• Serena O'Meley

Darebin Public Question Time & Submissions Diary - 2020-2024

Updated: Nov 4

This diary will be progressively updated with questions and answers over the term of the 2020-2024 term of the Darebin Council. - Serena O'Meley


25 October 2021

  1. Public question time - requests for questions to be read out by an officer and answered by the Mayor

  2. Vaccination - question about Aboriginal vaccination rates in Darebin

  3. DNT - request for a proper answer to my question from 27 September 2021

27 September 2021

  1. Vaccination - question regarding vaccine equity for Aboriginal people in Darebin

  2. DNT - question about composition of Darebin Nature Trust

  3. Clements Reserve - request for update regarding the acquisition of Clements Reserve

26 July 2021

  1. Minutes and Agendas - request to make reports keyword searchable

  2. Dole Avenue - query why it would cost $1million to upgrade the site

  3. Clements Reserve - query what it is taking so long to finalise the purchase

15 - 23 June 2021

  1. Clements Reserve - letter from Darebin Council about question taken on notice

  2. Clements Reserve - email exchange (16/23 June) requesting that the question be fully answered

24 May 2021

  1. Clements Reserve - request for progress report on acquisition of land

  2. Dumbarton Street Grassland - request for Darebin to lobby Planning Minister to protect the grassland

  3. Former Ruthven Primary School site - request for progress report on renaming of the site in Woi Wurrung.

24 May 2021

  1. Ruthven Primary School Play Space Community Consultation - Submission

19 May 2021

  1. Darebin Budget Presentation 2021 - 2022 (made at the Council Meeting) - repurposing the former Library and former Dole Avenue Kindergarten

9 May 2021

  1. Darebin Budget Submission 2021 - 2022 - repurposing the former Library and former Dole Avenue Kindergarten

26 April 2021

  1. Clements Reserve - answer to questions sent by letter (1 April 2021) and in Governance Report Appendix B.

  2. Clements Reserve - why was further town planning advice required before a valuation could be obtained (which is necessary before negotiations on price)?

  3. Public question time - why are the appendices now incorporated into the body of the agenda, making it harder for the public to find information?

25 October 2021

  1. Given that members of the public cannot currently ask their own questions from the gallery due to COVID-19 restrictions, would it be possible for an officer or Councillor to read our questions so that the Mayor can focus purely on the response? This will make it easier for people to follow public question time online.

  2. Indigenous vaccination rates for COVID-19 are lagging, on average, 10% behind the rest of Victoria, and in some areas as much as 20%. Can you please provide information about the number of Indigenous people 15+ years living in Darebin who: - are eligible for vaccination; - have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine; - have received a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine?

  3. At the 27 September 2021 Darebin Council meeting I asked a question relating to allegations that the Darebin Nature Trust was inappropriately spilled by officers. My question was not answered, even after I followed up with a complaint in writing to a governance officer. I again ask this question, "Can you tell me how many community nominations for the reconstituted committee have been received by the 10 September deadline, and how many of these are from members of the outgoing committee?" If you won't answer the question again can you please provide a justification with reference to governance rules?


  1. Yes it is would be possible for this to occur and there is no doubt that the volume of questions from the public does at times see me speaking continuously. However the convention at this stage is that the mayor read and respond to public questions. I have at different times in the past asked the CEO to read and answer questions to assist with the flow of the meeting and I will continue to do this when I feel it is needed. Thanks for your support and feedback.

  2. This data is not publicly available and we will take your question on notice. Today, through our partnership with the North East Primary Health Network, Council has requested that this information be provided on a regular basis. Council continues to work with the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service including partnering with the new mobile van initiative, local Aboriginal led organisations and our partners to promote and support COVID vaccination uptake in local First Nations communities. Last week there were pop-up vaccination clinics in Kingsbury, Reservoir and three secondary schools in the north of Darebin. On Saturday evening, a vaccination clinic was held at Dardi Munwurro, an Aboriginal men’s gathering space in Preston. This week there are pop-up clinics at The Hub at Northland, William Ruthven Secondary College and Dole Avenue Community Sport Stadium.

  3. Apologies that our response to your question in September did not provided the clarity you required. Our response in September noted that we had received keen interest from community members to join the Darebin Nature Trust. This was indeed accurate however we should have made it clear to you that in the interests of all those persons who had made application (including those existing Committee members who may have decided not to apply) it would be inappropriate during the recruitment process to make comment on the composition of the applications. Such an approach in our view could undermine the process, in particular in the context of the incorrect statement in your question regarding the ‘inappropriate spill by Officers ‘and allegations regarding the Committee members being offended ‘ etc . I hope this response explains why we did not directly respond to this question on the 27 September and why we have not entertained it again this evening. Council will be considering tonight a report that recommends appointees to 11 of Council 15 Advisory Committees including the Darebin Nature Trust. Whilst we have adopted this approach to protect the integrity of the recruitment process in the interest of transparency we would be pleased to report to Council via the November Governance Report the total number of applications for each Advisory Committee, the number of past / current members who applied and the composition of new and past members appointed. Council’s Governance Rules do not provide specific detail on this matter.

