By SASHA FOOT, ELYSIA COOK and DANIEL LO SURDO
Ahead of the Inner West Council local elections on September 4, the Independent profiled all five Greens candidates seeking to either be elected or gain re-election to Council.
Kobi Shetty is the Greens candidate running for Baludarri-Balmain, which encompasses the suburbs of Balmain, Balmain-East, Rozelle and most of Lilyfield.
If you haven’t already caught her teaching Ethics at Orange Grove Public School, speaking to Council on behalf of Mums 4 Refugees or organising her local School Strike 4 Climate in 2019, then keep an eye out for Shetty riding around Balmain on her cargo bike, with her three children in tow.
Running on a platform primarily concerned with propelling climate change action at a local government level, Shetty hopes to bring her knowledge of sustainability to the table at the Inner West Council.
“Balmain has got such beautiful heritage and green spaces. We need to be proactive in order to keep it, and visionary in trying to make it what we want it to be. We can’t just let things tick over.”
Shetty told the Independent that, if elected, she would push to turn council-run facilities green, by making public toilets, pools, gyms and childcare centres exclusively reliant on recycled paper products and solar energy.
Shetty also said she is concerned by the prevalence of parking difficulties in the Balmain ward. In 2020, she successfully ran a petition to stop the IWC from changing the parking permit system.
She said that parking had been further problematised by big state infrastructure projects, including WestConnex, the Western Harbour Tunnel and the White Bay Power Station, whereby residents have not been able to park on their own streets.
“These projects have been really upending in this area. Everyone’s been heavily affected by drilling, noise, trucks and traffic changes.”
“The state government has done what they like with projects like WestConnex but there’s a lot that Council can do to get small wins along the way, as long as they empower their residents. By mobilising the community, Council can change outcomes.”
For Shetty, running for council is about being the voice that keeps everyone informed on issues within the community, allowing residents to provide feedback and make a difference.
“It’s important that residents get a voice rather than significant changes to their local councils being forced upon them.”
As a renter living in Ashfield, Dylan Griffiths is running as the Green’s lead candidate for the Djarrawunang-Ashfield Ward.
Working at the University of Sydney and studying urban planning, he sought the opportunity to engage with local politics.
Griffiths, a younger candidate, is inspired by the incumbent Clr Tom Kiat, who was at the time he ran the only candidate under 30.
“[It is] important to have a candidate that is under the area’s median age,” Griffiths told the Independent.
Griffiths also acknowledges that 50% of Ashfield residents are renters and is driven to represent those members of the community.
“Councils are generally dominated by property owners and business owners and I think in the Inner West where there’s such a high proportion of renters it’s important to have one of us.”
Living in the Inner West for 25 years, he is eager to provide residents with access to affordable housing.
“The Ashfield Ward is the ward that suffers the most rental stress… that’s a huge issue for young people who don’t have intergenerational wealth or property.”
Griffiths considers the expansion of childcare and early education services as being crucial for the council to address.
“There’s a huge opportunity… to allow the best services that are run in certain pockets of the Inner West to be accessed across all of the Inner West,” he said. “That would include Ashfield and Summer Hill which currently do not have those services.”
His focus on providing effective and increased childcare support to the community is also driven by day-care services in Dulwich Hill nearing capacity.
An avid cyclist, he is passionate about delivering effective cycle paths to the Inner West area.
“The Inner West Council at this stage has not initiated any new active transport infrastructure projects – they’ve all been legacy from the previous councils.”
Griffiths would like to see an east-west bike link introduced so those living near Ashfield Pool can have direct access to the Petersham bike path.
Justine Langford is the Greens candidate running for Midjuburi-Marrickville, covering the suburbs of Marrickville, St Peters, Sydenham and Tempe.
With a decade’s worth of lived experience in Marrickville, Langford told the Independent that her campaign prioritises the protection of the ward’s “vibrant, thriving and rich character”.
Langford has a long history of involvement with community organisations and environmental groups. She is a community member of Inner West Council’s Environmental Strategic Group, the Cooks River Valley Association and the Marrickville Heritage Society.
With her own edible garden, solar panels and rainwater tanks, it’s no surprise that Langford is passionate about sustainability and interested in sustainable design.
Langford has been a Digital Producer at the ABC for over 20 years and is a “keen dog owner, kayaker and cyclist”.
Langford joined the Greens back in 1999, citing Bob Brown as her inspiration to do so. When asked why she wanted to be a councillor, Langford replied that “having a voice in local government is one of the most worthwhile ways I can make a difference”.
