Tony Briffa votes AGAINST further Rate Increases During Pandemic

During the Council Meeting held on 20 April 2021 I formally voted against the proposed increase to residential rates, which is consistent with my voting against the rate increase last year. Given the hardship many residents, businesses and community groups are experiencing during the pandemic, I cannot in good conscience support a rate hike. I am firmly of the view now is the time we should be supporting families and individuals, not increasing rates, fees and charges. I also acknowledge the struggles of local residents on fixed or reduced incomes and people who are underemployed and that other expenses such as gas, water, electricity insurance and food continue to rise.

It is important to note that residential rates in Hobsons Bay will effectively be increasing by an average of 3.5%, and for many other residents the increase will be more than this. This is because the council increased rates by 2% last year (which I also opposed) but provided ratepayers with a once-off rebate to offset the increase. As I predicted last year, this rate increase will now be applied in the 2021-22 budget along with an additional 1.5% as per the Victorian Government approved rate cap for 2021-22.

I support most of the Capital Works Program 2021-22, but cannot support the rate hike, particularly with council’s projected $27.38 million surplus for 2021-22. This is a summary direct from the published council budget:

The following graphics from the proposed council budget show the increases proposed to average rates when compared to last year. In addition to the increase in the residential rate, it’s important to also note the increase to the Waste Charges which are payable on top of the general rates.

It is a sad fact that council rates – essentially a property tax – is not applied consistently across Victoria or even Melbourne. A ratepayer would pay much less in rates for a property worth $1 million in Brighton compared with a $1 million property in Altona Meadows. How is this fair? Rates in Hobsons Bay are one of the highest in Victoria’s 79 councils, so not applying a rate increase in 2020-21 and 21-22 is more like a rate adjustment.

Some residents have concerns about how the council will pay for future capital works if the rates don’t increase. My view is that the council must live within its means, and that like many households and businesses we have to tighten our belts a little as a result of the pandemic. Not applying the 3.5% rate hike will not result in a disaster for our existing or future budget. It’s just a small adjustment. Council does not need to be greedy or treat residents as cash cows.

So what can residents do about this?

I urge every resident or business owner to visit the following page on the Council website to read the budget and make a submission to the council before Sunday 23 May 2021:

https://participate.hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au/proposed-annual-budget-2021-22

Submissions must be submitted in writing. They can be emailed to budgetsubmissions@hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au. Please send a copy of your submission to me at tbriffa@hobsonbay.vic.gov.au.

Phone: 1300 179 944
Email: budgetsubmissions@hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au

The Proposed Annual Budget 2021-22 and Rating Strategy are scheduled to be considered at the Council Meeting from 7pm on Tuesday 29 June 2021.

What if you are experiencing financial hardship?

If you are experiencing financial hardship and are struggling to pay your rates, pleas contact the council to access the Financial Hardship Policy.  It includes provisions for rate deferrals and waivers, and I hope it will be easy to access.  Please contact the council or me directly if you want more information about that.

I also respectfully acknowledge Crs Grima and Kellander who also voted against the rate rise.

Community Feedback Wanted – Council Waste Services

The Hobsons Bay City Council is undertaking a review into the current waste services system, so as a local Councillor I’m keen to hear from residents about your experiences and perspective.  I’ve therefore put together an online survey and encourage as many residents as possible to complete it.  The link for the survey is:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DKVDZ9C

I would also appreciate if you can forward / share this link with other residents in Hobsons Bay and via social media or by printing this flyer and distributing it to your neighbourhood.  The more feedback I get the better equipped I will be to both understand the needs and concerns of residents and advocate for real change.

Many residents have raised concerns with me about the current system and I am committed to seeing improvements made as soon as possible. I believe the council must provide a suitable minimum waste collection service for residents while also promoting the reduction of waste and increasing the uptake of recycling.  I know there are people that are ok with a 120lt general waste bin being collected every fortnight, but I also know many families that are struggling and require a better system.

I look forward to your feedback!!

P.S.  For more information about council’s waste services, visit the council’s website here.

