Councillor profiles

Q. How long have you been on Council? What attracted you to the role?

I was elected to the West Arnhem Council in 2008 and was attracted to the role because I wanted to make a difference for my people…the people of Maningrida which then became part of the much larger West Arnhem Shire.

Q. Why did you become involved in Local Government?

I wanted to be a voice for my community and make a difference now and in the future.

I'm very passionate about improving the standard of living in Maningrida and West Arnhem Shire overall.

Q. Tell us about your Local Government area?

Based in Maningrida on the coast in beautiful Arnhem Land, I have the best job in the world…fishing, hunting, more fishing.

West Arnhem has four wards, of which Maningrida is one of them. It stretches from Kakadu in the west and encompasses a big part of the Arnhem Plateau. We also have Croker Island and Goulburn Island off the coast of the Coburg Peninsula (one of the most northerly points in the top end).

All in all, 50,000 square kilometres, that's just a touch under the size of Tasmania, but a population of less than 7,000 people.

Q. What makes your council area special or different?

Again, I get to live and work in one of the most beautiful and remote parts of Australia an area that experiences extremes of weather from one end of the year to the other.

This region has been continuously inhabited by indigenous people for tens of thousands of years, and is a very special place.

Q. What are they key challenges facing you and your Council?

Isolation and seasonal inaccessibility to remote communities and the associated high cost of freight and housing.

A historical underfunding of infrastructure has left our communities disadvantaged compared to what residents down south take for granted.

Q. What things should local government be focussing on for the next decade?

A concerted effort is required to bring infrastructure and communications technology up to standard. The cost of doing business is high, too high.

Local Government can also play a significant role in community development and improvement of social wellbeing.

Q. Council amalgamations have been in the news of late. How do you see them working?

Amalgamation has bought efficiencies of scale to what were previously very small town councils. More needs to be done however to develop shared goals and outcomes for all residents of the amalgamated shires.

We are only three years old, so you can't expect the world.

Q. Anything else you'd like to add?

I'm very passionate about starting a West Arnhem Shire Football Team to give opportunities to young people in our communities to compete at a regional and eventually Territory level.

We have ten football teams in a town of 3,000 people in a competition that has been going continuously for more than 40 years.

We love our footy!

Mayor Damien Ryan, Alice Springs Town Council, Northern Territory

Q. How long have you been on Council? What attracted you to the role?

I was elected to the 11th Alice Springs Town Council as Mayor in March 2008. Alice Springs is my home town and I decided that it was time to give back to the community.

Although I knew the role would be challenging, I also knew that it would be equally fulfilling, and it has been. I'm very proud of the 11th Council's achievements over this time and glad that I have been able to give back to the community which has given so much to me and my family.

I have always contributed to the Alice Springs community having worked in business, sporting and community groups since the early 1970's. When I saw the Local Government elections in my area, I knew this was the time to become more deeply involved with the issues impacting on my town whilst also making a substantial and positive difference.

Q. Why did you become involved in Local Government?

My predecessor Mayor Fran Kilgariff, was standing down after two terms having served eight years as Mayor to the Alice Springs community. Fran was a well respected Mayor who diligently performed her duties. I saw this as an opportunity to offer my services to Alice Springs, to give back to a community that has given so much to me. I felt that the position of Mayor would provide the opportunity to make some positive changes to benefit the whole community.

Ultimately, what has attracted me to Local Government is the very real and tangible difference that you can make to your community. As you look around your community you can see how the decision made in the Council Chamber have a lasting impact on the people that you serve. There is no role greater nor one that is closer to the community than the role of Local Government.

Q. Tell us about your Local Government area?

The Alice Springs Municipality is a unique and beautiful region. The town has a rich composition of nationalities and can boast one of the oldest cultures, as well as some of the most amazing natural wonders in the world.

The Alice Springs community is as diverse as it is wide spread. We have a large medical industry to service the remote outlying communities, an American community who work at Pine Gap, plus a bustling domestic and international tourism industry which many local jobs rely on.

Q. What makes your council area special or different?

With a Local Government area covering more then 410 square kilometres and a population of close to 30,000, coupled with the fact that Alice Springs is a service centre to a further 260 outlying remote communities, this sure does place heavy demands on Alice Springs Town Council and its services.

Q. What are they key challenges facing you and your Council?

Litter is a key challenge we face at Alice Springs Town Council. I am pleased to say however that this 11th Council has made some real headway in this area, with the introduction of a 'Cash for Containers' scheme in July 2009. Since the commencement of this initiative we have collected more then 15 million glass and aluminium drink containers. That's 15 million containers no longer going to our landfill but also being recycled. We then use some of that recycled crushed glass as a sand supplement in our footpaths. We have also secured funding from the Australian Government of $3.5 million as part of the Regional Development Australia Fund and Council is looking forward to upgrading the landfill to a regional waste management facility.

Although Council has made some great inroads on the litter issue, there are still other challenges to overcome for our community. These include housing and land shortages that create some difficulties in attracting workers and professional people to our region. Plus there are the challenges related to urban drift, limited airline services with only one carrier to the region and all these issues are further compounded by the fact we are a long way away from the decision makers in Canberra and Darwin.

Q. What things should local government be focussing on for the next decade?

Looking at the future I think it is important for councils to be on the front foot with clean energy such as solar. In Alice we are proudly a Solar City of which the Alice Springs Town Council is the lead proponent. Plus we are embracing new technologies and initiatives such as the Alice WaterSmart program which will see water savings for our parks and gardens. This is innovation thinking for a desert city.

I believe that Local Government should be focusing on good governance and building the next generation of leaders. I'm also concerned by the growing cost of infrastructure and the challenge this presents to Councils.

Q. Council amalgamations have been in the news of late. How do you see them working?

Alice Springs Town Council is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and Shire Council's are only three years old, we must continue to assist these Shire Councils so they can prosper. Council has been asked to take up a lot of NT and Australian Government responsibilities, which can only truly work when adequately funded.

Another issue we continue to come across as a regional and remote community is that at both the levels of government above local government, there is little to no understanding for the unique challenges placed on remote communities.

Next month we will profile two councillors from Western Australia