Councillor profiles - Mayor Mary-Ann Brown Southern Grampians Shire Council
I’d have to say the thing I love most about the Greater Hamilton region is how richly diverse it is. Firstly, there is the incredible natural environment. We are blessed to have the spectacular Grampians mountain range dominate our landscape and I’m lucky enough to call the gateway to the Grampians, Dunkeld, my home. We have ancient volcanoes, peaceful rivers and the Wannon and Nigretta waterfalls, which are just magnificent. Then of course, there is the acre after acre of beautiful farmland dotted with majestic red gums.
The Greater Hamilton region also offers a diverse community. Hamilton, which is the largest population centre, has a vibrant culture with its Performing Arts Centre, Cinema and Art Gallery and many public events. Our outer townships offer a range of different regional lifestyle choices, with thriving retail and hospitality businesses, beautiful natural environments, and most importantly, they are blessed with unique and impassioned people and communities.
I also love that we are only an hours’ drive from the coast, close wineries in Penola and Coonawarra, an hour from the mountains in Halls Gap, and only four hours to Melbourne!
I was elected in November 2016 so I am in my first term as a Councillor and Mayor. I have always had an interest in the community and I’ve always believed in the importance of strong, vibrant communities. I first became involved in a community group in 1990 when I helped out with running the toy library when my children were young and the desire to be involved with my community has simply grown from there. I’ve been a member of the professional women’s association, on the board of the Western District Health Service and was also heavily involved in the Hamilton Regional Business Association and the Dunkeld Progress Association prior to joining Council. Joining local government was a natural progression for me.
I am also self-employed and own a financial services business in Hamilton. I have worked in the financial services industry for nearly 30 years and have an economics degree, so I have a reasonably strong understanding of financial matters. This is very beneficial to me in my role as a Councillor, particularly with the current rate-capping environment and dealing with so many competing priorities financially.
My business success depends on my ability to build positive relationships with my clients, and I’d have to say that Council is very much the same. Having a good rapport with the community is so important and ensuring that the public know they can approach and trust me is every bit as important in Council as it is in business.
While I don’t have a lot of spare time on my hands, I do love sitting down with a good book. I also love movies and I’m involved in the Hamilton film club, which is a fantastic community group that brings some lovely and unique films to town.
Travel is something else I really enjoy. I think I’ve been to England almost seven times already and I just adore the history and the countryside. It reminds me of where I grew up. I’m originally from Ulverstone in Tasmania and I also appreciate getting back there to visit family when I have time.
Digital and transport transformations
The biggest challenge we face is to continue to deliver services and infrastructure in an environment of rate capping and increasing community expectation of local government.
We are also working hard to improve the relationship between Council and the community. In the past, our engagement and communication hasn’t been a strong point for Council and it has been a challenge to build trust with our residents. We are committed to improving the way we do these things and increasing transparency in our decision-making.
Council is doing some really positive work in the Digital Transformation space, which is exciting for our region. We have recently been awarded the national award for Digital Innovation in local government and are seeking funding to support the commencement of works towards transforming the Greater Hamilton region into a smart connected community. This would have huge economic benefits as well as improving the liveability of our region for residents and visitors.
We are one of eight Victorian councils who have launched a comprehensive public transport strategy as the first step towards lobbying for improved rail and coach services to boost business, tourism, health and education in Western Victoria.
The study recommends increased passenger rail and coach services between Ararat and Melbourne and return of passenger rail services to other parts of Western Victoria including Horsham and Hamilton. It also recommends extra coach services to improve connections between road and rail services across the Wimmera and South West Victoria and into South East South Australia. Increased access to public transport would boost tourism and economic development in our region and Council will continue to advocate to State and Federal Government to fund the recommendations of the study.