with the same type of bars and restaurants. Still, something that none of them has would be a beautification on the streetscape to help facilitate the engagement of patrons to contribute to the local economy and the traders back pocket.
But as I am fully and genuinely independent doing all of this by myself no funding, no letterbox drops no signs and relying on my candidate statement. I am working six days a week as a traffic controller, I direct traffic and am running for the council so I can fix stuff just like this.

Liz Walsh – Victorian Socialists

What is your strategy for rebuilding your local community and supporting its small businesses post-lockdown?

As the first and most important question is how to ensure we follow the best health advice available, we do not support a premature reopening because it puts human life and public health at risk. It’s also worth noting that in the long term, countries who have chosen not to lock down or have opened up too early have suffered dire economic consequences as well as health ones.

We will work with public health experts to do everything we can to make Maribyrnong as safe as possible for its residents, workers and visitors. We want to see publicly available PPE throughout Maribyrnong, hand sanitiser and mask dispensers – particularly near busy hubs and dining precincts. We will work to convert all of our pedestrian crossing buttons to no-touch facilities. We want a renewed multi-language public health education campaign. As well as keeping Maribyrnong and the city as a whole safer, we believe such projects could enable more job creation.

Once it is safe for more business to reopen, a really key component is that we have a population that can actually afford a decent quality of life which, in turn, enables people to purchase products, entertainment and services offered by local businesses. If elected, we will use the influence of our position to lobby for an increase to all pensions, to reverse the cuts to JobKeeper and JobSeeker, including the reduction for part-timers. We need to see wage subsidies extended to casual and migrant workers as well.

How do you plan to support live music venues in reopening and getting back on their feet post-lockdown?

We need to carve out more space for the arts. This means standing up to developers who would put apartments and townhouses on every square inch if they could. We know when live music venues close and are repurposed for residential development, they are lost for good. We mourn the loss of the Reverence and the Dancing Dog. Gentrification combined with the COVID crisis will be truly devastating for the arts out West where we have too few venues to begin with.

We will work with the state government and other stakeholders to rezone areas to establish permanent creative spaces, setting aside land and buildings for affordable studios and performing space to sustain a thriving arts ecology. In Maribyrnong, we support the establishment of a larger arts precinct around the Footscray Community Arts Centre. There is also a large number of disused warehouses along Somerville Road that could be repurposed for cheap and free studio space.

Where live music and other community arts venues are in financial distress, the Maribyrnong council should, in order to help keep these places open, offer rate relief on the proviso that these venues are reviewed and approved by the hospitality and arts workers and their unions who work in these spaces.

However, it’s really important that we’re looking not just at arts venues but how to support artists themselves. We’ve seen instances of governments propping up venues or businesses while many artists and workers in the industry are left to languish, often falling through the cracks and not being able to get decent support. Many in this sector don’t qualify for JobKeeper payments due to the casual, freelance or contract nature of their work. And artists on JobSeeker face having their payments cut whenever they win prize money or contracts – typically this money is supposed to assist with their work not living expenses. Councillors need to use their position to advocate for better government support for artists as well as expanding grants and rental relief strategies through council budgets.

How important are the arts and live music sectors to you as a prospective councillor and how do you aim to support them?

Art and music have the potential not just to entertain and educate, but are important avenues for self-expression and achieving social change. It is no coincidence that every revolution and mass movement that challenges the injustices of our world usher forth explosions of creativity, music, street art and more.

Artists today fight an uphill battle in trying to survive and afford rent and bills, let alone the inherent costs involved in creating the art itself. But artists are also battling gross inequality and challenges imposed on this sector by capitalism. When art is instrumentalised for profit, its scope is narrowed, making it private and undemocratic, as well as turning what should be fulfilling work into one where it is impossible to earn a living, with rampant casualisation and exploitation. As well as this, universities being turned into neoliberal degree-factories almost always sees resources for drama, music, and fine arts being slashed first. Over the last ten years, many world-class institutions of arts education in Australia have been destroyed by the ruthless pursuit of profit by university administrations. This means there are high barriers to working in the arts. Those from rich families are much more likely to get by in the industry, so working class, migrant and First Nations people are under-represented.

