The bill of bickering


    Irrelevant, vexatious, obscene, improper, incorrect, collusive, and garbage! These are just some of the words our elected councillors use to describe each other.

    What is going on among our elected representatives? Last month Wyndham’s Cr Josh Gilligan came up with a string of 19 complaints against Cr Jasmine Hill, resulting in her suspension from official duties for four months (Cr Hill is appealing the suspension and is still serving on Wyndham City Council).

    Now you could brush this spat as a one-off, but no!

    Over at Hobsons Bay this month we find Cr Tony Briffa came up with a litany of three complaints against Cr Daria Kellander. Party politics? Or legitimate grievances? Either way the bill of bickering is racking up on our rates.


    (with reporting assistance from Mai Gill)

    There were almost a whopping 15 people at the Maribyrnong council meeting last month (well, actually, it was a baker’s dozen if we’re honest).

    It appears the attraction was a decision on a pause in the Footscray Park development. So important did the council consider this decision that Mayor Cuc Lam brought the item to the front of the agenda.

    Cr Sarah Carter put forward a motion to remove the granitic path construction from the scope of work and restrict the Western Lawn from overflows of community sports events. 

    She said the inclusion of the path in the original plans had not been shared with the community as part of the consultation process.

    “It’s quite clear there’s been a failure of process,” she said. “This very much goes against the social license and social contract that council created with the community.”

    She said the future uses of the Western Lawn would not include a home for a sporting club.

    “We will not see a stadium being built at the Western Lawn,” she said.

    Cr Anthony Tran said lack of community consultation was a “mistake we do not want to be making again” and the motion to pause the development was a “path forward”. 

    The motion included establishing an advisory committee for any future Footscray Park development plans.

    The motion to review the redevelopment of Footscray Park was unanimously passed.

    In other Maribyrnong news the council has released a review of the Public Transparency Policy for public consideration. 

    Moving the motion was Cr Bernadette Thomas.

    “These policies are what guides strong governance of council,” she said. “We need the community to understand that they exist and how they operate.”

    Cr Simon Crawford said such policies “made up the bases of democracy”.

    “Particularly local democracy,” he said.

    The Public Transparency Policy includes better access to information, reviews and adoptions regarding privacy, live streaming and health records. 

    The motion was unanimously passed, and if you are looking for some riveting bedtime reading, The Public Transparency Policy is available to view on Maribyrnong Council’s website.


    (with reporting assistance from Mai Gill)

    It was standing room only at the Brimbank City Council meeting last month. About 50 people – old and young and some still in nappies occasionally adding their voices to proceedings – had come to watch the controversial decision on the Durham Road carpark sale for the development of the National Vietnamese Museum of Australia.

    Before the proposal was voted on, Cr Thomas O’Reilly tabled a 211-signature petition objecting to the sale of any part of Durham Road for development.

    Despite opposition, council voted unanimously to sell the site.

    In tabling the motion Cr Jasmine Nguyen said the museum development was a “remarkable opportunity”.

    “The benefits and support for the museum are far outstanding and overwhelming,” she said. “Beyond being representative of Vietnamese history and culture, this museum will serve as a beacon for cross cultural understanding.”

    There was a round of applause from the packed public gallery as Cr Nguyen said the museum would “elevate Sunshine as a vibrant educational and cultural hub”.

    Cr Nguyen thanked the local Vietnamese community for its resilience, recognised wider community support efforts and the people who had supported multicultural Australia, in the progress of the Vietnam Museum Association. 

    She ended by speaking directly to the Vietnamese Australian community. “Cảm ơn ông bà, cô, bác chủ, em anh,” [Thank you respected elders, aunties, uncles, sisters and brothers.]

    In speaking against the motion, Cr O’Reilly said the Durham Road car park was not in the right location.

    “Having a space to support our cultural heritage and to pass on our stories is very important,” he said.

    “The Durham Road car park services a range of businesses including multiple medical spaces that do not have their own carpark,” he said.

