The Valley’s Voice

Persistence: The Gippsland Peoples Council performed another peaceful demonstration outside GPAC, where Latrobe City Council held their monthly meeting. File photograph



ANOTHER protest was held outside the Gippsland Performing Arts Centre during the most recent Latrobe City Council meeting, in opposition to the decision to move ordinary council meetings solely online.

The meeting, held on Monday, August 1, saw a reported hundred-strong crowd congregate upon the Kay Street precinct to voice their concerns.

The council’s July meeting was met with hundreds of people angered at recent council decisions, including moving meetings online and the decision not to pass a motion demanding the state government rescind its decision to close the native timber industry.

Despite the tension, it was understood to be a peaceful demonstration.

The decision to move council meeting online was made to “ensure the orderly conduct of council proceedings” due to reported disruptive behaviour by the gallery.

Council’s decision is supported by the Local Government Act 2020 (Act).

A council spokesperson said they remain “committed to transparency and accessibility,” and as such, live streaming of meetings is in accordance with council’s obligations and ensures community and stakeholders can stay informed about decisions and discussions.

Council’s governance rules allow for individuals to participate in council meetings virtually for those in the public who wish to speak on a specific agenda item, and all meetings will be live-streamed and accessible to the public.

But for the Gippsland Peoples Council and those attending the protest, councils explanation doesn’t go far enough.

The poster for this month’s protest read, “State and federal government continue their overreach”, “Unite and Stand”, and “Where do you draw the line?”

Due to the planned community protest, council decided to close GPAC, The Visitor information centre, The Benjamin at GPAC Café, Traralgon Library and the Maternal Child Health Centre early at 3pm.

“The decision to close these facilities early has been made to ensure the safety and security of both staff and community members during the protest,” the council’s Facebook page read.

Former actor Damien Richardson-turned political campaigner, who received a notary after promoting an anti-vax agenda, has attended these rallies as a guest speaker and promoted the protest on his Facebook page.

“Interesting that, once again, Latrobe City Council will be conducting the council meeting online. While community members are able to watch via YouTube, enough is enough. Ratepayers must be given the opportunity to attend in-person if they wish!” Mr Richardson’s post read.

Latrobe City Councillor and Mayor Kellie O’Callaghan also took to Facebook to justify council’s decision to close public buildings in the vicinity of Kay Street.

“We remain focused on the safety and security of both staff and community members,” she wrote.

“We have been advised by Vic Pol that we should close our facilities in proximity to the protest.

“We appreciate your feedback and remain grateful to the local Vic Pol team for their ongoing support and guidance.”

Noel Blundell, an executive member of the Gippsland Peoples Council, the community group who organised the protest said, “It’s a rally to bring attention to the closure of the timber industry and bring attention to the closure of chambers and access to local government.”

“It’s community members coming out to get their voices heard. People who are affected by the timber closure and don’t have any conjugate of communication to governments – so they’re feeling very isolated at the moment and their feeling like their hands are tired.”

The purpose of these rallies, as Mr Blundell explained, is for people to get together, build networks and voice concerns.

The Gippsland Peoples Council have been attending council meetings in recent months to “learn the structure and the processes that were associated with local council and local governance,” Mr Blundell said.

“We’re quite aware there’s a structured process when dealing and operating with that forum of local government.”

The groups goal is to advocate for the community and will aim to continue planned protests to express their concerns.

Details regarding council’s livestream and access to the online meeting is provided on council’s website at: and social media