27 September 2021

1. There is immense pressure to open up the community once baseline vaccination rates are met in Victoria. Can Darebin Council tell me the current vaccination status (1st and 2nd dose) of its approximately 1200 Aboriginal residents, and how this compares with the rest of Darebin? If rates are lower than the general population and/or other priority vaccination groups will Council urgently lobby the State Government about this situation?

2. I'm extremely concerned to hear that Darebin Nature Trust was apparently spilled without cause and that outgoing committee members are deeply offended by how this was managed. Such people, with valuable knowledge of indigenous plants and wildlife, are not easy to find. Can you tell me how many community nominations for the reconstituted committee have been received by the 10 September deadline, and how many of these are from members of the outgoing committee?

3. Can you please provide a progress report on the purchase of three parcels of Department of Transport land within Clements Reserve?

Response from Chairperson, Mayor Messina

Question 1 - Data from the Federal Government 22 September 2021, shows that the vaccination rate of people, who self-identify as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person in Darebin is 63.20% for first dose and 42.16% for second dose. This compares to the Darebin rate of 64.4% first dose and 38.7% second dose.

Council will continue to work with the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service and local Aboriginal led organisations to support this vaccination uptake.

Question 2 - There’s been a lot of interest from community members to join the Darebin Nature Trust and officers are assessing these expressions of interest in order to make recommendations to Council. At this stage, Council will consider the Darebin Nature Trust along with membership of most other advisory committees at its meeting in October 2021.

Question 3 - Officers are continuing to work through stages of the acquisition relating to due diligence and there is a confidential report listed on tonight’s agenda that relates to this process titled ‘Clements Reserve’. The timeline for the acquisition is by nature a lengthy process, given the steps required. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide any further information relating to the details of the acquisition given the confidential nature of the matter.

Once there is news to share, it will be shared with community as soon as possible. Officers appreciate your ongoing interest in the purchase of Clements Reserve.

26 July 2021

  1. Since Darebin Council has shifted all Appendices into a single document with its meeting Agenda, not only is the document enormous and unwieldy but many of the reports that are incorporated are no longer keyword searchable. Taken together this is a serious accessibility issue for the public which I am asking, again, for Council to correct. At the very least, will Council ensure that all reports can be keyword searched? I note that there has been no follow up that I am aware of from my related question on 26 April 2021, where an undertaking was given as follows, "I will speak with the team to see if we can streamline that process to make it easier for the community to access."

  2. Darebin Council's response (12 July 2021) to my budget submission (19 May 2021) claims that it would cost $1million to remediate the former Dole Avenue kindergarten for a public tenant. This is many times more than the existing building could possibly be worth. Has an error been made in the response to me, and if not, can an explanation be given for the projected cost?

  3. Has Darebin Council made a formal monetary offer for each of the three parcels of VicRoads land within Clements Reserve (1-11 McMahon Road and the rear of 22 & 32- 34 Clements Grove) to the State Government, and if it has, when was the offer made on each parcel of land, and if it hasn't what is holding up the purchase?

Response from Chairperson, Mayor Messina

  1. Apologies for not following up with you after the April Meeting. Officers are working on a system upgrade that will rectify this issue which is scheduled to be completed by the 3rd quarter.

  2. The figure of $1M provided on 12 July 2021 is an estimated cost of the funds required to enable the building to be repurposed for community use. The works required would include hazardous material removal, general building renovation and upgrades required for building code compliance. Further investigations into the building and options for the former Dole Avenue Kindergarten site will be completed in the current year as part of Council’s Strategic Property Review.

  3. Officers are continuing to work through stages of the acquisition relating to due diligence, prior to requesting a Valuer General’s valuation. As previously communicated, the timeline for the acquisition is by nature a lengthy process, given the steps required. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide any further information relating to the details of the acquisition given the confidential nature of the matter. Once there is news to share, it will be shared with community as soon as possible. Officers appreciate your on-going interest in the purchase of Clements Reserve.

15 June 2021

The latest on the at-risk #ClementsReserve parkland in Reservoir. The Town Planning advice has been received though there is no information about why it was suddenly required. I'm guessing it was to try to negotiate down the price of the land fronting McMahon Road.