New Altona Pier Design Announced

Our Pier is a much-love community asset and is owned and managed by Parks Victoria.  As part of their renewal program for piers, the Altona Pier is going to be replaced in the coming years.  Following community consultation in 2020, Parks Victoria have announced the new pier will be made of concrete (not like the existing wooden pier) and will have an angled end.

The report from Parks Victoria describes the new Altona Pier as follows:

“A concrete pier with an angled pier head creating a visually unique pier that offers more space for recreational fishing, additional shade and improved seating options. This option is aligned with Pier Street, with the pier head angled towards the offshore artificial reef balls to maintain an achievable casting distance.

Facilities and features included:
• Angled end of pier with seating and shelter
• Widened concrete abutment to adjoining seawall
• Entrance and pier head public art/sculpture
• Respite seating along length of pier
• Motion sensor lighting at 30m spacing
• Gangway to 24m fixed low landing on western pier head
• Large format seating on eastern edge of pier head
• Ramp to lower platform on eastern pier head
• Emergency vehicle turning area at pier head”

For more information about the new Altona Pier, see:

(a) https://engage.vic.gov.au/altona-pier-design-options?fbclid=IwAR06Wbyj2T4j19N4_dNudW6Pj4ixMfri9pYYwglJ85NjKUbQBxwCxdshDZY

(b) Altona Pier Concept Option 3 (successful option) 

(c) Altona Pier Engagement Report

 

Screen Shot 2020-12-19 at 3.54.28 pm

Altona Pier_1

Thank you for your overwhelming vote!!

Thank you!!!

I am very honoured and grateful to have been elected to represent and serve my community on the Hobsons Bay City Council for a 4th term. Thank you to the local community and especially my fellow residents of Altona, Altona Meadows, Altona North, Brooklyn and Seaholme for your amazing support. I was honestly humbled by the huge result and promise I will not let you down. I love our community.

Thank you to the many people that helped my campaign in any way. From sharing or commenting on my posts on social media, distributing flyers, having a poster in front of your home, spreading a kind word to neighbours and friends, or to community groups encoring their members to support me. It’s been a very positive campaign and I’m so proud my team and I did not respond to the nasty attacks and misinformation on social media and continued to focus on what was most important – serving the community to make Hobsons Bay an even greater place to live, work, visit and enjoy.  I don’t want division and recognise that it wastes so much time and energy.  I want to work with everyone and if we disagree on something then we should talk about it and respectfully disagree.  We are all neighbours in Hobsons Bay.

I am already planning my work for the next term and am strongly focusing on our community’s recovery after the difficult challenges of this year – for our businesses, community groups, families, schools, elderly and disabled citizens, multicultural and faith communities, etc. We have so much to do to rebuild and support our community and I’m really keen to work with all my colleagues on the council to do that, and with the collaboration of our partners in the community. 

Please keep in touch!

Kindest regards,

Tony

P.S.  The election results can be found here and is posted below.

Cherry Lake Ward – Hobsons Bay City Council (Election 2020)Cherry Lake Ward Results 2020

Wetlands Ward – Hobsons Bay City Council (Election 2020)

Strand Ward – Hobsons Bay City Council (Election 2020)

Tony Briffa Votes Against Council Rate Increase

As an Independent Councillor focused on representing the community and supporting them during this very challenging pandemic, I am disappointed the 2020-21 council budget provides a rate increase that, while not applied immediately, will be applied at a later date.

I support the Capital Works Program 2020-21, but cannot support the rate rise.  I do not support an apparent “rate freeze” in 2020 only to potentially hit residents, community groups and businesses with a double rate increase in 2021.  At a time of a global pandemic and recession, of high unemployment and instability, of many businesses closing their doors and struggling to keep afloat, the council should be offering a genuine rate freeze – and perhaps a rate discount – in addition to other supports such as the Financial Hardship Policy.

The Hobsons Bay City Council is in a good financial position.  The proposed annual budget includes a surplus of $23.762 million for the year.  We can afford to provide a genuine rate freeze.