From a socialist perspective, the best way to make arts work accessible is to make it secure, organised, well-paid, and education in the field free and well-funded.

It’s a travesty that we have seen huge cuts to arts funding at a federal level with the Australian Council for the Arts having it’s funding slashed, significantly shrinking the number of arts organisations it could support especially small, independent organisations. And by burying the Federal Government Art department in Transport, Regional Development and Communications department, the Federal Government is making a real attempt to disappear the arts. So when COVID-19 hit, and more than a quarter of arts workers lost their jobs, this pain was being felt by a sector already in crisis.

We welcome the rent relief that the Maribyrnong council provided to eligible tenants and the grants provided. But we want to push these programs to be expanded, for more permanent council-owned arts spaces providing secure, well-paid jobs for artists and arts workers, and offering equitable access. We’ll also support any campaign that fights against cuts to education, including arts education.

 Currently, many council events are ticketed, which feeds into the problems associated with turning art into a commodity. We want to make it possible for everyone to engage regularly with the arts for free while arts workers are paid properly.

What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve for your community as a councillor?

We aim to make a difference supporting communities struggling with high rents and rates, stressful mortgages, and homelessness; promoting cultural diversity and opposing racist discrimination in policing and media; promoting local job creation; boosting support for community arts and grassroots sports; and advocating for schools that promote social justice.

We are very passionate about building a local council that will advocate for the rights of working families, young people and aged citizens, and reinvigorate the spirit of community solidarity that runs deep in the West!

What I stand for:

  • Reverse privatisation of council aged care.Expand council-run child care; set up council-run after school care.
  • Mandate affordable and public housing in new developments.
  • Rate relief for households and pensioners in financial stress.
  • Protect green spaces from developer greed.
  • Reduce air pollution; create residential low emissions zones.
  • Increase funding for neighbourhood centres, maternal health and community sport.
  • Act now on the climate crisis; divest from fossil fuels, grow urban forests.
  • Support Aboriginal rights; refugees and LGBTQIA+ equality.
  • Create a permanent arts precinct centred on Footscray Community Arts Centre to support the grassroots arts scene.

How important is climate action to you and how do you plan to implement it within your council?

Climate change threatens all life on earth. And governments led by both major parties continue to prioritise policies that allow big business to destroy the planet so they can make a profit. We are proud to be environmental activists and organisers of climate justice marches last year. [Fellow Victorian Socialist candidate for Maribyrnong] Andrew Charles is also a climate scientist, have worked at the Bureau of Meteorology for over a decade.

If elected to council, we will do everything we can to reduce local carbon emissions, expand investment into green jobs, protect existing green spaces and increase community gardens and urban forests, stand with First Nations and climate justice activists the world over in opposing the planned “gas and fossil fuels led recovery”. We need a society-wide transformation in how we produce everything. That will require a movement of people on the streets and in our workplaces to win that sort of change against very powerful vested interests who are blocking the way.

Susan Yengi – Labor

What is your strategy for rebuilding your local community and supporting its small businesses post-lockdown?

  • Direct investment into small businesses via additional grants.
  • Providing a dedicated resource to assist operators with business grant applications and other regulatory requirements.
  • Working with business and trader organisations to develop an incentive program to draw patrons and also encourage spend across business.
  • Reducing the bureaucratic processes and red tape that usually slows down the process.
  • Prioritising local businesses first for council contracts.
  • Other opportunities that can be achieved through changed procurement strategies.

How do you plan to support live music venues in reopening and getting back on their feet post-lockdown?

  • Ensuring venues continue to receive financial support up to three months after reopening.
  • Assisting venues with lease negotiations.
  • Reducing the ‘red tape’ and simplifying the process.
  • Incentives to encourage locals to support local venues.
  • Fee waivers.

How important are the arts and live music sectors to you as a prospective councillor and how do you aim to support them?

The arts and live music are very important sectors, they contribute to the development of our cultures, community connectedness, harmony and general health and mental wellbeing. We have such a fantastic mix of diversity and culture in Maribyrnong, but sadly is somewhat lacking in the offerings available through the arts and live music scenes. It’s not because we don’t have artists and or venues, but we just haven’t invested enough in this space to grow it. If elected, I would love to look at ways for us to invest in these two areas because we have a lot to be proud of, but I feel a lot has been left to certain venues, organisations and artists to promote themselves and I think we could do more to build on this.

