By Parker McKenzie
The new mayor of Yarra Ranges Council will be a familiar face to local residents, with Councillor Jim Child returning as Mayor of the Yarra Ranges local government area.
“I’m excited about it and I’m humbled by it too,” Mayor Child said.
“Since being involved with council and coming back to be a councillor in 2012, I’ve just sensed that we are probably living in one of the best places you could possibly live.”
Mayor Child was first elected to local government in 1982 within the defunct Shire of the Upper Yarra, which was replaced with Yarra Ranges Council in 1994 through a merger of surrounding shires.
He was president of the Shire of the Upper Yarra in 1985, and has been the councillor for the O’Shannassy ward for nine years.
He acknowledged the last year has been one of the most challenging for local residents that he can remember, but commended the community for their ability to deal with pandemics, bushfires and natural disaster in recent times.
“In these troubled times we are in at the moment, they look after themselves and there is this sense of resilience as well,” he said.
“What’s really helped us as a council is being able to engage with the community and of course help those who do need assistance, but I’m just so proud to be involved with the community and see that resilience.”
Mayor Child is now in his second stint at the head of Yarra Ranges Council, replacing Cr Fiona McAllister as mayor after her term finished.
He said the council’s biggest task will be ensuring the local community can thrive after 262 days in lockdown since the beginning of the pandemic.
“There are great opportunities out there for the community to engage in to get a feeling of accomplishment and getting back to business as usual.”
Facilitating the transition back to normality after the lockdowns in Victoria will be a major goal of Mayor Child’s 12 month term.
“Post-pandemic we need to strive to move ahead, get out of this and give back that sense of normality.”
Another major challenge will be the transition away from the natural forest timber industry in the area and ensuring the local community is supported through these changes.
“That’s going to be a significant issue to deal with in the Upper Yarra and we have to work with the government and communities there.
“Part of the state government’s forestry plan is to deal with looking after our communities as they come through that transition,”
Tourism is another area that the new mayor believes will see growth, employing thousands in the region and is an industry that will have a strong bounce back after being affected heavily by lockdowns and border closes.
He said the pandemic has changed the way Victorians view travel and made the Yarra Ranges an attractive tourist spot for intrastate travel.
“During the restriction period and coming out of limited travel distances, what do people do? They come in, they visit their closest region and that’s what we are seeing here.
“The most significant changes we’ve seen in the past 10 years is how the metropolitan communities have awoken to us.”