I also note that many of the fees and charges have also increased, and often by more than 2%.  For example, registration for a sterilised cat is going up by 4.76%, and registration for a sterilised dog is going up by 2.65%.  Many of the charges to local business for street furniture is going up by around 3%.  Parking ticket machines in the restaurant precinct in Williamstown are on hold for the rest of 2020, but they are going up by 5.41% when they are turned back on in 2021.

Here are some of the details extracted from the budget:

1. HBCC

This means the actual rate increase (Capital Improved Value) for residential properties is actually increasing by 2.95% but not applied this year.  It can, however, be applied in 2021 meaning ratepayers can be subjected to a double rate increase in 2021.  In my opinion, a rate freeze means the Capital Improved Value should not be increased so it cannot be applied in future years.  The council should completely forego any rate increase for 2020-21.

Note that the follow table from the budget shows an actual rate increase in 2020-21 is $2,887,000 and the propose rebate will cost $2,226,000.  This means the council still gains $661,000 in addition to the increase in fees and charges.

2. HBCC

3. HBCC

The following table from the budget clearly shows the Council administration is planning a rate increase every year of 2%, and that the rebate being applied for 2020-21 is a one off, meaning that the 2% from 2020-21 will still count in future budgets.  The council budget for 2021-22 will therefore effectively have a double rate increase.

4. HBCC

The following table from the budget shows the council is expecting significant surpluses over the next 4 years, largely from rates increasing from $112 million in 2020/21 to $124 million in 2023/24 (a 10.7% increase over 4 years!).

5. HBCC

I urge every ratepayer (resident or business owner) experiencing financial hardship to access the new council Financial Hardship Policy.  It now includes provisions for rate deferrals and waivers, and I hope it will be easy to access.  Please contact the council or me directly if you want more information about that.

I also respectfully acknowledge Cr Michael Grech who also voted against the rate rise, and Cr Angela Altair who abstained from the vote.

Bruce Comben Reserve & Aquatic Centre – Lack of Community Consultation & Proper Process

I support a new Aquatic Centre at Comben Reserve, but regret that it appears the council has not followed due process with this project and are trying to rush it through.  Despite my efforts the Council has also resolved to limit community consultation to 4 weeks during the stage 3 lockdowns and declared state emergency, rather than the 8 weeks I sought.

At the Council Meeting on 9 July 2019, the council resolved to adopt the Aquatic Strategy and to “establish a Stakeholder Reference Group to guide the Bruce Comben Reserve Aquatic Centre Feasibility Study“.  The Reference Group was established but the Feasibility Study has not yet commenced.  Instead, the council administration sought to put together yet another Bruce Comben Master Plan without any direction from the Council to do this, and despite a Bruce Comben Master Plan having already having been developed and approved by council in 2011.

Here is the Aquatic Strategy that was adopted by the Council Meeting on 9 July 2019, along with the council administration’s recommended motion which was passed:
(a) HBCC Aquatic Strategy; and
(b) HBCC Aquatic Strategy Resolution (Adopted 9Jul19).

The Bruce Comben Masterplan was drafted by the council officers and involved very little consultation with residents living near Comben Reserve.  There is also some concern about the process to appoint community members to the Reference Group and improper influence or misuse of power.  I won’t comment about that, but I can confirm the Reference Group only met 3 times.  The first meeting was held in December 2019 and this merely focused on introductions, the aims of the group, etc.  The remaining two meetings were held on May and June 2020.  Both meetings offered little opportunity for input and lasted 90 minutes each.  The members were not provided with any draft plans prior to the meetings and were not given the opportunity to carefully consider what was drafted before providing input.  I have the minutes of these three meetings.

I am therefore concerned council officers failed to provide the Council with an Aquatic Centre Feasibility Study, and instead put up a Bruce Comben Reserve Master Plan that increases the footprint of the sporting clubs and car parks, reducing a significant amount of passive open space to the south, and that will likely significantly change the topography of the area.  That change isn’t bad per se, but they need to be subject to proper community consultation.

