Democracy is a funny thing. These days few would argue against the concept of one vote, one value. The age of the gerrymander is over, in Australia anyway.
But in order to keep things straight the Australian Electoral Commission periodically reviews the boundaries of seats that get outside the margins.
All well and good: democracy, fairness and good governance have been served.
What about Maryborough?
This town’s relationship with Mark Twain goes beyond my paraphrasing him in the headline. During his 1895 visit, the American writer described it as “… a railway station, with town attached”.
It was a fair call: the station is actually one of the rejected designs for Southern Cross Station in Melbourne.
Now, however, this picturesque town in the Victorian goldfields finds itself railroaded into its third federal electorate in nine years.
In 2010 it was in the seat of Bendigo, then in 2013 and 2016 in Wannon. Now it’s in Mallee and a five-hour drive from the electorate’s permanent federal government office in Mildura.
Fair to say the people of Maryborough are miffed. But wait, there’s more.
The council has been sacked and administrators appointed, the former long-term CEO has been convicted of misuse of a corporate credit card, and other offences AND the state MP is having her election result challenged in the Court of Disputed Returns.
Household income is the lowest in Victoria, the unemployment rate among the highest in the state and the town has the highest state percentage of people delaying medical consultations or purchasing prescribed medicine. (Source: Central Goldfields (S) Profile Vic Health).
Not a pretty picture, on the face of it.
Ray Kingston (@malleeray) recently met with some voters in Maryborough who raised their issues of most concern.
Maryborough may be an “administrative add-on” to Mallee but the town has a track record of ensuring its voice gets heard so its needs can be addressed.
This is not pie in sky, there is literally concrete evidence. In 2005, the town secured a great education precinct ensuring future generations will be better equipped for the times ahead.
The last event Ray Kingston (@malleeray) attended was the launch of the first Diploma of Nursing course to be taught at the Maryborough and District Hospital.
So what? You may think.
Bloody magnificent, I reply.
This facility was funded by the Maryborough District Health Service and the Avoca Community Bank branch of Bendigo Bank, so it was born of the community, in the community, for the community.
The first intake is about 40 students who will work at the Hospital while doing the course. That’s 40 more incomes in a town where jobs are hard to come by. That’s potentially 40 more nurses heading into local health services.
That’s regional Australia at it’s best, helping ourselves looking after each other.
Maryborough’s proof: “It ain’t where you start it’s where you finish.”
Ray and I left that event on a massive high. This really is what it’s all about.