Greater Shepparton may soon elect local Aboriginal man, Tom Day, as its first Indigenous councillor after voters head to the polls this weekend.
Laura Morelli

21 Oct 2016 - 12:22 PM  UPDATED 21 Oct 2016 - 12:25 PM

For a region with one of the largest Indigenous communities in Victoria, this election is an historic opportunity to have an Indigenous voice on the council.

Tom Day’s campaign platform focuses on youth unemployment, regional development, and building a diverse and harmonious community with equal opportunity for all.

After 15 years of experience engaging with Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth and migrant communities, Tom sees this election as a critical moment to have a council that represents the true diversity of Shepparton.

“I decided to run purely because I care about people and the community at large," he said.

"The unemployment rate of our youth is now over 10% and our region is seeing a fall in economic growth compared to the rest of Victoria." 

Indigenous empowerment and employment is Tom’s focus. He wants to see a council that aims to achieve beyond its Reconciliation Action Plan – that includes a commitment that 5% of its workforce must be of Indigenous background.

Mr Day says he has innovative ideas needed to promote economic growth and reduce the soaring unemployment facing youth and other marginalised groups within the Greater Shepparton region.

"We need a council with the vision to innovate, and that is willing to encourage and improve economic opportunity for its diverse community.” 

Longest standing Shepparton councillor, Kevin Ryan, says the election should be open to everybody.

"As a multi-cultural society and also by having one of the largest Aboriginal communities, Shepparton needs to have a leader who knows his people, his job and his surroundings."

This year there’s 29 different councillors standing, a number that has increased greatly over the years, according to 72-year old Mr Ryan, who began his position as councillor aged 27. Now after 38 years of council work he says more work needs to be done for the future of Shepparton. 

"Councils have now got to become businesses, they’ve got to look at the industrial side and the municipality, it’s the basis for future employment and development."

On his final day as councillor, he strongly agreed with Mr Day's focus on youth employment. 

"We need to focus on keeping or young children in Shepparton and keeping them employed; it's extremely important that we make education and jobs this the strength of the city, so young people have more chance of living and working in their home town." 

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