We don’t even know if the Aquatic Centre is feasible, so why adopt a master plan right now?  If the Aquatic Centre isn’t feasible the Bruce Comben Reserve Master Plan will have to be revised again and a significant amount of resources would have been wasted.  Also, why has the council rejected a 50m pool despite the community overwhelmingly wanting one and despite not having a feasibility study conducted?  Finally, why limit the community consultation to 4 weeks at a time when the community is in lockdown and cannot have an onsite community meeting, consult with neighbours, distribute flyers or put a petition together?  A councillor made the point that she wanted this issue resolved before the election, but why?  Pushing a multi million dollar project through hastily is not prudent nor a responsible way to manage public money or projects.  I would prefer to get this right.

The implementation of the masterplan is estimated at around $8 million, and the Aquatic Centre will be much more than that again.  Let’s make sure we get this right.

I encourage residents to review the Bruce Comben Reserve Master Plan, but please note the Aquatic Centre Feasibility Study has not yet been conducted and that this plan needs to be underpinned by certainty about the Aquatic Centre (including whether a 50m pool is feasible).  Here are the relevant documents:
(a) Bruce Comben Reserve Master Plan; and
(b) Bruce Comben Reserve Recommendation & Report 14Jul20.

The Bruce Comben Reserve Draft Master Plan will be open for public exhibition until 12pm, Saturday 15 August.  Refer to https://participate.hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au/brucecomben 

Please complete the survey above and provide any additional feedback or concerns to:

Jake Trevaskis or Georgri Burns
Phone: 9932 1000
Email:  projects@hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au

Please feel free to send me a copy of your submission.  My email address is tbriffa@hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au

I look forward to hearing from you and to seeing a wonderful aquatic centre in Altona Meadows!

Screenshot 2020-07-19 10.46.33

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Screenshot 2020-07-19 10.46.57

__________________________________

Cr Tony Briffa JP
Councillor, City of Hobsons Bay
(14 July 2020)

Council Rate Hike on Local Businesses Despite Pandemic

Despite the financial difficulties many businesses are experiencing due to the pandemic, the Hobsons Bay City Council is determined to push ahead with its planned rate increase.  The proposed average rate increase across Hobsons Bay is 2%, but it is 3.89% for commercial properties (e.g. shops, cafes and other small businesses) and 8.78% for Industrial properties.  Rates for petrochemical properties is proposed to increase by 1.14%.

Local shops, cafes and other small businesses and local industry are really hurting, as are their staff.  Increasing rates to these local businesses at this time is irresponsible and not in the spirit of council supporting local business and jobs.  The pandemic has sent many to the wall, and those that survived the first lockdown and first three months until reopening are again affected by the second lockdown.  Many will be lucky to survive.

The disgraced former Minister for Local Government, Adem Somyurek announced the rate cap for Victorian councils in December 2019 – well before the pandemic.  Life and the Australian economic climate is very different now, and the country is in recession with negative growth.  Rates should not be increasing at this time.

The council budget provides an operational surplus of $25.3 million for the year for 2020-21.  This is a surplus increase of $1.107 million compared to 2019-20.

Whilst the average general rate increase is 2 per cent as mentioned above, total rate income is expected to increase by 2.69 per cent, due to waste service charges and supplementary growth, raising total rates and charges for 2020-21 to $114.452 million.

COVID-19 Community Support Package

The council administration will argue that the COVID-19 Community Support Package will ensure local businesses are supported during this time, and that 150% of the increase in rates will go back to the community.  Let’s have a look at what this package includes:

(a) program to support local connections ($100,000);
(b) incentives to use Council venues including the Williamstown Town Hall and Altona Theatre ($132,000);
(c) waiver of summer sports ground rentals ($72,000);
(d) strategic planning support for sports clubs to resume training and competition ($60,000);
(e) sports pavilion cleaning program ($20,000);
(f) ‘loan to own’ iPads program at the libraries ($60,000);
(g) an additional $500,000 to the existing Annual Community Grants Programs (Community groups, organisations and clubs, not businesses);
(h) rebates for the 2020-21 food registration ($595,000), public health fees ($63,000), and footpath trading permit fees ($150,000);
(i) extending the waiver of paid parking in Nelson Place until 31 December 2020 (customers of businesses located at Williamstown Beach will also be provided dedicated permits for free parking during this period) ($520,000);
(j) rent relief in Council owned property ($210,000);
(j) town planning rebates ($177,000); and
(k) rolling out a business precinct support campaign ($250,000).

