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Private Members Statement - Wollondilly Community Group Applications Open

24th May 2023.

"Today I speak about the silence about the concerns of the people of Wollondilly, in particular the countless volunteers, advocates and those who have given their own time to my beautiful electorate. Wollondilly does not have the benefit of a single large CBD. It is a string of villages surrounded by farms and environmentally protected lands. The people who live in these villages have to travel for hours to work and to school, while the cost-of-living pressures are constantly at their doors. For a long time the elected local members and parties have taken my electorate for granted. There are many issues that stretch all over my electorate. While some have been fixed or have been delivered by the change of government—and thank you very much for the examples of stopping the Sydney Water sell-off and halting the wall raising of the Warragamba Dam—there is a long list of issues that need fixing right now as well as other issues that are certain to arise.

That is why my speech today in this place, through you, Mr Speaker, is to the people and for the people of Wollondilly. I am here to be their voice. Regardless of whether the benches behind me are empty or full, I will take this opportunity to speak up for every one of them. What has been missing for a long time in politics in Wollondilly is the simple act of listening to each other and being represented. That is why I am excited to announce my own community groups that are open for application right now. The silence that every person in my electorate has felt from their member has been ended, and the silence that they have been forced into ends with my invitation to join with me to speak up for what is needed.

To that end, I invite every person who is interested in speaking up and giving their opinion on what is important to them in my electorate to join one of my community groups. I am very pleased to be able to host 10 major community groups covering all the areas that the New South Wales State Government delivers funding to or has jurisdiction over. As an Independent, the beauty is that I get to vote with my community on every matter brought to this place—something I am sure that the Government and Opposition benches will envy and hear about many times over the next four years.

While this is an amazing opportunity, without the community's support I would not be standing here. The way I see it, I need members of the community to have their say on every issue relating to them. Both Wollondilly and Wingecarribee councils have community groups that feed information to both councils, but these existing groups do not cross over council boundaries and are reliant on the limited resources of the community service teams at the councils. While there are many very energetic people in these groups, often outcomes are attached to delivery plans and longer outcomes of the councils. The long drawn-out process of the council community groups unfortunately has led to a lot of disenfranchisement of community members and, no doubt, council officers who are frustrated by the process.

My groups will cover all areas including health; education; environment and sustainability; heritage, tourism and the arts; diversity and inclusion; small business, jobs, rural lands and farming; planning and growth; roads and public transport; emergency services and recovery; and sports, recreation and community spaces. The outcomes for these groups will depend on each individual area and topic. The outcomes that the groups will work towards will include but will not be limited to ministerial representation, information sharing, policy framework, legislation review and intergovernmental engagement. The groups are intended to have scopes that cover the major areas of government departments and service provision that are supplied by New South Wales Government funding.

There are a number of areas that are not covered, including justice and more sensitive matters. Obviously those will be worked on directly by me and the office, due to their nature. I hope the membership I am seeking for these community groups will be diverse in experience, gender, age and location. The community groups are not meant to be an echo chamber of my supporters. I strongly believe the diversity of opinions of residents should be valued in each area. I will value these meetings. I am allocating staff members to facilitate and ensure diverse opinions are heard respectfully and that matters are worked on towards providing a voice to the residents' needs.

I look forward to receiving community applications for these groups over the next couple of weeks. Interested members of the community will soon have an application form in their letterbox and applications are open on my website right now. For other people, I am sorry to say that my community groups will be limited to the residents of Wollondilly and Wingecarribee. Others in the Chambers who have been listening will truly know my community is my major priority. I am very glad to invite all of you to come and visit. When you come, if you have the chance, the kettle is on and my staff are waiting for you. There is a welcome mat at the door, the blinds are up and there is even a bowl with some water in it for your dog."

TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr David Layzell): I thank the member for Wollondilly for the invitation and look forward to that cup of tea—and maybe even a scone.