In the aftermath of the recent Victorian election, our city region is again represented by Labor Party lower house members. The seats of Geelong, Lara, South Barwon and Bellarine were all returned as Labor party seats. While Lara and Bellarine had swings to the Liberal Party, Geelong and South Barwon had swings to the Labor Party. The once marginal Geelong and South Barwon seats are now firmly Labor.

It goes without saying, that these election outcomes have impact on our community. For the next four years, the city will have safe seats in an Andrews Labor Government which was resoundingly returned by the Victorian voters.

What does this mean for our voice to government? It will be new territory for our region which has benefited from marginal seats for some time. We have also seen the impact of local MPs serving as long-term Ministers. This gave Geelong a voice directly to the Cabinet and the Premier. With the departures of Lisa Neville and John Eren, who both held senior Ministerial portfolios, will our city be represented in Cabinet?

During the next term of the Andrews Government, local voices will need to be strategic and united to achieve outcomes.

There are still many projects and initiatives that require government support. The recent election saw commitments in health, transport and easing cost of living pressures but some important programs and initiatives slipped through the cracks.

The Committee for Geelong has run the Leaders for Geelong program for over 16 years. This program builds valuable skills, leadership and resilience and has supported many local community organisations through project work.

Some projects developed by the Leaders for Geelong participants have gone on to be an integral part of our community fabric. As an example, the Active Geelong project brought together leading businesses, doctors and researchers to address physical inactivity. It aimed to make Geelong Australia’s most active city. In 2022, Active Geelong is still delivering programs many years after the initial project was completed.

The Leaders for Geelong program is only one of nine regional community leadership programs run across the state. However, with no current Victorian Government funding commitment for 2023 placing these programs at risk.

The state-wide ask of government is for $2.5 million, each year, for four years, to fund the nine critical community programs.

The recent flood crisis devastating regions across the state highlights the ongoing need to build the capacity of community-focused leaders.

With existing funding expiring this month, regional Victoria’s ability to plan and deliver essential regional development programs has been severely impacted as it faces acute challenges in retaining staff and maintaining program sustainability.

A funding commitment for 2023 and beyond, would provide funding certainty to retain existing staff, deliver high-quality community leadership projects to support social change, increase equity of program participants and support alumni engagement.

It’s a small amount for large return and something for our newly elected local MPs to consider.

Jennifer Cromarty, CEO Committee for Geelong