Regional sitting to focus on flood-affected communities

13 October 2023

The next regional sitting of the Legislative Council will be held at the library in Echuca.
The next regional sitting of the Legislative Council will be held at the library in Echuca.

When the whole of Victoria’s Legislative Council visits Northern Victoria in April 2024 to hold a parliamentary sitting in the regional city of Echuca, the focus will be on communities still recovering from devastating floods.

The major natural disaster that hit the region in October 2022 prompted bipartisan support for the upper house to travel out of Melbourne and rekindle the tradition of holding a formal sitting away from the state capital.

It follows on from the Legislative Council’s successful 2021 regional sitting held in Bright, which was the first time in a decade that such a large-scale parliamentary event had been conducted in regional Victoria.

One member of the Legislative Council at the centre of the push to have regular regional sittings of parliament is Wendy Lovell, Member for Northern Victoria and Legislative Council Deputy President.

‘The regional sitting will be an effective way for members of the Legislative Council to hear directly from victims of the October 2022 floods on what further support is needed on the ground,’ Ms Lovell said.

‘A regional sitting of the Council in a flood-affected local government area will also provide an economic boost for local communities as they recover and rebuild from the devastating flood event, and educational opportunities for schools and community members.’

Supporting flood-affected Echuca and surrounding region is an important focus of the upcoming Legislative Council sitting.

Similar thinking was behind the decision to hold the 2021 parliamentary sitting in Bright, a small town almost four hours to the north-west of Melbourne, surrounded by the snow-topped caps of the state’s beautiful alpine region.

The choice of location was not a coincidence and followed almost a year of meticulous planning.

Severely affected by a decline in domestic tourism after the 2019-20 bushfire season, followed by a further drop in economic development because of lockdowns associated with the COVID‑19 pandemic, the township was selected to draw attention to the consequences of the bushfire disaster and showcase the recovery efforts to politicians.

Ms Lovell attributes the significance of the Bright sitting to it being the first regional sitting focused on the aftermath of a natural disaster. She believes the Echuca sitting will have just as much meaning.

‘Post-bushfires, there were people wanting to come together to discuss community recovery,’ she said.

Alpine Shire Mayor John Forsyth remarked on the impact that the parliamentary sitting had on the local community.

‘The overall awareness of the Alpine Shire, and in particular Bright, throughout wider Victoria was of benefit,’ he said.

Alpine Shire Mayor John Forsyth addressed the Legislative Council 's 2021 regional sitting in Bright. Photo by Jean-Pierre Ronco

‘There was definitely a lift in the confidence of traders during the visit. It was an overall positive exercise.’

Councillor Forsyth recommended that other local government areas consider taking up the opportunity should they be invited to do so.

‘If asked, other shires should welcome the experience.’

According to Legislative Council President and Member for North-Eastern Metropolitan Region Shaun Leane, the regional sitting in Echuca on 18 April 2024 will not only give the general public an insight into the inner workings of the parliamentary system, but it will also provide parliamentarians with the opportunity to show their commitment to Victorians no matter where they live.

‘We know the region was hard hit by floods in 2022, and this will give MPs from across the state a chance to engage with those communities as they continue their recovery,’ Mr Leane said.

‘It will be an important occasion for members to show that the Legislative Council is here for all Victorians.’

The Legislative Council’s formal sitting will not be the only event to be held that week in the flood-affected region. Community members will be given the opportunity to participate in a range of other activities involving MPs and parliamentary staff.

In addition, a parliamentary inquiry into the 2022 flood event in Victoria is continuing, with the Legislative Council Environment and Planning Committee set to table its report in June 2024.


About the Author

Ford Carter

A participant in the Parliament Express program conducted by the Parliament of Victoria in partnership with Express Media. The program provided mentoring and engagement experiences, leading to a series of articles written by young Victorians for the Victorian Parliament's website.