What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve for your community as a councillor?

  • Establishing a clear communications channel and process so people can connect with council.
  • Support for local small businesses and people doing it tough.
  • Fixing local roads and infrastructure that poses safety concerns, particularly in Maidstone, Footscray and Maribyrnong.
  • Collaborating with local organisations and young people to develop a youth strategy & suite of programs.
  • Advocating for more open space.

How important is climate action to you and how do you plan to implement it within your council?

Climate change is something that is currently impacting most of us, albeit on a small scale, personally, for some. But in the future, it will have devastating sweeping effects, so it’s important we try and tackle this now. I’m not a climate expert but I certainly value protecting our environment and green spaces. My initial plan involves education. Unfortunately, we’ve become a ‘what’s in it for me society’, so if we want people’s behaviours to change, we need to educate them about the impacts of climate change on a micro-level and show how their livelihoods will be affected both [in terms of] health and financially, as well as simple steps they can take to begin creating change. So I want to educate households and communities about waste management, recycling and how we can protect our environment (and save $$$ for our households in the process). Also want to issue every household with a FREE green bin – currently people have to purchase a green bin if they want one which I fear is a barrier to many who could otherwise be recycling food waste in their green bins now.

Chay Granger – Independent

What is your strategy for rebuilding your local community and supporting its small businesses post-lockdown?

I think we are getting ahead of ourselves post-lockdown. We need to start planning the rebuild for now, as we have no indication of when lockdown will end, or when an effective vaccine will be ready. Our council needs a dynamic response, looking at how we can best utilise the circumstances we are in, leverage off our strengths, and be proactive in advocating for local businesses and community organisations. We find ourselves in extraordinary times that have rapidly altered the opportunities afforded to us. Progress will come from strong and dynamic thinking, rather than bureaucratic meddling.

We have a number of established community arts organisations which are well placed to advise and guide council decision making in this crucial time. Maribyrnong has enormous potential for outdoor dining and entertainment, with a number of extremely popular eating and drinking precincts, and well situated green space for performance arts. Now is the time to design, plan, and build outdoor infrastructure to capitalise on warmer seasonal trading. Let’s utilise state government COVID funding and get this party started now.

How do you plan to support live music venues in reopening and getting back on their feet post-lockdown? 

We need to start planning for the now, because we don’t know when post-lockdown will be. More than anything, we need dynamic, unorthodox, solution-based planning to exploit opportunities for artists within the limits of stage three restrictions.

As a candidate for Maribyrnong, we can adopt some of the successful strategies pursued by our neighbours. At this very moment, Moonee Valley Council is hiring 60 Recovery Arts Administrators who will coordinate workshops, facilitate artistic tenders, curate and manage online art and music presentations. In addition, I will pursue the funded Working for Victoria Initiative which can make these programs cost-neutral for council. Live music venues may be very different post-COVID, however our current venues are in the best position to adapt and guide our planning.

How important are the arts and live music sectors to you as a prospective councillor and how do you aim to support them? 

We have an emerging live music scene in Maribyrnong, with a variety of performance spaces. Sadly we lost a very productive music venue that supported local musicians when The Reverence closed down recently. I believe our current planning should be looking at a very rapid transition to outdoor and online performance, and maybe even a combination of both. Imagine streaming a performance from multiple homes to speakers or projection screens in public green space. Yes, it’s possible and legit!

Our municipality currently hosts Laneways which is a large scale commercial music festival. For the short term I believe we need a contingency plan for the next Laneways festival. I don’t believe our resources should focus on priming a large scale commercial event. Instead we should focus on small scale priming, supporting the arts and music at a grass roots, local level where council has closest connection with the community.

What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve for your community as a councillor? 