These arguably provide little support to traders.  Waiver of paid parking fees in Williamstown, for example, reduces the income to council, but that was impacted by the pandemic anyway.  Further, none of that money is going to local businesses.  Commercial property owners are being required to reduct rent to tenants, so even that so called “rent relief” of $210,000 is not anything not being expected of other owners of commercial buildings and is only going to assist council’s tenants.  Doing things like not charging for footpath trading permit fees and public health fees is the least the council can do to support local business.

Out of the whole $3 million support package, only a small portion is actually going to support local businesses.

Hobsons Bay Financial Hardship Policy 2020.

The council is also rightly improving its Financial Hardship Policy to enable residential ratepayers, businesses, sporting clubs and community groups to get assistance from their rates, waste charges, fees, user charges and interest in the form of a deferral, discount, waiver or refund.  Only the council CEO can authorise a waiver or refund of money paid to/ or payable to Council including rates, interest, rent, fees and charges.  Waivers or refunds are limited to a cumulative total value of $10,000 or of 12 months rates value, whichever is the lesser amount, for each applicant, and no more than waiver or refund application can be approved for any individual, club, association or business.

The assessment process is supposed to be simple, but Council will necessarily consider all matters in its deliberations, and may seek applicable supporting information to be provided including: company records, bank statements, financial records or assessments, employment documentation, Centrelink and/or taxation information and a Financial Counselling report.

The policy states that consideration of a waiver can only occur if all financial information has been disclosed to Council with supporting documentation as requested. Council will also require the concurrence and validation of the circumstances by a qualified financial counsellor.

As you can see, this policy necessarily requires a significant degree of oversight by the council, and a commensurate degree of work for the applicant to complete the application, provide the necessary documentation and submit themselves to a financial counselling report.

It seems to me that more local businesses will be seeking deferrals, discounts, waivers or refunds if their rates are increased by 4% at this very difficult time.  In my view it would be preferable for the council NOT to increase rates and charges on local businesses, and to provide this support anyway.

As I wrote in April, if we’re all in this together, why is the council’s budget immune?  Why are they not willing to take some of the pain the community is feeling?  The council still expects a significant surplus despite the pandemic, and is forecasting annual growth.  This is from the council budget:

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Screenshot 2020-07-09 16.44.47

What Can You Do to Help?

It is important local businesses, their staff and people who support them lodge submissions to the council explaining the impact of the pandemic and the proposed increased in rates, and the little relief provided by the support package to businesses.  Mention the difficulty and challenges in applying for relief and how it’s appreciated but that as proud business owners you  want to avoid having to apply for rate deferrals, reductions, waivers or refunds from the council.  A rate discount – and definitely not increasing rates – is what you, your business and your staff need.

To lodge a submission:
(a) Visit https://participate.hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au/2020-21-budget.  All the budget documentation is provided on this page.
(b) Prepare your budget submission explaining your situation and the importance of the council not increasing rates to businesses.
(c) Lodge your submission by 5pm, Friday 24 July 2020.

Please consider speaking in support of your submission to the council.  If you are willing to do this – and I really encourage you to do this – then please mention it in your submission.

Submissions should be sent to:

Andrew McLeod
Director of Corporate Services
Hobsons Bay City Council
Email:  amcleod@hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au

You can also make your submission via the above page, and I also welcome you to send me a copy of your submission – tbriffa@hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au



Council Meeting 14 April 2020 – Rubbish and Rates!

I am unable to attend council meetings in person at the moment due to the COVID-19 pandemic and my personal health risks (for which I have provided a medical certificate to the council).  The current law in Victoria does not allow councillors to participate in formal council meetings online, so for openness, transparency and accountability, I am explaining my position on several of the council agenda items here.  This is also being sent to my councillor colleagues who I have already explained my position to at Councillor Briefings in relation to the budget and waste collection.  I hope they will consider my perspective in their deliberations in the chamber tonight – there is still time for them to stop this budget and change it.

