Phaedra Morris has a passion to help the most vulnerable people in the Moorabool community – and now wants to extend that by standing as a candidate in the Woodlands ward.
Pronounced ‘Fay-dra’, the long-term Blackwood local is a website designer who has lived in Barrys Reef for 18 years with her carpenter/joiner husband.
“I’m an unaligned independent, and representing my constituents is important to me,” she said.
“It took me five hours to drive around Woodlands when I was putting up posters – and what a journey! It’s a beautiful ward and the view from Mount Blackwood’s breathtaking.
“I’d be humbled if people across the north of the Shire chose me to serve them on Council.”
But whatever happens on election day, she will be celebrating – because October 24 is her birthday.
Phaedra is also a volunteer at the Ballan Community House – which she said could have a huge role in helping locals after COVID19.
“We’re working on a series of community lunches and a foodbank for this area.
“I’ll keep forging ahead with this – and similar plans – whether I’m a councillor or not.
“I really want to thank the Ballan District Community Bank for approving our grant application. It means we can make a start because I really want constituents to have support when the going gets tough.”
She said as the area’s tourism potential was realized, hospitality would be a big growth area.
“We plan to give volunteers the opportunity to gain experience in hospitality.
“We have many tourist areas but youth and older folks who want to reskill often don’t have or can’t get experience. We have a plan to provide that for them.”
After experiencing nights as cold as minus-7 in the Blackwood area during Winter 2020, Phaedra is also keen to start a woodbank for pensioners and Healthcare card holders.
“Firewood was in great demand this year – and almost doubled in price,” she said.
“In some cases, retailers ran out of wood.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like to be pensioner trying to survive without a way to heat your home.
“No one should have to choose between heating or eating.”
“I have a passion for the people who are falling through the cracks – and with COVID, these cracks are becoming ravines.
“The mark of good society is how you look after your most vulnerable people.”
And what about proposed overhead transmission lines – one of the biggest issues in Woodlands?
“I think it’s appalling.
“My campaign slogan is ‘no corporate profit at the community’s expense’.
“We’re going to be left with this legacy for years to come – just to line someone’s pockets.
“We live in a we very windy area and transmission lines can blow over, like they did at Cressy (in February).
“The 500kV towers are ugly, a fire danger and don’t entice tourists.
“Putting them underground may cost more, but it’s the right thing to do.”
Phaedra may also be familiar to people following the news earlier this year.
“I kicked off No Wombat Gold when exploratory drilling for gold started close to Blackwood with no consultation,” she said.
“Council seemed reluctant to take much notice, but the imminent threat of toxic soil in Bacchus Marsh and the transmission lines through the Shire obviously took priority.
“I have a big problem with corporations making profits while the community pays.
“A commercial mine near the source of the Werribee and Lerderderg rivers – and in a water catchment – makes no sense.
“We can’t be complacent.
“The establishment of No Wombat Gold let the company know that we’re ready to fight.
“I also know that Coimadai had a sand mine that wanted to expand but Council knocked the plans back.
“That was a good decision.”
Phaedra also had concerns for community consultation in the biggest town in the ward.
“A community group in Gordon reached out to me.
“They had extensive street works last year and felt the consultation process was poor, with the Council making most of the decisions that affected local people.
“They also found that trying to get information or concerns addressed while in the construction phase was difficult.
“Gordon is growing – and has many subdivisions.
“The community is worried about appropriate development to keep the town’s heritage feel.
“I believe we should be encouraging local builders – not big developers.”
“If Council is serious about tourism in our historic towns – like Gordon and Blackwood – we need to keep our heritage style and feel.”
Phaedra said we also needed to rethink building styles in the bush.
“Fire chiefs are warning that seasons are getting longer and fires more extreme,” she said.
“My husband almost lost his house near the NSW border last season. Twenty other houses in that small community were not so lucky.
“We need to start looking at things like earth-sheltered homes – and there are some great designs.
“They’re well-insulated and cheaper than building in a high fire-rated conventional house.
“With Council wanting to increase jobs in the area, this could be an ideal industry in Moorabool.
“Our region could lead the way in fire-safe living.”
Phaedra said standing for Council was purely about representing her community.
“It’s not about me – it’s about what the people of Woodlands want – and the feedback I’m getting about this year’s rate rise would indicate the community didn’t want one.
“Armed with that information, I would have voted against it.
“Some farmers’ rates have more than doubled over two years and something needs to be done about that.
“Either we push for farm rate rebates or the State Government must help if they’re serious about a foodbowl close to Melbourne.”
She said it was also important to advocate for our small rural schools – like the one her daughter attended.
“They’re wonderful places for kids to learn and feel connected. We have four great rural schools across the Woodlands ward.”
So why run for Council?
“I’m really concerned about people who are struggling.
“I could see that some Councils were doing good stuff and it motivated me.
“I do also realise that council is about the three Rs: roads, rates, rubbish.
“When it comes to roads I really want to see them built better from the start. It may cost a bit more but there have got to be smarter ways, and I believe it will be worth it if those roads last longer.
“I also believe we need to create local jobs.
“I want to let people know that I’m here to represent the whole of the Woodlands ward – not just one town.
“The entire ward is my priority.”
You can read Phaedra Morris’ candidate statement here.
** If you have not received a ballot pack by Friday October 16, contact the temporary VEC office in Graham St, Bacchus Marsh.
Postal voting closes at 6pm on Friday October 23.
The Woodlands ward includes Blackwood, Coimadai, Myrniong, Gordon, Mollongghip, Colbrook and Bunding.
Authorized by P Morris, Barrys Reef, Vic 3458.
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Main image: Phaedra Morris and her husband with Knuckles the dog. Photo: Sandy Scheltema ‘The Driveway Project’.