- Yarra residents are staging a sit in protest and conducting their own outdoor meeting on Tuesday night after the City of Yarra cancelled its council meeting because there was nothing for councillors to do.
- Staff told councillors the meeting had been cancelled because there were “no agenda items”.
- The meeting cancellation follows the council erecting a “Great Wall of Yarra” and restricting public questions.
Residents are staging a sit-in protest and conducting their own outdoor meeting after the City of Yarra cancelled its regular public meeting because there was nothing for councillors to do.
Staff told councillors Tuesday night’s meeting at the Richmond Town Hall had been cancelled because there were “no agenda items”.
A barrier was installed at a City of Yarra council meeting on August 23.Credit:Adam Promnitz
Resident Victoria Chipperfield, a member of the Yarra Residents Collective, organised the outdoor protest to enable the community to raise its concerns and said classic council issues would be covered: roads, rates and rubbish.
“We are just a small group of residents, we don’t belong to any political party, we have just been trying to raise issues with the council for a long time,” Chipperfield said.
“First there was the Great Wall of Yarra, where council erected a barrier between councillors and the public and this time, they have cancelled the meeting, which prevents residents from having a voice or asking any questions.”
The residents plan to start the meeting with an Acknowledgment of Country and have time for submissions and questions.
“We are seeing it as an erosion of basic democratic process, so we decided if the council wouldn’t have a meeting, the residents would,” she said.
“There is a real frustration in the community that they are not being heard.”
Chipperfield asked the council if she could stage the residents’ council meeting in a meeting room on-site.
After being told she had not given enough notice, she set about organising a meeting outside the town hall, with participants bringing a chair.
All Yarra councillors are invited and at least three have accepted: Stephen Jolly, Bridget O’Brien and Anab Mohamud.
Theresa Saldanha, a member of the Yarra Residents Collective, did not think the evening would be too tense.
“People are bringing their own camping chairs. I highly doubt it will be rowdy, but it will hopefully have a lot of discussion,” she said.
Saldanha said the cancellation came just weeks after the City of Yarra restricted public questions at meetings.
“This would have been the perfect opportunity to say we don’t have any big agenda items so let’s open up the meeting for more community question time,” Saldanha said.
“It’s the whole issue of the council not getting that community is part of the council … they’re trying to shut out the community.”
Jolly said he had not been involved in organising the alternative meeting but would attend.
“It is unbelievable that anyone could argue that there is nothing to talk about,” he said.
“Cancelling a meeting has never happened before in the history of Yarra in 20 plus years. If democracy is denied inside the council chamber, they will bring democracy to the streets.”
A spokeswoman for the City of Yarra said the council encouraged and promoted community participation in decision-making.
“Amendments to council meeting schedules occur across the local government sector from time to time, with councils merging, deferring or adding additional meetings,” she said.
“Yarra conducts its meetings on a three-weekly cycle, unlike many other Victorian councils, which only meet monthly.”
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