For reasons that no one will clarify #Darebin is refusing to tell me if the Valuer General valuation has been received for the land. I'm not asking for what's in it, merely the fact of its existence. Without it negotiations cannot proceed. With it negotiations should be completed within a month (or another valuation may be required).

From: [snip]

Sent: Wednesday, 16 June 2021 11:14 AM

To: [snip]

Subject: Re: Response to Council Question 24 May - Clements Reserve

Dear [snip],

Thanks for getting back to me with a response on the town planning advice.

There was a second part to the question regarding whether a Valuer General valuation for the Clements Reserve site had been sought.

While the contents of that valuation may be deemed confidential; the fact of its existence or otherwise should not be.

Knowing whether the valuation has been received would allow me to get a better picture of when the negotiations are likely to be finalised.

Can you let me know if that valuation has been sought and/or received?



From: [snip]

To: [snip]

Sent: Wed, 23 Jun 2021 23:32:09 +0000

Subject: RE: Response to Council Question 24 May - Clements Reserve

Thanks Serena for your email. Officers are continuing to work through stages of the acquisition process following receipt of the Town Planning advice, which are required as part of due diligence prior to requesting a Valuer General’s valuation. The timeline for the acquisition is by nature a lengthy process, given the steps required. I would like to confirm our assurance to you that officers are continuing to work on progressing the acquisition. Thank you again for your continuing interest in Clements Reserve.

Regards [snip]

24 May 2021

1. Do you have a progress report on negotiations for land within Clements Reserve, including whether the town planning advice referred to in a letter from Darebin Council to me dated 1 April 2021 has been received, and whether the Valuer General Valuation has now been sought?

2. There are many people in the community who are concerned about the loss of the Dumbarton Street Grassland, which one of Darebin Council's own reports recognises is of National Natural Heritage Significance (see: https://www.darebinvotes.com/post/how-darebin-council-lost-the-dumbarton-grassland). With less than 1% of Victorian Volcanic Plains grassland left, even small parcels of land are critical for habitat protection (see: Darebin Nature Trust member, Neal Masters, recently appeared on the ABC's Gardening Australia to talk about the importance of such remnant grassland areas: https://tinyurl.com/wu4ex4ht). When will representatives of Darebin Council meet with the Planning Minister, Hon. Richard Wynne, to seek to negotiate for protection of this site?

3. Council staff and members of the Ruthven Community Reference Group met with Elders on 29 October 2019 to discuss the renaming of the former Ruthven Primary School site, Reservoir, in the Woiwurrung language. This meeting drew on suggestions from the Darebin Aboriginal Advisory Committee (DACC) about returning it to its original name, if it is known, or choosing a name which may describe a natural feature, or previous use, of the site. This discussion will be recorded in the DACC minutes.

Renaming is becoming urgent because the site is frequently being confused with the W.R. Ruthven V.C. Reserve in Preston. This led to an error in Hansard which had to be corrected, and a recent error in a public announcement related to a grant. More seriously, if emergency services need to attend the site they might be sent to the wrong place. Can you give us a progress report on the renaming?

Response from Acting Chief Executive Officer, Jodie Watson

  1. Thank you for your questions Serena. Officers are continuing to progress the purchase of Clements Reserve. The matters being addressed currently are considered confidential as they relate to a legal process being undertaken between two government agencies. Ms Watson agreed to take the question on notice and for a response to be provided by officers.

  2. Council is concerned about the plans for development at Dumbarton Street, and know that the many people in the community share this concern. Darebin Council has repeatedly advocated for the protection of the indigenous grasslands at the site and offered to work with the State Government to identify alternative sites for social housing. Council has requested a meeting with the Planning Minister, Hon. Richard Wynne to discuss this matter. And we will continue to advocate for the protection of the grasslands.

  3. Council is committed to naming the former Ruthven Primary School site in the Woi Wurrung language. This is one of several sites which Council has put forward to the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Corporation requesting a name in Woi Wurrung language and this progress remains ongoing. Once a name has been provided, Council will undertake the statutory process to formally name the space.

24 May 2021

I also made a submission in relation to item 8.1 Ruthven Play Space Community Engagement Outcomes raising concerns that the following line in the report would leave the final design of the play space in the hands of officers. In response to my submission Cr McCarthy amended the proposed motion to ensure further consultation with Darebin Nature Trust and friends of Ruthven Park and it was carried unanimously.

19 May 2021

Darebin budget presentation

I have asked council to set aside $250,000 to allow for essential maintenance works at the former Reservoir Library and the former Dole Avenue kindergarten. A report on the Dole Avenue kindergarten was supposed to be presented to Council before November 2020. An interim report in March, and a final report in May, on such unused buildings was also requested. None of these reports have eventuated which is why I am trying to put this issue back on the agenda.