    A small group in the front row nodded sagely as Cr O’Reilly said there was a “particular” lack of space “in close proximity” to the medical centres on Durham Road, making it “hard” for elderly and vulnerable clients.

    The proposal received more than 180 submissions, one of which opposed the development.

    About 57 car park spaces will be lost in the development.

    The motion to build the Vietnamese Museum of Australia- selling Durham Road car park was passed unanimously. 

    Hobsons Bay

    A proposed amendment to council meeting minutes revealed an unfolding and unruly squabble between Hobson Bay councillors last month.

    The argy-bargy was over the confirmation of the February meeting’s official record, documenting a heated discussion about an Internal Arbitration process in which Cr Daria Kellander was accused of three breaches of standards of conduct. 

    The Internal Arbitration Process this month found the Liberal-endorsed councillor guilty of one breach and suspended her from office for seven days, starting March 12.

    The Process began after Independent councillor and former Mayor, Antoinette Briffa made three allegations of misconduct against Cr Kellander, contained in an email and a facebook post.

    The October 2023 email shows Cr Kellander accused the-then mayor, Cr Briffa, of “collusive conduct” after a closed-door meeting was called to “discuss” candidates for the November 2023 mayoral nomination.

    “… predetermining decisions in pre-organised meetings of the Councillor group like this [is] collusive conduct and denies the community the ability to see decisions being made,” Cr Kellander wrote in an October 29 email.

    “This conduct should stop, and I will not be party to this discussion.”

    Cr Peter Hemphill put forward an amendment to the draft February minutes, which said Cr Briffa had three previous misconduct findings, including one at the beginning of the year when she and Cr Kellander again exchanged tit-for-tat in an Internal Arbitration Process. 

    In the amendment, Cr Hemphill said the State Government was looking to improve council conduct and it should introduce a rule of “three strikes and you’re out”.

    The proposed amendment to the minutes show Cr Briffa called a point of order, saying Cr Hemphill’s comments were “irrelevant and vexatious, equally improper and obscene” and “incorrect”.

    According to the amendment, Cr Kellander “then made some comments”, to which Mayor Matt Tyler responded that she was “out of order”.

    Cr Kellander put forward an addition to the amendment, saying Cr Briffa’s allegations of misconduct were “vexatious, frivolous and false garbage”, to which Cr Briffa responded:

    “Yup, that’s where we found you, in the garbage.”

    In speaking against the amendments, Cr Jonathon Marsden said attempting to amend the minutes “at such a late stage” was an “extraordinary abuse of process”.

    Councillors Hemphill, Kellander and Deputy Mayor, Pamela Sutton Legaud voted in favour of the amendments, while Cr Marsden abstained.

    This meant the vote was tied until Mayor Tyler used his discretionary casting vote to fail the motion.

    The unamended minutes were passed four votes to two, with one abstention.


    Wyndham City Council will be putting a controversial $1.5 million strategy to the vote next meeting, based on community feedback of a mere 12 submissions.

    Wyndham’s new Learning Community Strategy is costed at $288,136 per year for the next five years.

    Crs Jasmine Hill and Robert Szatkowski tried to get the community consultation period extended in two separate motions.

    Cr Robert Szatkowski said, however, he did not “anticipate” there would be any “additional” feedback.

    “What I want to happen is when this strategy hits the chamber next month for us to consider it, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the public hasn’t been consulted thoroughly,” he said. 

    In speaking against the motion, Cr Josh Gilligan said he could “not see the material benefit” in further community discussion because councillors could not agree on its “ultimate design”. 

    “If the strategy is not markedly different we would be forced to vote on it as it now stands and I can already see some colleagues using that to their advantage,” he said. 

    Cr Gilligan said the lack of community feedback on the draft strategy, and disagreements about its “intended purpose” were “two distinct issues”.

    Consultants Management Governance Australia conducted the two phases of strategy drafting, starting more than a year ago. 

