Ministers hear area’s issues

September 01, 2017

Seymour teenagers Chloe Thomas and Cooper Clydesdale made their voices heard.

David McKenzie at the Goulburbn Regional Assembly held in Seymour on Wednesday.

For Seymour teenagers Chloe Thomas and Cooper Clydesdale, it was a chance to have their voices heard by the state’s key decision makers.

More than 100 locals packed into Seymour Football Club’s rooms on Wednesday for the second Goulburn Regional Assembly — a type of focus group for regional Victoria.

Young and old from Seymour and across the Goulburn Valley shared tables with six of the state’s key ministers to discuss how to solve the problems of the area.

‘‘Our school was looking for young students to participate so we could import our ideas into the community,’’ Chloe said.

She listed mental illness and the disparity between the services available in her town compared to Melbourne as some of her key concerns.

‘‘They have an increased level of everything (in the city), it’s not that we are missing out, but there are gaps and that is why we are here,’’ Cooper said.

The two voiced their concerns in the presence of Education Minister James Merlino, but were surprised that mostly just sat and listened.

‘‘I was expecting a little bit more input, but I guess they were here to seek our ideas,’’ Chloe said.

Not dominating the discussion was intentional according to the minister, who said it was a positive sign that so many young people turned up.

‘‘It’s local communities and local regions that know the best what they need,’’ Mr Merlino said.

Moira Shire Mayor Gary Cleveland said the issues around the Seymour area were a bit different to those in Shepparton — which hosted last year’s inaugural assembly — or his own area, but there was a bit of overlap.

‘‘It’s peri-urban here, so it’s a little bit different,’’ Cr Cleveland said.

Every mayor from across the Goulburn Valley was there for the night, and if everything goes to plan the next regional assembly will be in Cr Cleveland’s Moira region.

‘‘It’s going to be a good opportunity to hear from people on what are the big issues of the area,’’ he said.

If the event was just an empty talk-fest or leads to lasting change is yet to be determined.

Any ideas that come from this or other regional assemblies across the state need to go to the regional sub-committee in cabinet and compete against countless funding proposals.

Regardless, Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford was optimistic about the process.

‘‘We are really only just in year two, and through the first year I think we’ve certainly spoken to and heard from a lot more people than perhaps any government has done before in this level of community engagement,’’ Ms Pulford said.

‘‘Every government department has a role in responding to the priorities that come through, every minister has a role.

‘‘It’s very important input and we value it incredibly.’’

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