For the first time in Queanbeyan history, a First Nations councillor has taken the mayoral chair at a council meeting.
Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council deputy mayor Esma Livermore said she was thankful for the support of her community and fellow councillors.
“It feels so surreal. I never thought I’d be in this position in a political space, or even deputy mayor of the local council,” Ms Livermore said.
“Working with my community and being able to support them is what I love doing and I’m really excited to be in this position.
“This is not only an achievement for myself, but it is a reflection of the progress of reconciliation in the Queanbeyan-Palerang region.”
The deputy mayor, elected on 12 January, said she was hesitant to tell people when she first decided to run for council.
“I didn’t feel safe to be able to talk about it and I didn’t feel like I was being supported,” she said.
“I remember the discussions and things said leading up to the election when I attended one of our Indigenous community meetings, including ‘we’ll never get in the council, we’re just black fellas who won’t be elected or ever put in that space’.
“Now with me in the council and being elected, I want to show the rest of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community that they can still put their hand up and run for council or even deputy mayor.
“There’s nothing that’s stopping you other than your own fear of entering a space where we didn’t think we belonged.”
Ms Livermore said she’d received plenty of support since the 8 June council meeting.
Ms Livermore, who has always possessed a passion for her community and culture, said she hoped this special milestone in her council career would encourage other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to put their hands up and have a say.
“I’m hoping this will help them understand that we need them to be able to make changes and contributions, especially in conversations around Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander perspectives,” she said.
“If we leave it to others who really don’t have that same understanding, we’re going to be stuck in that space where reconciliation and moving forward isn’t working.
“I’m really lucky to be on a council that’s very progressive and willing to listen, learn and advocate for reconciliation.”
Ms Livermore has previously been an Indigenous student support worker at Karabar High School and Queanbeyan West Public School, a member of the Queanbeyan Aboriginal Education Consultative Group and Molonglo Support Services board, committee member of the Boomanulla Raiders Rugby League Football Club, and currently sits on the Queanbeyan Health Consultative Committee.
She said her aim as QPRC deputy mayor was to continue working with the wider community, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“Working and connecting with a variety of people is important to me. I think that’s what people really love about me,” she said.
“Once you have a conversation with someone, they can teach you a different way of thinking. Learning and taking those things on board is something we need to do in life, so we can be open to other people’s thoughts.
“I do my best to get out, talk and work with everyone in the community because I think that’s what you need to do to be able to bring everyone together and have those much-needed conversations.”
The deputy mayor aims to work alongside the QPRC to upgrade road services around the region, implement a local housing strategy to improve affordability, advocate for school infrastructure to meet the community’s needs, and look at school zoning issues in Jerrabomberra and Queanbeyan.