Cr Bernardine Atkinson

Tell us about your background.

I grew up in a large, loving family with wonderful mentoring from my parents and particularly my grandparents and aunties. I read for a Bachelor of Science at ANU, majoring in forest-botany, physical geography, psychology and human sciences.

I represented Australia on the international scientific expedition, Operation Drake, and came home very concerned that what was supposed to be one of the world’s last remaining pristine rainforests had actually been logged by the Dutch and Japanese. I then undertook a Graduate Diploma of Outdoor Education, living and working in some of Australia’s genuine wilderness areas and national parks for most of that year. This year alerted me to the parlous state of the natural world and how we must rapidly repair damage we have inadvertently done since industrialisation.

I became a journalist and hit a wall of misunderstanding between conservationists and the business world. With the help of Ararat Rotary, I was given a Rotary Foundation Scholarship and undertook research for a Master of Philosophy degree, pioneering the academic Discipline “Ecological Reporting”. I returned home from the UK and applied my theoretical knowledge practically to local Landcare, devising a strategy that was called the “best in the State”.  (It was funded by National Heritage Trust for ten years, with $250,000 commencement: the largest grant then made to a non-government organisation.) Ten years later, I had the opportunity to continue my research as a PhD candidate in Darwin and worked hard, with concurrent teaching responsibilities, to write a thesis “Accelerating the Transition to Ecological Sustainability”.  I have authored three books on this subject, particularly to demystify nuclear electricity and alert people to the danger of “simplifying ecosystems”. I continue to work hard in my professional and private life to help us achieve genuine environmental, cultural and economic sustainability.

What are your most enjoyable hobbies/interests?

I have tried to keep fit all my life with cycling, social tennis, walking and swimming. I really enjoy classical singing - solo and choir. I am a passionate gardener and tree grower. I enjoy creative sewing.

What do you see as the biggest strengths within the municipality of Ararat Rural City and what is your vision for your service on council?

Ararat is a beautiful Australian veranda city, surrounded by one of the most beautiful landscapes in all of Australia. In our times, new opportunities are quickly emerging for local people and the, now well-led, council to be able not only to maintain and improve infrastructure, but to realise some of our important aspirations.

My ideas include encouraging decentralization to “backyard living” in the city and its many beautiful rural towns so that all our residential vacant land is utilised. Accordingly, all our towns need reliable water and sewage systems. We shall soon be able to innovate employment through co-operative identification of opportunities revealed by corona virus’ impact on the supply chain. If we plan and network well, we could also become a national leader in new generations of Australian-built electric vehicles - even to help pioneer use of hydrogen. We might become the home of building luxury rail carriages? Nationally, we need to be prepared to defend ourselves and so I think it appropriate to advocate a squadron or platoon be established in every town, enabling the willing and able to be trained to ADF standards for disaster relief, development and defence work.

Un- and underemployment could then become a scourge of the past for our city and farming families. It is important to repair and restore biodiversity loss and create habitat by using our laneways to create enhanced visitor enjoyment opportunities for cycling, walking and camping - and bed and breakfasting - across the entire Shire. We may be able to invest in land to extend the city’s civic precinct and provide more worthwhile public spaces. Do we have hostels to house the homeless and help them get back on their feet? surely, that’s not a hard task for Council to achieve. We have the opportunity to work more productively and happily with our Aboriginal people, in our management of bush land, firefighting and restoration endeavours. We can improve road safety at Rural road crossings through petitioning for Federal funding to replace signage with some more vivid alerts. We can develop lake black to be a treasured state recreational and biodiversity resource. And ideally, we and all Australian municipalities, should be advocating for a fair share of GST funding - distributed according to population AND geographical area.  Our public services need to be combined so that the very best advice and knowledge in the nation can filter through to the furthest corners of this wide-brown land.

I have lots of good ideas, but I am more confident that across the community, many more good ideas are waiting to be discussed and translated into reality. I am delighted that I have the opportunity to serve to help realise our collective aspirations through a spot on council. I shall do my best for you and look forward to working with you all. 

 

Cr Bernardine Atkinson can be contacted via:

Email - batkinson@ararat.vic.gov.au 

Phone - 0400 524 132