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Making Geelong Stronger

April 3, 2017

The strength and resilience of a community is nearly always linked to the connection and equality of its members. Communities come in all shapes and sizes and can be formed in a number of ways and for various reasons. However, the strength of those communities, the resilience and power of those communities, in some sense the true measure of those communities is the strength of the bond between its members.

The communities in which we all want to live, work or play are those where we feel connected; where we are included and feel like we are treated equally, in which we all have the opportunity to grow, participate and thrive. Geelong, in many ways, is one of those communities. However, with a growing population which brings a raft of infrastructure and planning needs, an economy under pressure due to our rapid transition away from manufacturing, community connection and equality can be easily overlooked as a fundamental element of success.

The Socio Economic Index for Areas (SEIFA) measures the relative disadvantage of areas across Australia. SEIFA identifies eight areas within Geelong that are ranked within the lowest 20% of areas in the country. In a city as developed and prosperous as Geelong that should not be possible. At the same time, the SEIFA data shows there are almost double the amount of areas within Geelong that are ranked in the top 20% in the country – to have such opposing levels of disadvantage / advantage does not seem possible. According to the OECD, income and wealth inequality in Australia has been growing. The top 10% of Australian households own 45% of the country’s wealth, while the bottom 40% of households own just 5%.

The Our Future project of the City of Greater Geelong presents us with an incredible opportunity to shape a different vision for Geelong. We believe that vision must include the infrastructure and economic development needs of a city that will grow to a population of 500,000.

A world-class convention and conference centre that increases economic activity, providing employment and growth is essential. An international airport at Avalon unlocking our region to world tourism and the economic multipliers that follow are crucial. A diverse, sophisticated city must foster and encourage the arts. Enhancing Geelong’s cultural precinct including the Geelong Performing Arts Centre and the Art Gallery have to be a priority. In this fast evolving digital age, ensuring our young people and schools have the very best opportunity to succeed through highspeed internet access seems like an absolute non-negotiable. All of these projects and priorities form part of the foundation on which our city will flourish and grow. They form part of the vision of a city that resolutely pursues a vibrant, growing economy that provides jobs, opportunities and prosperity.

However, the true test of our vision for Geelong, and the strength of the community within our city, will be the way in which that prosperity is shared. Economic growth and prosperity can, and should, bring the community together and create greater connectedness.

Ensuring every single part and everyone within the community has access to opportunities to succeed, and support if required, will break down inequality and fight against community dislocation and isolation. World class infrastructure and facilities within a durable, robust economy are part of the vision that the Our Future Project allows us to develop. But, as part of that vision we must include a richness of diversity, a steadfast culture of equality and unbreakable community connectedness.

In the current world environment such a vision would be a shining beacon of leadership and one of which we could all be truly proud.

BILL MITHEN

 

‘Making Geelong Stronger’ first appeared in the Geelong Advertiser, 8 February 2017