Stretching from Sydney’s Palm Beach to Manly, the Northern Beaches Council’s local government area is home to more than 266,000 people and an Australian-born Croatian lady, Bianca Crvelin (née Vidaic) on December 4 2021 as a candidate for the Australian Liberal Party secured a seat as an adviser, thus entering a very important a practical role in making a difference for the Australian community living in this vast region. It is clear to me that this young woman, Bianca Crvelin, has approached this journey of public life from citizen to advisor with energy, enthusiasm and a clear vision of what she wants to accomplish for the community. These are the characteristics of someone who sees their tasks in life in advocacy and effective representation of the community around them. I wanted to know more so I interviewed her and here is what she had to say to the questions I asked:
First of all, let me congratulate you on your victory in the recent local government elections in NSW. You have been elected to the Northern Beaches Council in Sydney as a councilor. How did the electoral success make you feel and why?
Election success is unlike anything I have experienced. It’s a great feeling to have the support of my local community. Be the voice of trust for them and their families. I feel very touched and privileged to have been elected to this position. I look forward to learning the ins and outs of Council and how best to represent my community.
Have you ever run for political office before this year?
This is the second time that I am running as a candidate for local government. On my first chance I ran as number 2 in the Forest Ward. I knew I had no chance of succeeding, but the experience was great. On that occasion, I ran as the main candidate for my riding, and the chances were slightly better for me to be elected. We had a good campaign, and I would have loved for my number 2 to rise. We could perhaps work on it for the next election.
You were an elected candidate in the December 4th local elections for the Australian Liberal Party, how long have you been an active member of that party?
I have been an active member of the Liberal Party for a dozen years. As you can see I joined the party much later in life. It was a wonderful experience and I made some great friends.
What specifically prompted you to lead a political or governmental life? How did you decide to pursue such an involvement in life and what attracted you to the Australian Liberal Party?
I joined the party to get active and be heard. I realized that I wanted to be part of the solution and not just sit on the sidelines and see the problems. I wanted to get involved. I felt that I was not represented in politics at that time (being a young mother) and so by joining I was able to get involved.
I have been a Liberal voter since I was 18 years old. My values are very aligned with the party. I contacted my local Member State (MP Jonathan O’Dea) and they put me in touch with my then branch president. I started attending meetings and became very active in the branch, helping out on election days and eventually holding many positions in various Party conferences. Over the years, I have gained the trust of many supporters within the party, which gave me the confidence to run for local elections.
Can you tell us about your electoral platform for the last local elections please.
Main concerns for the Narrabeen district:
- Tariffs – There was a promise during the merger (advice) that the tariffs would go down. I have yet to see this happen. I hope we will see these promises come true. Accountability is very important, and when a promise is made, it must be kept.
- Garbage – The council has so far spent funds on unnecessary changes to the trash cans and funds approved for a COVID memorial (I really like, I don’t want to walk along our foreshore and remember the events that took place in 2020/21 where families and businesses have been under enormous pressure and the world as we know it has changed, not for the better).
- Narrabeen Lagoon Entrance Management – I would love to see the lagoon entrance managed in a more future-proof way. We had several weather events which made it difficult for the residents of the Narrabeen neighborhood, the council must stop talking about solutions and start delivering.
- Wakehurst Drive Flood Protection – Being a mother of two who used the Oxford Falls Early Learning Center for about 4 years, I was severely affected by the floods when they occurred on the Wakehurst Drive. I would like the road to be protected against flooding, so that others do not suffer like me.
- Narrabeen State Park is to be maintained and maintained in pristine condition. My family and I have been to the park on a number of occasions, as many (especially during the lockdown) we need to make sure we take care of the area so that everyone can enjoy it now and in the future.
How do these top concerns or needs for improvement or strengthening on the northern beaches compare to those in Sydney as a whole and then the State of New South Wales?
Overall, boards should focus on effectiveness, accountability and community participation. As elected officials, our constituents trusted us to be their voice.
Municipalities must reduce the amount of waste, both in their processes and their profits and losses.
I believe these concerns resonate with every advice. That is why we need active representation from the community. Locals need to get involved. I will be looking for community engagement within Narrabeen in the hope that we can make real differences in our region.
In your local government community, are there specific projects or needs that you are particularly passionate about and that you would like to highlight and defend?
I grew up in the northern beaches and I think I am so lucky to have had this experience. I would love to see all of our parks improved. I would love to see clean areas for families and friends to connect with. I want to see our beaches and our parks in perfect condition.
I want to make sure that we protect our land so that future generations can enjoy our land as much as we do.
I might be going too far, but I have a lot of work ahead of me and I want to make an impact in our region.
Your local government area attracts large numbers of tourists, but this industry has suffered significantly due to the restrictions and lockdowns related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Do you see a light at the end of this downturn in business tunnel and what do you think, in general terms, needs to be done to help business recovery at a faster pace than is already happening? How can local governments help?
Small businesses have been hit hardest by COVID events. In the short term, counseling should help as much as possible. We need to engage with them to understand their specific issues. In my spare time and so far in the community, the biggest problem many face is the understaffing. Many cafes simply don’t have the staff to be able to open their doors to capacity. The Council must be the voice for state and federal governments to be aware of this issue.
The council may offer discounts for the use of the open areas (I understand we already do).
In your opinion, what role should local councils play in terms of assisting new migrants, refugees and asylum seekers?
The local council can help ensure that all new migrants, refugees, asylum seekers are properly assimilated into the local area. The council can reach out to new residents and make sure they feel welcome and know about events in their local community, so they feel connected to their new home.
Your local government area is often described as a paradise, with its beaches, coastal expanses and green spaces. What about climate change and the carbon reduction program, what kind of things do you think the local government could influence? What changes or reforms in environmental protection would you like to see?
I understand that general climate concerns are being addressed by the federal government. However, the local council can ensure that local projects take into account the latest guidelines from the federal government.
The Council has the capacity to try to ensure that local adoption of federal initiatives is achieved.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Northern Beaches. The beaches have been my home for over 40 years. I am a wife and mother of two boys, and have a career in financial services that spans over 20 years. Being a qualified accountant, I bring with me a wealth of knowledge from the business sector. Over the years, I have been active in my son’s schools and sports activities. I am a Rotarian and am delighted to have the opportunity to be a voice for my community and to represent them and their families on the Northern Beaches Council.
Both of your parents are of Croatian descent (your father Mile from Zrnovo on the island of Korcula and your mother Jenny from Nin near the northern coastal town of Zadar). What does your Croatian heritage mean to you personally in terms of your education as an Australian in a multicultural society? How do you think your Croatian cultural heritage has been able to help develop awareness of the needs of others and live as an active member of the community?
Being the daughter of two wonderful Croatian parents, I am very privileged to have had this cultural education. My parents instilled in me a strong sense of family, community and work. I believe I have a unique ability to understand many groups of people because of this. Australia is full of people from diverse backgrounds and being able to connect with them is a wonderful feeling. While campaigning, I had the opportunity to talk to many different people and I was delighted to tell people about my Croatian heritage and to speak to them in Croatian. Some people of ethnic origin told me that they thought I was a great representation of them and that I would get their vote. Croats by nature are very welcoming and caring, I believe this is what carried me throughout my campaign and will allow me to work well with my fellow advisers.