A meeting at the Byron Bay Community Centre tonight aims to address resident experience in the town and will hopefully form the foundation of a community committee for the shire.
Loosely titled Building a Better Community, it comes just two weeks after a packed-out January 26 forum on the major issues facing Byron, including alcohol abuse, unfettered tourism, late-night street violence and major littering problems.
Unlike the forum, which was limited to pre-written questions from the floor, attendees at tonight’s meeting will be encouraged to make suggestions and offer feedback on possible challenges, opportunities and visions for Byron Shire.
Meeting organisers hope the group could play an advisory role to council, business and state government, while providing advocacy for residents with the key vision of restoring and protecting community spirit.
The meeting’s chairperson – longtime local real estate agent and writers’ festival chair Chris Hanley – told Echonetdaily that already he’s had an overwhelming response.
‘I feel very energised and positive about where this can go,’ he told Echonetdaily. ‘Many different people have already expressed a willingness to contribute,’ he said.
‘People who are born and bred here have much to offer, as do the new arrivals, and I see this forum as a safe vehicle for us to travel in; a way we can move to where we all want to be. And along the way, we also need to remind ourselves to be kind to each other.’
He says the recent forum addressed the present and the past, ‘but the next stage will be about the future and action’.
End the blame game
‘We need to take responsibility for ourselves as a community,’ he says. ‘We can’t continue to blame the state government or council; we have to make this work for ourselves. I’m getting the message it has to be all inclusive – everyone that I speak to wants to be empowered so that they can have a say on our future.’
Mandy Nolan, who instigated the recent community forum, says resident experience needs to be prioritised. ‘I believe that if we can improve this, then it will change the face of Byron Bay and the challenges we have faced thus far. It’s not an instantaneous process, but a process that is going to take time.
‘I am very positive though about our ability to create something new, dynamic and meaningful.’
Ms Nolan also says Mr Hanley is the perfect person to chair the initial meetings. ‘He has a refreshingly progressive view on community inclusion, combined with the skills necessary for orchestrating what could be a long process,’ she says.
‘After we’ve documented the shared visions of the community, canvassed for membership and then elected representatives, we should then have a community committee that can start addressing what the members have specified as key issues.’
The Byron Community Centre has offered to auspice this new committee.
All interested members of the community are welcome to attend the first of the Building a Better Community meetings at the Byron Community Centre on Thursday February 7, from 6 to 8pm. Come and have a say!