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The community respond to naming of the footbridge at Pat Cullen Reserve. Photo: Upper Lachlan Shire Council's Facebook page
The community respond to naming of the footbridge at Pat Cullen Reserve. Photo: Upper Lachlan Shire Council's Facebook page

Is democracy dead?

The Upper Lachlan Shire Council at its meeting on September 19 has named the footbridge over Kiamma Creek with disregard for the wishes of our community. Following public consultation, our democratically elected representatives appeared to have ignored the 20 submissions against the suggested name, but decided that eight submissions in support were a correct majority.

I wonder what Dame Mary Gilmore would say when the opinion of the community is so blatantly ignored.

It would appear the public has been deceived when, at the previous council meeting, it was unanimously agreed a policy would be prepared so naming of public infrastructure could be undertaken in an open and transparent procedure. At the same August meeting, a request was received from the Crookwell Community Men's Shed for approval to initiate a 'Walk of Fame' to recognise citizens of the area who have gained recognition for outstanding achievements in industry, agriculture or on the sporting fields, et cetera. An objection was lodged, but unfortunately the council did not see fit to even discuss or consider this request despite a staff recommendation for the council to make a decision.

These actions by the council must raise some serious questions if a small one interest group can affect council decisions that appear to be the opposite of the majority of views in the community. It may be time to identify those councillors who voted against community wishes and used the memory of Dame Mary to kill democracy.

Let's complete what would now be the 'Walk of Shame'. My active and passive involvement in local government extends over 70 years and I am bitterly disappointed but not surprised by these events.

Don Southwell, Crookwell

Something about Mary

I am dismayed at the heat in much of the debate regarding the decision to name the new footbridge after Dame Mary Gilmore. Open debate is fine, but much of what is being said is at best misinformed or uninformed, and frankly a slap in the face to the volunteers who for 10 years have worked to develop and improve the Reserve.

"She was a communist" and "She wrote for the communist 'Tribune' pages." Gilmore joined the Labor Party for a while, but never the Communist Party. Yes, she wrote articles in the Tribune, but also in the Australian Women's Weekly, The Bulletin, and the Sydney Morning Herald. She used the power of the pen and her talent with words to push for humanitarian reforms that we enjoy and take for granted.

"She did nothing for Crookwell" and "She left and never came back." Gilmore's stage was Australia-wide, not focused on one small town. She was the instigator and driving force behind the idea of a soldier settlement scheme. She was a fierce suffragette and helped obtain the vote for women. She suggested to the government and agitated for a child-rearing allowance. She argued and campaigned for some sort of social security for retired workers who had paid taxes. While she did not return to live or work in Crookwell, she did work in nearby Goulburn, wrote a poem about Pejar Valley and referred to our area as her roots. How many other great achievers never returned to live in their great place of birth - Hawke, Bradman, Lawson - yet still have their names extolled in and to the benefit of their birthplace?

I would argue that the wishes of the volunteers who worked to develop the Reserve and obtain the grant for the project should carry some weight.

At the annual general meeting of the Kiamma Creek (Pat Cullen Reserve) Landcare, 14 members voted unanimously for the bridge to carry her name.

None of the names I have seen or heard about in other discussions have contributed one drop of sweat, one hour of time, or one iota of any assistance to our project; but now want, often quite stridently, to criticise the council.

"The council went against the ratepayers' wishes" and "Only eight responses supported, the others opposed it." Yes, eight out of 25 is a minority, but it is easily the largest single vote. The other responses named at least 12 other individuals (two named our chairman), as well as about 11 non-personal titles. Most of the many generic titles also have some merit. But, together the alternatives were a varied fruit-salad lacking any single widely supported alternative.

The council has made a difficult, but much appreciated and supportive, decision. Thank you, council.

Malcolm Barlow, Crookwell

Longer terms and probation for council GM

With the appointment of our new council general manager, the Upper Lachlan Shire community has a right to be assured that the next general manager will act in the community's best interest and he/she will have the necessary qualifications and skills essential for vital growth and community confidence.

As this position can be held for many years, and it is well afforded, the new general manager must be given a probationary period to assure he/she is the right person for the position and there should be a minimum term where he/she should have to reapply.

Terry Chamberlain, Crookwell

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