My platform has a very strong focus on transparency, accountability and efficient spending. This came about from the community campaign I was involved in with Save Footscray Park. We have some significant issues with how rates are applied to long term residents who moved here before the property boom in the last decade, and the pressure this exerts on cash-poor, asset-rich residents who have dedicated their lives to the community. My strategies for supporting the arts would very much focus on cost neutrality for council and leveraging of existing state government funding such as Working for Victoria Initiative and other state COVID funding.

How important is climate action to you and how do you plan to implement it within your council? 

We have the tools available now for our council to reach carbon neutrality in a cost-effective way, even revenue generating. Council is in the unique position as a large landholder with buildings to utilise solar energy generation.

For a full rundown of candidate responses to climate change in Hobsons Bay, Moonee Valley, and Maribrynong council, go to Westside Climate Action FB page. You can find my response in Maribyrnong River Ward.

Our green spaces need some design tweaks and infrastructure to make them more amenable to outdoor music and art performance. Tying in with this is the need to provide heat refuges in our open spaces during summer, including targeted tree planting, shade areas, and misting zones with evaporative cooling that would have integrated community benefits not just for the arts, but for everyone. I’d aim to get these up for summer in anticipation of outdoor performance, and also leverage of state government COVID funding.

We reached out to Sarah Carter, Huy Nguyen, Andrew Tran, Toa Thredgold, Machi La, Anthony Tran, Thuy-Kim Le, Yvonne and Duncan Foster but did not receive a response. They are also running for council in River Ward.

Stony Creek Ward

Two vacancies, 12 candidates.

Andrew Charles – Victorian Socialists

Answers shared with fellow Victorian Socialists candidate for Maribyrnong Council River Ward, Liz Walsh. See their responses in the River Ward candidates section above. 

Rajdeep Kaur Kang – Independent

What is your strategy for rebuilding your local community and supporting its small businesses post-lockdown? 

I want our community to come out of this COVID situation having HOPE. The most important thing for families, in my view, right now is:

  • Supporting our much-needed food relief/emergency programs to those doing it tough but also connecting them to the needed services so that they can regain financial stability and care as needed.
  • Increase accessibility for mental health service and other support services in our local community. As a counsellor and acupuncturist, this one is very close to my heart.
  • Investing more in green open spaces and hubs and sporting clubs, so that the community can connect and heal.
  • I want to push giving more opportunity to locals for local jobs. One way to do this is by supporting local business also making partnerships where locals can work in local businesses but also producing new jobs.
  • I want to push for more funding for small businesses from the State government especially for those who have fallen through the gaps with the JobKeeper program.
  • Reduce the cost that local council can control including a rates review on compassionate grounds.
  • Partner with local businesses so the locals can become aware of the great businesses we have around us through innovative marketing strategies.

How do you plan to support live music venues in reopening and getting back on their feet post-lockdown?

I believe that the council needs to assist live music venues by providing training and education in gold class infectious control measures and also promote this music though partnering strategies. Music will be a benefit to our mental health so it is a major issue. In the new normal some of the live music gigs may be online performances.

How important are the arts and live music sectors to you as a prospective councillor and how do you aim to support them? 

The art and live music sectors are a very important area to me, I want to support them as a councillor by promoting them especially the hard-hit ones. I want to see more community engagements such as street parties and festivals and would like to showcase our rich art and music culture. I would also like to work with these groups and promote them in schools and hubs or community centres as they are so important and can support peoples metal health.

What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve for your community as a councillor?

As a Sikh, equality and selfless service are what we live by. I believe that representing the community in Maribyrnong of which I been a part of my whole life, I can give back and support fairness and do my bit. In my work as the Secretary of the Ethnic Broadcasting Association of Australia, I have obtained many skills that can be transferred and allow me to be a great councillor. In this work, I have always been unbiased and never put my agenda first but advocated for the good of the 55 diverse communities we have at the radio station. I have seen so many people in leadership roles put their agendas before the communities voice and that really disappoints me. We all may have our personal views, but Local Council should represent the voice of the people. I want to be that voice. In my experience, I think that sometimes policies are made just to tick boxes and not inclusive of all the community. I want to be the leader that calls this out and not let anyone fall behind. This has become more important in recent times where we have seen so many people struggle and left behind. I think if we all work together harmoniously we can become more of a cohesive community.

