Wangkatja Yilka woman Cr Shaneane Weldon was first elected to the Shire of Laverton Council in 2005.
Fifteen years later, she’s just been re-elected as the shire’s deputy president.
If you’d asked her in 2005 whether she’d still be a councillor in 2021, she would have said no. However, Cr Weldon said she was always committed to going the distance.
“I knew I put myself in there for the long haul, and as long as I was getting re-elected back in, I was happy to keep staying there,” she said.
“When you get re-elected (it’s because) people see the good work you do, and they have faith in you and knowing that is a stable council, there’s no problem to continue supporting you.”
For Cr Weldon, getting involved was about stepping up for the remote community of Mount Magnet, where she lived at the time.
“I got involved so I could make sure our communities were included into the Shire, so we can access the same services as the town-based community,” she said.
“I eventually moved into Laverton (which was) the same thing — just getting involved to make sure everyone is inclusive in the town.”
She said she was proud of the contributions the council had made to the town in her time.
“The Shire does a lot for everyone in the town, but I think it has improved its services to the young people.”
“There were some areas that I thought they could have done more with, and they have, and they have continued to do so well for the younger people, and also for Aboriginal people in general.”
For Cr Weldon, the distance from training opportunities is one of the major challenges in her role with the remote council.
“We’re in an isolated area, so travel distance to go travel to conferences or regional events, it does require travelling over four hours to get there,” she said.
“There are Zoom meetings and all that, but it’s not the same as having a face-to-face meeting.”
Bringing an Aboriginal perspective to her council is important to Cr Weldon. She said before she joined the Shire of Laverton Council, there was little understanding of issues facing Aboriginal communities.
Cr Weldon has helped the council develop an understanding of Aboriginal culture and the differences between mobs when relevant.
“You’re dealing with people who sometimes have no understanding of Aboriginal issues and its complexities,” she said.
“The challenge has been to get Aboriginal people’s point of view across and make (non-Aboriginal people) see things in a different light.”
Cr Weldon’s advice for any Aboriginal local councillors elected in the October round of council elections is to work hard to get to grips with the organisation they’re leading.
“Go in there to represent the whole community and really, really understand your Shire council and what services it offers. Really get to know everything about the council,” she said.
She encouraged mob leading their communities to raise their voices.
“Don’t be shame. Advocate for everyone. Speak up for your people, speak up for the town.”
By Sarah Smit