Past- Getting to this point
Virtually all of my adult life has been focused on trying to shape my society into one, which is based on compassion, respect, sustainability and creativity.
Politics has been my main interest and pursuit since High School. Whilst studying it at university, I couldn’t get enough-I joined the Melbourne University Liberal, and Labor Clubs (neither grabbed me enough, and at the time- late 1980’s-early 1990’s, my Green coloured glasses hadn’t arrived). I also co-founded a pro- Hemp magazine- Blast. Interested in global issues of justice and equality, I also studied International Politics at Georgetown University in Washington D.C, seeking a career in the Foreign Service. However, the true realisation soon sunk in that the then, Foreign Affairs Minister, Gareth Evans, would be my boss- and I, possibly working to forge oil deals so they could be toasted over, above the Timor Sea.
The ugliness of politics led me to seek to affect change outside the formal political structure.
Arriving in the Shire in 1994, my activist life refocused from the global to local. I was heavily involved with the IronGates development campaign in Evans Head- helping to successfully stop a development destroying a major Koala habitat and Bundjalung Sacred sites. Over the next 5 or so years, I committed myself to the Timbarra Gold mine campaign, near Tenterfield. From the original NEFA camp to the final push, I worked primarily as a media liaison, or, otherwise as required. Interspersed throughout quiet times in this period, I campaigned throughout Australia- Jubiluka (NT), the Tarkine (Tas), Goolengook (Vic), and closer to home- the Patterson Hill success. Alongside direct action, I created, edited, contributed to and distributed the environmental and alternative culture magazine- Tribe. Tribe was sold across the country, principally through organic/ health food shops and Environment Centres and festivals and markets, and funding was further strengthened by a monthly, One Tribe Party, usually either at Coorabell Hall or the YAC. As organiser and M.C, I used these events to spread information, and between bands, generally included: spoken word, dance, comedy and theatre, as well as children shows. Lastly, throughout this period, I also volunteered at the Byron Environment Centre- during its days in the Community Centre.
Getting back to Byron….
Exasperated at the conservative electoral inertia of the Howard years, I began to need to get active in other ways. Embarking on a five- year plan (leave, skill up, return) I began to teach Senior English and Politics in Melbourne, seeing education as a chance to inspire the next generation. Cutting the dreadlocks, marrying, working in mainstream, indeed conservative, systems, I initiated student, Making A Difference (MAD) programs, mentoring and environmental initiatives. After five years, we moved back to the Shire (thank god Jane loved our honeymoon here!)
More recent days
I was teaching English, Geography and History at Cape Byron Steiner School amidst being a Byron Shire Councilor. Four years of local government experience has taught me a few things. It has taught me more clearly how government works, how things get gone, how the wheels of change turn and how to liaise with the public service. It has taught me what residents in this area want, their priorities, their dreams and their frustrations towards the political inertia that seems all pervasive around them. It has taught me about State Government plans, processes and procedures. Lastly, the last four years on Council has taught me that I can manage both a professional career and family responsibilities, that I can put ideas into action and that I truly love being a part of the political process, no matter how frustrating, or bitter the taste some political realities have been to swallow.
Present- My new role
I am incredibly proud to be the Mayor of Byron Shire and I fully acknowledge that while I am committed to upholding Greens values I am also pragmatic about resolving the challenges facing our community.
I am husband to Jane, a Father to Frida, aged 3, and Matilda born on Monday 23rd July 2012. I am passionate about our Shire and am keen to preserve the past successes of the Greens in keeping the Shire protected from overdevelopment whilst meeting the challenges ahead with innovation, and intelligence.
“I’m about community, sustainability and integrity. As a teacher and Byron Shire Councillor, I have worked hard to keep Byron Shire liveable and affordable. Now, I am ready to be the Shire’s progressive voice as Mayor. I believe our Shire can lead the world in creating a creative, sustainable and innovative community for the 21st century.“
The magic and uniqueness of the Byron Shire has not just happened by accident, rather it is the result of empowered, active and progressive community members over several decades. Like many others, I have a responsibility to ensure my kids are able to live and thrive here.
Future- The Vision Thing
‘Byron’ is both an idea and a place. To the place, I wish to give care, compassion and intelligent enthusiasm. I want to ensure that our young can find work, move around and later, sustain families. I want to ensure our natural resources are managed with respect. I want any key infrastructure built to address climate change and increased pressures of population to be done so with the community in mind, not just visitors, holiday-makers. Whether it is in ways in which we travel, or how we cope with rising sea levels, I will strive to ensure actions are taken for the benefit of our community and our environment and for our long term residents not yet born.
Byron is also an idea. It exists in the minds of our community and in the minds of people all over Australia and increasingly, all over the world. When people think of Byron, they have the idea of a place where the community understands the abundance that exists when the individual is willing to have less, so the community has more. This comes from working less and by volunteering more, by spending time in nature and with friends, rather than just spending. It is an idea that we care for everyone, not just those able to pay for it. It is an idea that difference is not just tolerated but fully accepted. From surfers, alternatives, gays and lesbians, to the homeless and political disenfranchised, the term, ‘Byron’ has conjured the idea of political, social, and cultural maturity. It is an idea that we should seek to progress towards a sustainable future, brought about by new thinking and resplendent in local food, clean energy and innovative solutions to problems brought about from old thinking. When we represent ‘Byron’, we represent the symbol of Byron for all Australians. The biggest challenge is to continually try to breathe life into these ideas- that is my vision and goal.