The Borough, a safe haven for all
BOROUGH of Queenscliffe mayor Ross Ebbels hopes his message encouraging the community to be kind, inclusive and call out racism will inspire and ignite his constituents.
“It’s very uncertain times at the moment. I was sitting at home with my daughters who are back from university. Everyone is trying to share different parts of the house and the internet, the dog’s grumpy because we haven’t gone for a walk,” Cr Ebbels said.
“We’re all a little on edge, but despite that I started to think how fortunate we are to live where we do. We’re one of the oldest townships and also an engaged community.
“There’s things we pride ourselves on: calling out racism, respecting our Indigenous community and making people welcome, that’s what inspired the message.”
Cr Ebbels said his post, which appeared on the Borough’s socials last week, was an opportunity to reflect.
“It’s a strange world we’re living in at the minute but we have to make sure we continue to show respect and empathy to the rest of the world,” he said.
“We’re the smallest council in the state but that doesn’t mean we can’t remind ourselves and others that we’re a welcoming place that takes a stance against racism.”
Cr Ebbels highlighted the various ways council action their ethos.
“Our council’s motto is ‘Statio Tutissima Nautis’, a Latin phrase meaning ‘A safe anchorage for seafarers’. Since the earliest days of Aboriginal settlement, our Borough has been a place of gathering and of community.
“The words of our motto give us an important ideal to strive towards – but a powerful motto is only words on a page unless we resolve to live by it.
“At council, this means taking action like declaring our community to be a Refugee Welcome Zone, and finding better ways to celebrate our First Peoples history in important celebrations.”
As mayor, he said he’s committed to “calling out racism” and that everyone plays a role in ensuring a community that celebrates one another “regardless of race or background”.
“Racism is never acceptable in the Borough. If you see or hear racist behaviour, it’s up to us to call it out. Calling out racist behaviour makes it clear that everyone is welcome in our community, and that racism is not.”
Queenscliff Uniting Church Community Development co-ordinator Jan Hodge said the town’s SacredEdge Festival, which is supported by the council, is testament to a collective dedication to inclusion.
“The festival would’ve been in its seventh year but unfortunately we had to cancel due to coronavirus. It’s an event that gives platforms to those who are often voiceless, including refugees, the Indigenous and LGBTI community,” she said.
“It brings everybody together, an invitation to listen and engage. We come together and hear stories from ‘voices on the edge’, told so eloquently and deeply; it stays with you forever.”
Cr Ebbels said the festival was one of several events he’s involved in and believed it’s more important than ever for people to learn from other cultures and communities, to listen to their struggles and to provide support to one another.
“Together, we can make sure our community lives up to its highest ideals, and celebrates everyone for who they are.”
To read more about how to respond to racist behaviour, head to the Australian Human Right’s Commission website at itstopswithme.humanrights.gov.au/respond-racism.