1a Atherton Road, Oakleigh, 3166

Elected Mayor – 2019/2020

At it’s special meeting on November 11, 2019, my colleagues elected me as the Mayor of Monash for the 2019/2020 term of office. I am incredibly excited and humbled to have been given this opportunity to serve our community at a higher level.

It’s been a very busy first few weeks and I’ve hit the ground running with a number of challenges to start. I am here to serve the people of Monash, so if there is something that is bothering you or something you need assistance with, please contact me on 0413 184 250 or send an email to stuart.james@monash.vic.gov.au

Below is a copy of my acceptance speech.

I’d like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respect to their elders past and present. I’d like to thank my fellow Councillors for their support in electing me Mayor of this fabulous city. It is an incredibly humbling vote of confidence and a position with which I hold in the highest regard. Despite differing views and value sets, there is no-one sitting around this table that I do not get along with and I look forward to working with all of you in fostering a positive and collaborative approach to our final year of this Council term.

When I was elected to Council I had absolutely no idea of the sheer magnitude or range of services that Council provides. The more I have learnt about this organisation, the prouder I am to be but a small cog in its large wheel. We are led by a CEO whom I believe is the best in the business and who commands the respect and admiration of her peers. Monash is blessed with an amazing group of Directors and Managers that work harmoniously with each other, the CEO and Council, to deliver the best for this city. I hold the upmost respect for the unrelenting hours of dedication that they pour in, often with little acknowledgment, simply because they love their job and they love this city. Whilst most of my interactions are with the leadership team, I acknowledge that it is our staff with their boots on the ground that make this city what it is; from the many customer facing departments, to our magnificent pride crew, to our communications team who answer queries at all hours of the day, to our corporate governance, to our depot staff who are often out in the early hours of the morning as we sleep in our beds. We often use the hashtag ThisIsMonash on our social media, well, our staff are Monash. I am incredibly proud of their respect for the brand and what they manage to achieve on an extremely trimmed and limited budget.

What drives me in life, and in my role as a Councillor, is my fundamental belief that everyone is born equal, that everyone should be treated equally and that everyone should be given access to whatever resources they need in order to achieve their full potential. At a local level, that starts when a child is born. Neuroscientists estimate that around 90 percent of the brain develops between birth and the age of 5. While we tend to focus on providing services and education for the children themselves, we need to acknowledge that children that come from stable homes are more likely to succeed in later years. We need to ensure that we are equipping parents with the right skills and levels of support they need in order to be able to give their children the best start in life. That may include mental health services, dealing with social isolation, being a single parent, anxiety, depression, (drug, alcohol and gambling addictions), or simply learning the basic skills required to be a good parent and role model. In my time on Council there is much of which I am proud of achieving, but by far, the provision and enhancement of services to address a wide range of issues in this area has been a highlight. I intend to further this work during my Mayoral term.

I will also continue the strong work of the three Mayors that have preceded me; on mental health, increasing the participation of women in sport, prevention of violence against women and gender equality. It is no mere coincidence that three of these four generational challenges are unique to women. There are some who are under the illusion that the passing of legislation has meant we have achieved gender quality, but equal rights and gender quality are different things entirely. One only has to look around this Chamber, or into the boardrooms of corporate Australia, to realise that we remain a fundamentally unequal society. Every week in Australia a woman is murdered by a current or former partner, one in three have experienced physical or sexual violence and a staggering 85% have been sexually harassed. These statistics are simply abhorrent. As a Council we can, and must, do more to ensure that we are leaders in driving and achieving generational change in the attitudes towards women. Through a sustained and targeted campaign, using the many branches of our organisation, we must hammer home the message that respect for women is paramount.

I want to take a moment to thank the people who without, I would not be sitting here. Firstly to my amazing Mum and Dad who have given me so much throughout my life, often at their own expense. They often say they are proud of the person I have become, but fundamentally I have merely become the person they taught me to be. They have instilled in me core values that I hold extremely dear, one of which is family above all else. Words will never be able to adequately express my gratitude for their unconditional love and selfless sacrifice. My brother, sister and I have been separated for more than a decade by half a world, but we have remained as close as we were growing up. They have always been there for me, through the good times and the bad times. We have shared so much together and I also greatly appreciate their love and friendship. My mother and father in law are also here and without their continuous support, especially with child minding, I would not be able to fulfil the role of a Councillor – no doubt I will call on them over the next twelve months.

To my three beautiful girls, Mara, April and Zoe – you are the reason I do what I do – in all aspects of my life. I cherish your beautiful smiles and happy souls. You have the ability to lighten the darkest days in an instant and give me such purpose and drive. I love you to the moon and back. And to the person who I could never live without, my soulmate, my rock of Gibraltar and my best friend, Donna. She was the person who pushed me to run for Council in the first place and has continuously backed me at every step along the way, even when I have doubted myself. She keeps me grounded and has pulled me back down to earth on many occasions. She is the absolute backbone of our family and without her unwavering love and support, none of this would be possible. You make me a better man and I love you more than you could possibly know.

And finally to the people of Monash; I am incredibly excited about the year ahead and I look forward to getting further involved and to meeting as many of you as I can. I genuinely love this city and will work hard every single day to ensure that when the time comes to vacate this chair, our community and our city has been bettered. Thank-you.