How important is climate action to you and how do you plan to implement it within your council? 

I think that the climate change emergency is very important, we are already seeing the detrimental effects of this with extreme weather and overheating of our environment during the bushfire season. I will first push to educate the community on this emergency. Awareness is the key! We need to get the climate emergency strategy out to all residence and in schools and educate them that it is real and action needs to be taken ASAP. This will allow us to then take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to renewable sources of energy and promote zero emission transport and zero emission waste by recycling.

We reached out to Bernadette Thomas, Minh Quan Nguyen, Eddie Merrifield, Pradeep Tiwari, Judy Hang, Megan Bridger-Darling, Cuc Lam, Mohamed Semra, Ken Betts, Andrew Charles and Cameron Bolton but did not receive a response to our questions in time for publication. They are also running for council in Stony Creek Ward. 

Yarraville Ward

Three vacancies, 16 candidates.

Jorge Andres Jorquera – Victorian Socialists

What is your strategy for rebuilding your local community and supporting its small businesses post-lockdown?

Our strategy revolves around supporting working families, pensioners and young people. We are especially concerned about the high unemployment rate among young people in Maribyrnong, and the prospect of increasing hardship for working families and young workers. As the pandemic income supports are withdrawn by the federal government, and bank mortgage payment ‘holidays’ finish-up, many people out West will come under a lot of financial stress. We plan to increase council services for families and young people, and advocate and campaign for state and federal governments to maintain the current payment levels for JobSeeker, instead of giving corporations a handout through the newly proposed JobMaker payment.

We think the best way to support small business is to increase the incomes of working families and young people, rather than to funnel government handouts to giant corporations – such as the takeout food chains and retail stores – that will only undermine small, local businesses, and further reduce the wages of young workers.

How do you plan to support live music venues in reopening and getting back on their feet post-lockdown?

We propose to prioritise support for and promote all venues that are focussed on live music and other types of leisure, excluding those venues that have gaming machines (pokies). On a larger scale, we propose to significantly extend the support for community arts, ensuring that artists have spaces for artistic production and sharing, across all of Maribyrnong and not limited to the Footscray area. Part of this would involve promoting more partnerships and setting up proper council assistance for artists to secure additional funding for projects. We also think the council should launch specific, targeted support for young people in music; working with secondary schools to get more all-age venues happening, and to support musical artists getting started.

How important are the arts and live music sectors to you as a prospective councillor and how do you aim to support them?

Very important. Too often the arts are a luxury for the wealthier part of town. We want to make sure that artistic production and enjoyment are available to all families and young people in Maribyrnong – by supporting artist development, advocating for fair remuneration for artists, and ensuring venues are accessible.

What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve for your community as a councillor?

I think we can really make a difference, supporting communities struggling with high rents, rates, stressful mortgages and homelessness; promoting cultural diversity and opposing racist discrimination in policing and media; promoting local job creation; boosting support for community arts and grassroots sports; and advocating for schools that promote equity, opportunity and social justice. I am very passionate about keeping alive the traditions of cultural and social diversity that have characterised our West, and hope to build a local council that will enrich these traditions with a newfound pride in the spirit of community solidarity that runs deep in our West!

How important is climate action to you and how do you plan to implement it within your council? 

It’s a critical issue that we can’t afford to sit back on and wait for state and federal governments to act. Both Labor and Liberal are totally committed to fossil fuels and pay only lip service to climate change and the need for climate action. On a local level, we can do much more to improve and expand on urban forests, parklands, and provide genuine and free recycling and repurposing services. We can also do much more to support local schools in education and action around climate change; including supporting school students when they strike and take other actions for climate action.

We reached Michael Clarke, Sara Coward, Simon Crawford, Rufo Paredes, Jeremie Nguyen, Toan Nguyen, Peter Wingate, Jo Canny, Verity Webb, Angela Burmeister, Paul Nam Le, Grace Giradi, Miles Parnall-Gilbert, Martin Zakharov and Matt Waller but did not receive a response. They are also running for council Yarraville Ward. 

Never miss a story. Sign up to Beat’s newsletter and you’ll be served fresh music, arts, food and culture stories three times a week.