7.1 Joint Letter – Historic Aleppo Pine Tree in Apex Park, Altona

I am grateful for the joint Letter requesting the Council redesign the proposed turning circle at the south-eastern end of Apex Park, Altona to preserve the historic Aleppo pine tree.  I look forward to seeing the alternate designs from the council administration and encourage them  to consult with the lead petitioner and the wider community about possible alternate designs.

7.2 Petition – Reinstate Weekly General Rubbish Waste Collection

I am very impressed with a community group that is able to get a petition containing 1120 signatures, which is even more extraordinary given the pandemic and social distancing.  It is obvious there is a lot of community concern about the significant reduction of general waste being collected by council, as well as a widespread support for the steps the council has made to reduce waste and increase the amount of waste being recycled.  A 120 litre general waste collection every two weeks might be enough for some households, and I congratulate those that are able to limit waste so much, but this is certainly not the case in many of our local households.  In hindsight, and given this feedback, the council should increase the capacity of the general waste collection, and not just by allowing residents to bring their own rubbish to the council depot once a week.

Having a larger bin, or having a weekly collection does not mean people will produce more rubbish, nor will it mean people will stop recycling or trying their best to reduce waste.  It will mean households can continue to reduce their waste, but that they do not have to experience unnecessary stress if they have a little more waste than usual in a week – or try to dispose of the excess rubbish elsewhere.  At the moment, if a household has extra rubbish they have to save it for the next rubbish collection in 2 weeks.  Some have disappointedly resorted to dumping rubbish or putting rubbish in other people’s bins.  Sometimes in the wrong bin because they are desperate.  If they do save their excess rubbish for the next collection cycle they start the next rubbish fortnight with even less space in their bin.  It becomes a vicious cycle and puts unnecessary stress on families.  Families are already experiencing enough stress with the pandemic.

I understand there is a financial cost if the council increases the amount of general waste being collected, but we as a council have to be reasonable and provide the rubbish/waste services residents need.  Given the feedback from many residents – including these 1120 petitioners and many I have spoken to – I do not believe the standard general waste collection service is enough.  I look forward to the report from officers following their discussions with the lead petitioner and hope it will result in an improved general waste service.

8.2.1 Proposed Annual Budget and Rating Strategy 2020-21

I strongly oppose the proposed annual council budget being presented at tonight’s council meeting during this pandemic and at a time where unemployment is around 10% and the country is about to experience the greatest recession in generations.  In this climate it is inappropriate to propose a 2% rate increase and $26.5 million surplus.  I call on the council to note the new budget timeline announced by the Premier, and to:

(a) review the budget in light of the overwhelming impacts of the pandemic to our community, including businesses, residents and landlords; and

(b) commit to introducing a scheme that supports ratepayers (including residential and commercial ratepayers and landlords), by providing a 50% discount (not deferral) to ratepayers experiencing hardship.

Many members of our community are experiencing significant hardship as a result of the pandemic.  Many businesses have stopped trading or are struggling to stay afloat.  Many people cannot pay bills including rent, utilities and rates.  Many families have had their incomes cut because people have lost jobs or their tenants cannot pay rent.  Residents and businesses are in extreme stress and the situation isn’t likely to improve in the short term.  To announce a proposed budget with a $26.5 million surplus and a 2% increase at this time is completely inappropriate.

The report on tonight’s agenda acknowledges the impact of the pandemic, but with respect, I do not accept that there has not been sufficient time to review the proposed budget.  The Federal Government has had sufficient time to close our borders (initially limiting travel from mainland China on 1 February and to all non-citizens and non-residents from 20 March) and to introduce many measures including the $130 billion JobKeeper program.  The State Government declared a State of Emergency on 16 March and announced a $1.7 billion economic survival and jobs package  on 21 March.  They did all of this while also preparing our health care system to be ready to treat infected Australians, introducing social distancing, repatriating Australians from overseas, etc.  The council should have already revised the proposed budget.  At the very least they should not have put this disturbing and irresponsible budget out to the public for consideration.

As a council we must join the federal and state governments in doing what we can to support our local community including local businesses, ratepayers and residents.  Increasing rates and seeking a $26.5 million surplus at this time is obscene and un-Australian.