An avid supporter of grassroots democracy, Langford says that amalgamation has meant that the Inner West Council is dominated by party politics, rather than prioritising community.
Langford is concerned that high rise development in the former Marrickville Council area is unsustainable, saying that under the amalgamated council there’s been a major reduction in tree canopy and the character of the area is being destroyed.
For Langford, affordable housing and sustainable development is the answer to preserving Marrickville’s arts, creative and live music sectors.
“We don’t want to lose the creative industry that lives in Marrickville to housing which is becoming less and less affordable.”
Langford has also lodged her own petition to upgrade Calvert Street Car Park, detailing a large infrastructure proposal that would create a community hub for Marrickville residents.
Her petition calls on the NSW government to fund “a brand new public space that would immensely improve the liveability of our area”.
Liz Atkins is running as the Greens candidate for the Damun-Stanmore Ward.
A former federal public servant for thirty-three years, Liz Atkins has exhaustive political and public policy experience.
After finishing her Law degree at the University of Sydney, she shifted away from conventional legal practice and went into public service as an avenue for change.
Atkins told the Independent that public service allowed her to “consider what the law should be and make a difference that way, rather than working for the law”.
“When I retired I wanted to make a difference … so when I looked around and saw where I could make a difference, well I could be a Councillor.”
Living in the Inner West area for over twenty years, she is well accustomed to the issues and concerns of local residents.
Atkins understands that there has been insufficient attention afforded to public toilet facilities in the Inner West.
She says that the Council needs to consider issues of accessibility, especially since the elderly are less inclined to drive.
“There are older people who are stuck at home because they know there are no toilets,” Atkins said.
Atkins advocates for accessible and community-considered green spaces.
She launched a petition in April calling for the Council to deliver on public toilets proposed for Camperdown Memorial Rest Park in 2018.
The Council allocated funds to build the public toilets and construction was expected to commence in 2019.
Atkins identified the ward’s lack of accessibility at Stanmore Station.
She recognises that although it is a state government issue, Council can still push for change to happen.
“By allowing for a more accessible station, those with disabilities, the elderly and women with prams will be considered,” Atkins said.
Atkins is passionate about re-considering the Council’s tree removal policy and implementing affordable housing options for the entire Inner West area.
Marghanita da Cruz
Marghanita da Cruz is the Greens’ candidate for the Galgadya (Leichhardt) Ward, currently serving as the incumbent since September 2017.
When seeking re-election, da Cruz is direct when discussing her priorities for the Inner West.
“What I’m standing for is community, heritage, clean air, clean water, walking and public transport, those are things which I think are very important in connecting our community,” da Cruz told the Independent.
“The clean air, the clean water we still need to work on, but we have heritage, we have community but we need more to be connected.”
Concluding her first term with the Inner West Council this year, da Cruz looks to build closer connections with the community should she be re-elected in September.
“I think the relationship with the community has been really shattered through the amalgamation, and that’s something that really has to be rebuilt,” da Cruz said.
“I can contribute to an open and transparent Council, providing quality services and supporting a caring community while looking after the environment … I think in the next term that is what I hope to continue working on.”
da Cruz migrated to Australia with her family from Kenya in 1970, and has enjoyed playing netball, softball, cricket, hockey and golf throughout her life – a passion that has made her an advocate for women’s access to sporting facilities.
An Annandale resident of almost 30 years, da Cruz enjoys exploring different areas of the Inner West by foot in her pastime.
“We have a beautiful, walkable Inner West,” da Cruz said.
“That’s what I like best – we can actually walk to places, it’s a lovely place to walk in.”
da Cruz has been a bushcare volunteer since 1998. In this position, she has advocated to build facilities that can promote healthier lifestyles in the inner west, whilst also helping to provide an environment concerned with the protection of local waterways, and focused on harnessing energy from the sun and wind.
Now ahead of September’s election, da Cruz hopes she can continue to be placed in a position where she can positively impact the Inner West community.
“I like working with the community, and I hope I’ve been effective working with the community on things like Ferris Lane, the Magic Lane, crossing points like Croydon Road, advocacy for asylum seekers, inviting First Nations people to do an Acknowledgement of Country and providing a forum for them to tell their stories.”
Local Government elections across New South Wales will be held on the 4th of September 2021. Votes will determine who will represent each ward on the Inner West Council for a three-year term.