    Phase one was an “evaluation” of the previous Learning strategy and involved 277 people, while phase two was a presentation of a “review” of phase one and involved 457 people.

    The draft was released to the public last November to January through Wyndham’s online consultation LOOP system, which attracted 415 views and 12 survey responses. 

    Cr Hill said the first two phases were “evaluation” phases of the previous strategy, and the first draft strategy for 2024 – 2029 was seen for the first time by community members “over the festive season”.

    There was a round of applause from the gallery as she said the 12 responses represented 0.0037% – “not even half of a percent” – of the Wyndham community.

    “This is unbelievable,” she said. “What are we doing, we’re meant to represent our community.”

    Council descended into disorder as Cr Mia Shaw said consultation was “not the issue here”.

    “It’s not really up to our council officers to go out and do our consultation for us,” she said. “That’s the role of the councillor.”

    Cr Shaw said she “looked forward” to seeing Cr Hill “out and about”, promoting the Learning strategy and “trying to” get more feedback from the community.

    “Because I would suggest that this is part of your role as well, and to actually have a crack at council officers …” 

    But we never got to hear the rest of Cr Shaw’s grievances, because Cr Szatkowski interrupted to make a point of order and asked Mayor Jennie Barerra to require councillors to direct their comments through the chair. 

    “Directing comments directly at councillors is very rude,” he said.

    Cr Hill said she wanted to make a further point of order against Cr Shaw, but Mayor Barerra ruled against it.

    “I’m the chair, I rule as to whether it is a point of order or if it isn’t,” she said.

    The motion to give the community more time to comment on the draft strategy before adoption was voted down by five votes to six.

    Earlier, Cr Gilligan moved to amend the resolution to include the word Indigenous in the Learning Strategy’s title, and to shorten the strategy’s term from 2029 to 2026.

    He said the strategy was not designed for “all people in the city of Wyndham”.

    “Where is our bold aim to secure a university in Wyndham, or our commitment towards empowerment of gender equality through education, what about clear targets for jobs, what about education around waste, or the commitment to the work being done about proper school funding and planning” he said. 

    “These are the things that Wyndham residents overwhelmingly care about.”

    In speaking against the motion to amend the resolution, Cr Adele Hegedich said the strategy was “very holistic”.

    “I think this is a fantastic strategy,” she said. “It deals with a number of different facets, one of which is First Nations, but it does include a wider variety of groups, I don’t agree with changing it and I don’t agree with shortening the timeframe.”  

    Cr Gillgan’s amendment was voted down four to seven.

    A decision on passing the strategy as it stands was deferred until the April meeting.

    You can see the strategy here

    A Council is only as good as the people who get involved!

    7pm Tuesday 9 April 2024 at the Hobsons Bay Civic Centre.
    The meeting will also be live streamed.

    6.30pm Tuesday 23 April 2024 at Council Chamber, Braybrook Community Hub, 107–139 Churchill Avenue.

    7pm Tuesday 16 April 2024 at Council Chamber, 301 Hampshire Rd, Sunshine West.

    6pm Tuesday 23 April 2024 at Council Chamber, Wyndham Civic Centre, 45 Princes Highway

    By Josie Vine
    RMIT senior journalism lecturer
    We all lead busy lives and don’t get time to attend council meetings or wade through council agendas and minutes. Yet local governments impact our lives more directly than any other and their decisions warrant public scrutiny. Rates, Roads and Rubbish aims to do that for you giving you a fly-on-the- wall account of council discussions and decisions.

    If you have a particular concern with your council contact: marked ATT: Rates, Roads and Rubbish, or call 0411 534 285.

    Josie Vine
    Josie Vine
    A column by Josie Vine, RMIT senior journalism lecturer.

    Your feedback

    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here



    Latest Articles

    Latest edition

    Community advocates holding placards in front of bus promoting better bus services in west

    #95 April 2024

    Recent editions


    Become a supporter

    The Westsider is run on the power of volunteers. Your contribution directly contributes to ensuring we can continue serving and celebrating our community.


    Related articles