Independent Deputy Mayor of Inner West Council Pauline Lockie never planned on becoming a political representative.
As her first term on council comes to an end and she campaigns for re-election for Damun/Stanmore ward, she told the Independent it’s the work of local government that makes life in the inner city great.
“Whether that’s making sure we have great parks, great pools, footpaths that we don’t trip over, roads that don’t have huge potholes in them, to knowing that we have grants programs that allow local artists who are just starting out to build a career and really thrive here,” she said.
“It’s something that, as a councillor, I can really have an influence on and help make them as great as they can possibly be.”
Lockie’s journey in local government began with a great big roadway.
She moved with her family to St Peters in 2014, and quickly learned that WestConnex was about to impact her new neighbourhood. Her newly purchased home was set to be acquired by the state government as part of the controversial toll way project.
“I realised that I can either sit back and take that, or I can step up and stand up for my community,” said Lockie.
She became one of the spokespeople and organisers of a community driven campaign against WestConnex, which got her involved in wider ideas around sustainable, liveable cities, particularly in an age of climate change and high density.
The compulsory acquisition process was brutal, “I dealt with a lot of people who were suffering real mental health issues as a result of what the government was putting them through and finding myself in a position where it was hard for me too, but I could speak out, not just for us, but also all of these other people who felt like they didn’t have a voice in that process.
“Seeing the value of being able to support other people who really needed it and force change at that government level ended up being one of the reasons I put my hand up to council.”
As an activist, Lockie saw how much independent voices were needed in local government.
WestConnex was “an example where I think genuinely the Labor representatives we had in our local community were also opposed to that project, and also horrified at the impact it was going to have on the local community.
“But because the party had supported the project, that was always going to put the brakes on how hard they could fight against it, so I think being freed from having to abide by party rules, by party platforms and just being able to make decisions based on what will be in the best interest of the local community is absolutely what people should be looking for at local council level.”
Local government elections were postponed from September 4 to December 4 due to lockdown, but the mayoralty vote took place as per usual.
Lockie was voted in as Deputy Mayor last month, with Greens councillor Rochelle Porteous winning the mayoralty. They will hold their positions until December when another mayoralty vote will take place with the new pool of elected councillors. Porteous is not running for re-election.
In 2017, a bid by Lockie for mayoralty was defeated by Labor councillor Darcy Byrne, and Liberal councillor Julie Passas was sworn in as Deputy Mayor, which was seen by critics as a move by Labor to reward Passas for her backing, and activating a Labor/Liberal alliance on Inner West Council.
Lockie said despite it being only a short period of time that progressives have taken the top spots on council, she’s seen a positive change which she hopes will continue.
She wouldn’t rule out another tilt at the mayoralty, either.
“We’re a progressive community in the inner west, and I think people expected there to be a progressive alliance, and not one that tilted towards a conservative aspect.
“My key concern is to make sure we can have the most progressive and collaborative and collegiate leadership that we can possibly have, because I think that will deliver the best outcomes for the community,” she said.
Lockie is proud of addressing big issues at the grassroots level, such as racism, supporting the LGBTIQ+ community, banning sales of animal fur or skins from council properties, and leading the push for council to develop its first gender equity strategy to help address domestic and family violence.
The #RACISMNOTWELCOME campaign she worked on with the Inner West Multicultural Network has been rolled out to councils across Sydney, with the Australian Local Government Association endorsing the campaign and calling on councils across the country to adopt the initiative.
Fighting for equality is a passion for Lockie. She said the diversity she loves so much about the inner west was missing when she was growing up.
“I grew up in the Central Coast as an Indonesian Australian kid who did not have a lot of people around me who looked like me or sounded like members of my family did.
“Growing up as a mixed-race kid, you’re very conscious of the horrible, corrosive effect discrimination has on people, so fighting back against that has always been a passion of mine.”
In terms of her disappointments on council, she names the tree DCP, which has seen a loss of 14 hectares of tree canopy across the inner west and is something she is committed to fixing if re-elected.
Other improvements she hopes to make include councils consultation and basic services, continuing to support local businesses and creative industries and making sure development delivers on affordable housing.
Her message for constituents: “if you want an independent voice representing you on council, then that’s what you’ve got to vote for, that first preference vote is so important for Independents because we can’t rely on having that name recognition,” said Lockie, “because it’s just me.”