Former Library in Reservoir

The old Library has issues with asbestos and some structural issues and would need work to bring it up to standard. However, it is in a prime location in Reservoir, with easy access to public transport, and I have it on good authority that two community services are keenly interested in relocating to the building, namely, Merri Outreach Support Services, and Your Community Health.

Former Dole Avenue Kindergarten in Keon Park

Since 2014, the former Dole Avenue kindergarten has been languishing unused and unloved, opposite the intimidating mega structure that is the Keon Park Children's Hub.

Locals think it should be used for a community purpose - perhaps it could be a relaxed space for parents to meet and have a coffee in the gardens before picking up their children from kinder; perhaps they could even take a hobby class while they are there; it could be used for community education; or a cooperative coworking space.

The Keon Park area is in desperate need for places where people can gather and socialise. This space could be extremely valuable for building community resilience. Unlike the Hub across the road, the old building would allow people to set up their equipment and leave it in place as needed.

Since 2017, I have attended council run community consultations, signed a community petition to save it from developers, spoken with several organisations about its potential use, and met with the then Mayor and CEO to seek an assurance that it would remain in council hands, which they confirmed. Still its use is not resolved.

This building is important to residents in the North East Ward and needs to be opened up to the community.

9 May 2021

Darebin Council Budget Submission 2021-2022

At the Darebin Council meeting of 27 January 2021, it was unanimously resolved that Council, "Receives an interim report at the March Council meeting and a full report at the Council meeting in May 2021 listing all the unused and under-utilised Council buildings with the purpose of informing the 2021-22 budget process, four year Council plan and Council Vision." The resolution included directions to undertake certain investigations and costings (MINUTE NO. 21-006).

The interim report has not been received and there is no report included in the agenda of the Special Meeting of 10 May 2021. This means that there is currently no information in front of Councillors which they can use to make a determination about repurposing these unused and under-utilised buildings as part of the 2021/2022 budget deliberations.

Without a budget allocation, this could mean that there is a further delay of at least another financial year before action could be taken in respect of any of these buildings. Many in the community are concerned that these buildings are going to waste when instead they could be used for creative spaces, community hubs, or social enterprises.

To kickstart the process, I would like Darebin Council to prioritise two of these empty buildings in the current budget deliberations: the former Dole Avenue Kindergarten (see attached photos), and the former Reservoir Library. I propose that Council sets aside a contingency fund of $250,000 for associated planning, asbestos removal, and refurbishment works so that these buildings could be put to good use by the end of the 2021/2022 financial year.

(Photo credit: Terry Mason)

26 April 2021

My questions with responses in bold from Chief Executive Officer, Sue Wilkinson

  1. I asked several questions at the 22 March 2021 Darebin Council meeting regarding Clements Reserve, which were taken on notice. Why haven't the questions and answers been recorded in the minutes of following meeting and will this be corrected on the public record? The responses to the questions taken on notice at the 22 March Council Meeting were not recorded in the minutes of the next Ordinary Council Meeting ( ie the 8 April 2021 ) due to the reduced timeframes and the matters not being finalised. The responses are included in the Governance Report listed in this evenings agenda. When we get the Governance Report this evening Officers when introducing the report will explain the rationale for the approach.

  2. Ongoing delays in obtaining a joint valuation of three parcels of land within Clements Reserve continue to put the acquisition of the parkland at risk. What is the nature of the town planning advice that Darebin Council is now waiting on from VicRoads in relation to Clements Reserve and why has this advice suddenly been deemed necessary before a joint valuation is requested from the Valuer General? Council acknowledges that the acquisition process has taken some time and whilst there were delays in earlier stages, the matter is progressing as expected at this stage given the level of complexity involved in this type of transaction. The current state of this process does not present a risk to the acquisition not proceeding, rather a prudent approach is being taken to ensure due diligence in decision making by both parties who are committed through joint intentions regarding the acquisition of these 3 parcels. This includes the gathering of all necessary advice and information to progress the acquisition. Whilst this matter is of keen interest to our community, it is also subject to complex considerations to progress and complete the acquisition which are considered confidential.

  3. Darebin Council used to list Appendices to the Agenda as separate items on its website, instead of incorporating them into one enormous document. This made it much easier for the public to follow the Agenda, locate the information they required, and print out only those sections of interest. Can this process be reinstated? This practice changed in September 2020 due to a change in the way we distribute the agendas to Councillors. Whilst the combined agenda is sometimes quite large it is in PDF format, and bookmarked. I will speak with the team to see if we can streamline that process to make it easier for the community to access.

1 April 2021