If we’re all in this together, why is the council budget immune?

Click on the links below to access the documents for tonight’s council meeting:

We-are-all-in-this-together_Daily-Inspiration_The-Red-Fairy-Project

__________________________________

Cr Tony Briffa JP
Councillor, City of Hobsons Bay
(14 April 2020)

Injustice against Caster Samenya

The decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to discriminate against Caster Semenya by claiming it is necessary is extremely disappointing.  Caster Semenya is a strong, healthy, athletic, black woman.  She was born a girl, was raised a girl, is not taking any performance enhancements.  She is not a cheat.

Ms Semenya is being discriminated against because she has naturally high testosterone levels.  Forcing her to undergo medical intervention to allow her to compete is humiliating, unnecessary, unfair, and contrary to her human rights.

Other athletes have been born with natural biological variations that provide them with an advantage – such as Michael Phelps’ 203cm wingspan and Ian Thorpe’s size 16 feet – but they weren’t made to have alter their natural biological characteristics to reduce any advantage.  Ms Semenya should not be singled out.

This decision perpetuates the discrimination, forced medical intervention, stigma and injustice that many people born with variations of sex characteristics have been subjected to for decades.

I look forward to living in a world that understands, accepts and celebrates people born with all types of natural biological variations, rather than discriminating against them.

__________________________________

Tony Briffa
ILGA World Intersex Committee Chair
IHRA Co-Executive Director

International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day to all women; women of colour, lesbian women, intersex women, bisexual women, straight women, trans women, mothers, women that couldn’t have children for whatever reason, disabled women, indigenous women, women of all ages, and any other women.

We have come a long way in recent years but there is so much yet to do. Today I think we should celebrate our accomplishments and diversity, while also reflecting on the huge work left to do around the world as well as within privileged countries like Australia. Education, access to healthcare and employment, protection from harm (especially abusive partners), security, recognition of rights as equals, rights to our own bodies and reproductive choices, being able to participate in sport and public life – these things are reasonable expectations for all women. 

Intersex women also have other special needs at times. It is too easy (and common) for intersex women to have their sex (and gender) challenged as soon as they disclose they have an intersex variation. It’s as if we are not real women and must therefore be male or something else. This thinking is wrong as adds to the shame and stigma many intersex women and girls experience. Many of us don’t disclose our intersex status because of this discrimination. I pay my respects to intersex women that have come out and work to raise awareness, and I support all intersex women.

Happy International Women’s Day!Intersex Strength

 

This article was first posted on Tony’s facebook account – https://www.facebook.com/tbriffa

Hobsons Bay in-home support services

At the Hobsons Bay City Council Meeting scheduled for 7pm, Tuesday 19 February 2019, the council will consider an item closed to the public in relation to Community Care services in Hobsons Bay, and in particular, in-home support services.  I have received many calls and emails about this in recent weeks, so in the interests of openness and transparency I thought I would write about this on my website to clarify my position.

The Local Government Act permits matters to be considered in confidence and without the public present if they meet certain criteria, and as this matter involves a tender, the council has grounds to consider this matter in camera.  I believe the decision regarding whether council outsources in-home care should be done in public.

Aged Care is at a cross-roads in Australia with many things happening that can change the landscape considerably in the sector over the next 12 -18 months.  There is a federal election in a few months, and the Royal Commission into Aged Care is currently underway and due to provide a report with extensive recommendations next year.  The Royal Commission’s terms of reference includes consideration about support needed to assist people to remain living at home as they age – which is directly relevant to the matter being considered by the council.

My position is that home care should remain a service provided directly by the council to the community, so I support the continuation of in-home support services to the 1,649 Hobsons Bay residents that receive the 70,000 hours of support services provided by the council each year.  It is one of the services our community values most, and ensures our most vulnerable residents receive quality services in their home and are afforded high levels of care, dignity and respect.  I’m proud of the services the council delivers to people needing assistance to remain in their homes, and want to see them continue in its current form.

 

Note:  As the matter on the agenda is deemed confidential, I will not disclose anything contained in the report or recommendation as required by the Local Government Act 1989 (Vic.).

