THE New Norfolk Australia Day Committee faces dissolution at this week’s Derwent Valley Council meeting, with a council officer stating that the annual Australia Day celebration has “outgrown the scope” of the committee.
The committee is an independent group which has organised the local Australia Day events for several decades, with members nominated by local service clubs, youth groups and individuals over that time. The council voted some years ago to appoint councillors to the committee, and last year gave itself final say on the recipients of Australia Day Awards.
The involvement of council staff assisting the committee has increased in recent years, to the extent that community development officer Bec Tudor says the council has the “required skills and expertise to manage this event within its staff team.”
In a report to this Thursday’s council meeting – which remains closed to the public under the council’s COVID-19 precautions – Ms Tudor recommends that the committee be dissolved and its members be thanked for their service via a letter from the mayor and a morning tea. “Council is the organiser of the Australia Day event, working in partnership with numerous community groups and local businesses. This is the only large public event [that the] council delivers as the lead presenter,” Ms Tudor said.
“For many years council has been supported by an Australia Day Committee in planning the event. This is not a Special Committee of council,” she said. “In 2019/20 this committee comprised representatives of three community groups (Lions, Rotary and D’FAT), three elected members and two council officers. This group usually meets from September to February. “
Ms Tudor said the committee did not oversee the entire event, but focused on “elements the members are involved with”. She said council officers “co-ordinate and deliver the overall event with a wider range of stakeholders.”
“Tasks required to deliver a professional Australia Day event, that are outside of the scope of the Australia Day Committee and managed by council officers, include: managing the budget; promotion; engaging and briefing contractors; completing risk assessments; creating traffic management plans and race routes; managing council’s participation in [the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s] Australia Day Program (including the Ambassador program); running the Australia Day Awards program; co-ordinating the citizenship ceremony; [and] liaising with other council-supported Derwent Valley events.”
Ms Tudor says the purpose of her report is to enable the council to deliver a “safe and professional” Australia Day event next year, and annually thereafter. “The COVID-19 global pandemic has major implications for organisers of public events,” Ms Tudor says in her report. “An additional layer of planning, logistics and event support will be required to hold future events. Health guidelines are also subject to change as the pandemic continues, requiring more flexibility and contingency in planning. As council is the lead organiser of the Australia Day event, the community expects council to lead planning in order to ensure the safety of staff, volunteers and attendees involved.”
Ms Tudor says her preliminary work, scoping and risk assessments indicate it is feasible to conduct a public event for Australia Day 2021 under the current COVID-19 restrictions. “The present cap of 500 people in once place at a time at public gatherings is not of concern, given attendance levels in previous years have totalled around 500 over four hours.”
Ms Tudor notes that with many community events over the Christmas period in doubt due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was likely that Australia Day will be the first major public event in the Derwent Valley under COVID-Safety requirements, but there was still a high risk that it might be cancelled due to COVID-19.
“The costs of implementing the COVID-19 Safety Plan [can] be managed within the event budget. Clarification is required, however, on whether council will cover such costs incurred by organisers of other Derwent Valley Australia Day events it supports [such as] New Norfolk Pool, Bushy Park Pool, Maydena community, and if so, where that budget sits,” she said.
Ms Tudor’s report does not recommend any community consultation on the dissolution of the New Norfolk Australia Day Committee but notes that councillors were briefed on September 3 and “communication with various organisations and businesses traditionally involved with council’s Australia Day event has confirmed their willingness to participate in a 2021 event.”
The full agenda for this week’s council meeting can be accessed here.