DUBBO councillors lead busy lives and are not expected to attend one of the most important days on the city’s calendar, the elected representatives say.
As more than 300 people watched 19 residents from 11 countries make the pledge to the country, 10 out of 11 councillors were nowhere to be seen at Dubbo’s Victoria Park on the weekend.
Dubbo mayor Mathew Dickerson confirmed there were no other councillors present and said he was not responsible for his colleagues’ attendance on the day.
“They commit a lot to council and they can’t be at every function. Their role is to organise the day and that’s the most important part,” he said.
Cr Bill Kelly said he was not able to come to the celebrations because he was busy with family.
“I don’t need to turn up, it’s not my role or duty,” he said.
Cr Kelly said the mayor’s presence at the celebrations was sufficient as he represented the councillors.
He believed residents did not expect to see their elected leaders at public events.
“People expect him (the mayor) to be there because he gets paid above and beyond what councillors do,” he said.
Cr Greg Matthews said he had no real excuse for his absence at Victoria Park.
“I’m disappointed other councillors thought it was OK,” he said.
“People expect us, at least a majority of the group to be there, it’s not an unrealistic expectation.”
However, he said councillors were normal residents who at times had other priorities on Australia Day.
Cr Matthews played golf in the morning and visited his father in the nursing home.
It was not compulsory for the city’s leaders to attend public events, he said.
“If residents feel passionate about changing this, they should have their input at the current local government review,” he said.
Cr John Walkom said he was on holidays visiting family but would have been at Victoria Park if he was in the city.
“The other councillors who were in the city should’ve been there,” he said.
“You are an elected representative of the city and with that comes an expectation to be there, especially at a significant event like Australia Day.”
Deputy mayor Ben Shields was working on Australia Day and said more councillors should have been present.
“A lot of people get confused thinking the councillor’s job is full time, but it’s not, we all have other jobs and are busy,” he said.
Cr Shields refused to comment when asked if the city’s leaders would have acted differently if it was an election year.
The elected representatives of neighbouring councils were out in force for their Australia Day celebrations.
Seven out of 12 Orange councillors and three out of nine Bathurst councillors made an appearance.
The Daily Liberal received no response from councillors Allan Smith, Greg Mohr, Kevin Parker, Tina Reynolds or Rod Towney at the time of print.