Opinion Editorial: As a regular attendee of local policy forums, workshops and strategy sessions, I’m often asked to develop vision statements for the future. Much time is spent pondering words which, after a while, can feel meaningless. 

Of course, we all want a community which is sustainable, inclusive, safe and prosperous, but how can it be achieved?

As the Committee for Geelong embarks on developing its next four-year strategy, these conversations are happening now and need to be informed by data and the experiences of our community. But we also need to have actions that can be achievable and also have demonstrable impact.

It is time to rethink how we see ‘prosperity’ in our region. We are currently experiencing exponential population growth. This has resulted in a sense of increased economic growth for some which has traditionally been seen as a key path to improve standards of living. However, following the lead of the London Prosperity Board, evidence shows that “increasing economic growth does not automatically translate into better opportunities or improvements in health and quality of life for people and communities. Prosperity means different things to different people and a good life can be lived in many ways. Understanding this diversity is critical if we are to develop policies and strategies for enhancing prosperity that resonate with local conditions and experience.”

How do we ensure that our plans and visions for our future are truly prosperous for all?

An issue of deep personal and professional concern over several decades has been the scourge of violence against women and the need to achieve gender equity. 

During the pandemic our multiple lockdowns had a profound effect on woman and children living with family violence. The Sexual Assault and Family Violence Centre reported annual data in 2021 showing that they provided support to more than 4,300 people across services, which was a three per cent increase to the previous year. Specialist case management support was provided to 1,162 women, children and young people across the year, a twenty per cent increase in requests for the Barwon area.

According to Safe and strong: A Victorian Gender Equality Strategy, violence against women is the leading cause of preventable death, disability and illness for women aged between 15 and 44 years. What is clear is that family violence is a gendered crime with 75 percent of victims being women.

If we are serious about ending violence against women, we need to address gender inequality. Addressing barriers to the full participation of half our population in the economy and community does us all a disservice. And it is a direct cost to our economy.

Over the past few years, the Committee for Geelong has taken steps to support a range of initiatives to increase the number of women in civic and community leadership.

In 2019-20, we were able to partner with Women in Local Democracy (WILD) to increase the number of younger women to consider being candidates in local elections. We were also able to provide a scholarship for young women to participate in the Leaders for Geelong program (with support from GHMBA).

These supports continue today as we believe that having more women in leadership positions can both provide a pathway for generations to be inspired, and also help change attitudes to women in power.

If we are to be a truly prosperous community, there needs to be a balanced approach to both the social and economic factors. This means working hard to address all inequities, so we have an equal chance to live a ‘good life’ in this beautiful part of the world.

WILD’s Empowering Women 50/50 X 2025: Network Launch will be held on 24 February. Guest speaker is Dr Niki Vincent, Victoria’s Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner and event MC is Committee for Geelong CEO, Jennifer Cromarty BOOK HERE

Committee for Geelong’s International Women’s Day breakfast will be held on 8 March. Our keynote speaker is Chair of Respect Victoria, Associate Professor Kate Fitz-Gibbon and Helen Bolton, CEO at The Sexual Assault and Family Violence Centre, is guest speaker. BOOK HERE – LIMITED TICKETS AVAILABLE (ticket sales close Wednesday 23 February)

Jennifer Cromarty

Chief Executive Officer

Committee for Geelong