Tony Briffa Article in Star Observer (24JAN19)

The Star Observer published an article by Matthew Wade on 24 January 2019 based on an article Tony wrote which is published on the IHRA website.  The article is copied below complete with a link to the webpage.

INTERSEX ADVOCATE TO BOYCOTT PRIDE MARCH IF ROYAL CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL IS INVOLVED

“We should be able to be the people nature made us, and if our bodies are to be modified then we should be the ones to make that decision with our full and free consent.” – Tony Briffa

Link to the Article

Intersex advocate and Hobsons Bay councillor, Tony Briffa, will boycott Melbourne’s Pride March if the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) is allowed to take part in the event.

The former mayor cited the ongoing, involuntary or coerced medical interventions on young intersex bodies performed by the hospital as the reason behind the decision.

Speaking to the Star Observer, Briffa said seeing the RCH march at last year’s Pride March was hurtful and disappointing.

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“Imagine being a proud member of the LGBTI community, and a survivor of childhood and adolescent conversion therapies, and seeing the organisation that tried to make you fit heteronormative stereotypes welcomed into the Melbourne Pride March,” Briffa said.

“Current interventions by the RCH include surgically reducing the size of clitorises in baby girls who have clitorises deemed too big by doctors, forced testosterone injections given to baby boys with certain intersex variations, and the surgical removal of healthy gonads in some intersex children to remove any possible intersex trait.

“None of these interventions are medically necessary, nor are they conducted with the consent of the children involved.”

Intersex people are born with physical or biological sex characteristics that don’t fit binary ideas around male and female bodies.

There are at least 40 kinds of intersex variations and according to experts up to 1.7 per cent of the population are born with one or more of them.

Some intersex traits are visible at birth while others might not be apparent until puberty.

The invasive medical interventions continue to be carried out in Australia without personal informed consent, and are often irreversible.

They can cause permanent infertility, pain, a loss of sexual sensation, and lifelong mental health issues like depression.

Briffa said that while the RCH has made important strides in recognising and affirming trans and gender diverse people, the same recognition has not been given to intersex people.

“The same hospital and many of the same doctors that [perform medical interventions] on intersex children also treat trans and gender diverse children, but their bodily integrity and right to self determination are recognised,” Briffa said.

“No treatment of trans and gender diverse children at the RCH is conducted without the consent of the child involved.

“This is in complete contrast to intersex children… so why is the RCH marching in Pride March?”

Briffa added that organisations engaging in gay conversion therapy wouldn’t be allowed to participate in pride marches, and so organisations – including hospitals – that engage in “conversion therapies against intersex children” should be held to the same standard.

Briffa called on intersex allies in the LGBT community to support intersex people and join them in the fight to recognise their right to bodily integrity and self determination.

“We should be able to be the people nature made us, and if our bodies are to be modified then we should be the ones to make that decision with our full and free consent,” Briffa said.

“I call on the Midsumma Board to make it clear to the RCH that they are not welcome to participate in the Pride March until they stop conducting involuntary or coerced medical interventions on intersex children and make amends to the many children they have mistreated.”

At this stage, the RCH is due to march in the Pride March, and will follow other youth-based contingents along the route including Parents of Gender Diverse Children and headspace.

Chief Executive of Midsumma, Karen Bryant, said the festival had been working closely with Briffa to “create a space to encourage dialogue around this issue”.

“Our role is to provide support to address the issues that affect our diverse communities as well as to celebrate the wins,” she told the Star Observer.

“We are very aware of the very difficult situations that our many and diverse communities experience on a daily basis and the huge impact that these situations can and do have.

“Midsumma Pride March is the coming together of these diverse peoples and communities to reflect, celebrate, and to shine light on the issues affecting our communities, in hope that together we can resolve them.”

For more information about the lives and experiences of intersex people, as well as the Darlington Statement, a statement outlining key priorities for intersex communities in Australia and New Zealand, visit: www.ihra.org.au.

 

© Star Observer 2019 | For the latest in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) news in Australia, be sure to visit starobserver.com.au daily. You can also read our latest magazines or Join us on our Facebook page and  Twitter feed.