Port Phillip: The new shining city upon the hill

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By Daniel Wilson

As ethnic nationalism sweeps across the US and elsewhere, the old adage that America is a ‘shining city upon the hill’ – a beacon of optimism, liberalism, equality and democracy – no longer holds true.

It would seem however, that the cosmopolitan City of Port Phillip has not succumbed to the thrall of chauvinism. Following a competitive election, Councillors have decided that two of the women among them are the most qualified to lead.

Re-elected Councillor Bernadene Voss will again serve the community as Port Phillip’s Mayor, and first-time Councillor Katherine Copsey was voted in as Deputy Mayor.

In her acceptance speech, Cr Voss said, “Now more than ever before there is the need for a voice of reason, in a post Brexit, post Hanson and post Trump world.”

Cr Copsey told St Kilda News, “Like many people, given recent international developments such as Brexit and the election of Trump, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about democracy. These events highlight the important work we have to do to strengthen our democracy here in Port Phillip. Councillors can contribute to that by being accountable, transparent and communicating effectively with locals – that means both leading, and listening.”

A new sceptre is haunting the free world – the sceptre of ethnic nationalism. For the first time in decades, anti-Semitism has infected the bloodstream of American politics.

That it no longer is the normative power it once was is evidenced by the voters of Port Phillip, who have resoundingly rejected that false aesthetic and voted in Councillor Dick Gross, heralding a return of Jewish representation to the Council. Our quarter of Melbourne can now find Jewish representation at all three levels of government: Federal, State, and Local.

Cr Gross, who is in his sixties, happens to be the oldest on Council. The youngest is newly-elected Councillor Ogy Simic, who is in his twenties. His background is Bosnian. In 1998 he fled Sarajevo to escape the war that robbed him of a father. He told St Kilda News, “Since arriving in Australia as a refugee and training as a lawyer, I’ve worked hard to promote social inclusion and respect for human rights and I will continue this work on Port Phillip Council.”

Speaking on behalf of Council, the Mayor, Cr Voss, said, “We have committed to act as a team with integrity, respect, honesty and accountability. These values and behaviours will foster a high-performing Council which is attuned to its community’s needs.”

Cr Voss said the nine Councillors were committed to listening to, and valuing, all members of the diverse Port Phillip community. “Now, more than ever before, there is the need for a voice of reason. A voice, that stands with and supports vulnerable communities and values equality, is critical.”

Front row, L – R: Ogy Simic, Bernadene Voss, Katherine Copsey Back row, L – R: Marcus Pearl, Louise Crawford, tim Baxter, David Brand, Andrew Bond Photo supplied by Divercity & Chris Cassar

Front row, L – R: Ogy Simic, Bernadene Voss, Katherine Copsey
Back row, L – R: Marcus Pearl, Louise Crawford, tim Baxter, David Brand, Andrew Bond
Photo supplied by Divercity & Chris Cassar

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