Fast Five with Policy Executive member Cr Cameron O'Neil
We sat down with Cr Cameron O’Neil, the youngest member of the LGAQ’s Policy Executive and Councillor with Maranoa Regional Council, to talk the year that was 2017 and what it means to represent the younger generation in local government.
Cameron was 28 when he was elected to council and offers his advice for other young people wanting to represent their local community.
HINT: it’s all about getting involved.
Can you explain your role on the LGAQ Policy Executive and why you think it’s an important position?
My role is to represent the local government interests of the six councils in the south-western part of the state, centred around the rural and regional issues that are relevant to our geography.
It’s unique for us – we’re small shires but we’ve still got the issues that the larger shires have to grapple with.
My role on the Policy Executive is important to give my part of the state a voice around the LGAQ table so that we are collectively advocating for all councils across the state.
What were the top issues the Policy Executive tackled this year?
The biggest one for this year was the state election. LGAQ’s role is to take the views of the member councils and put that forward to government all the time, but it’s incredibly important around this time in the political cycle that we can attempt to leverage a better outcome for our councils and residents.
The 10 Point Plan that went to the election this year is a stand out for the Policy Executive and for LGAQ in advocating for things that matter for our people. The litmus test of how successful that was will be in the next term of government to see how much of what we’ve advocated for is implemented.
What was your 2017 highlight in local government?
Locally for me the highlight is centred around our budget – it was a really tough year for us. We had significant devaluations and the community expected that to be passed on through their rates and it can’t be.
I stood for local government six years ago to ensure there was a future post my term in council, so I’m always looking at how we can improve our community. I want to be part of a council that brings down a balanced budget that sets our community up long after the current councillors are there doing the job they’re doing today.
More broadly my highlight was attending the Bush Councils Convention in Charters Towers. LGAQ nailed it for me and my fellow councillors at home feel the same.
It’s a conference that’s centred solely on the issues that are relevant to us – rural and regional issues. It’s a fantastic forum and I look forward to the next one in 2019.
Why do you think it’s important to have a range of ages and demographics represented in local government?
All levels of government should be reflective of the community they represent, so I think it’s vital there’s a younger generation that put their hand up to be a part of local government, as they’re doing in state and federal government as well.
It’s a little bit harder to get people in rural and regional areas because it is a big sacrifice from your business or other employment to seek to represent the community you call home.
The best decisions around the council tables are measured ones that come from the experiences that the representatives bring, and different ages bring different perspectives.
Ultimately you make the right decisions when you’ve got a spread of demographics, and geography is important as well.
What advice would you give younger people wanting to get involved in local government and their community?
To represent a community you’ve got to understand a community. People who seek to represent at a local government level – or at any level – really need to engrain themselves in the community so they understand the sentiments of the people.
I think this is an incredibly noble vocation – this isn’t a career. This is about putting their hand up to do the best job they can for the time they’re elected.
If there are any younger people in communities that wish to put their hand up I would strongly encourage it. You need to have a bit of a thick skin these days to do these roles but they are incredibly rewarding, particularly at the local level.
The decisions that you can and do make have an immediate impact on the community which you represent.