Merimbula twins to stage ‘Oprah the Opera’ in San Francisco

David and Geoff Willis, natural showmen.
David and Geoff Willis, natural showmen.

Twin brothers from Merimbula have crafted a musical about one of the best-known and most influential women in the world, but its just one of a number of productions launching in 2018 for the Willis boys.

Oprah the Opera‘ will open in San Francisco during the second half of 2018 and charts the life of America media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, philanthropist – Oprah Winfrey.

Geoff and David Willis have been making music together for decades.

Their partnership with New Zealand performer Kathy Blain won the 1978 Grand Final of Bert Newton’s ‘New Faces’ TV talent show.

The decision to write a musical about Oprah came over a cup of coffee, buoyed by completing their first musical “The Great Houdini’ six years ago.

“Oprah is a one-woman show with a band and gospel choir,” David says.

The brother’s work is a true collaboration, Geoff writes the music and lyrics, David writes the script.

“She [Oprah] has opened up her life in a huge way, from abuse as a child to the most successful woman in America,” David says.

“There is so much there, a lot of comedy, a lot of heartaches, it’s a really entertaining show and people really love it when they’ve read the script.”

Click play to hear the full conversation with Geoff and David Willis…

 

Initial planning for the show is underway now, including casting.

Starting out in 1000 seat theatres in San Fransico, David and Geoff are creative consultants to musical director Gregory Cole and will relocate to the U.S closer to showtime.

“We’re excited because it will be an all-black cast and it will be a gospel choir of 50 or 60,” Geoff explains.

“There aren’t a lot of shows that are written for African Americans [cast members].”

The twins aren’t sure if the lady herself knows about the show yet, they have only been able to get as close to Oprah as her personal assistant, but she will be receiving an invite to opening night in July/August next year.

Oprah the Opera, opens in July/August 2018. Source: http://www.oprahtheopera.com/
Oprah the Opera, opens in July/August 2018. Source: http://www.oprahtheopera.com/

Both David and Geoff are natural showmen and play a range of musical instruments as well as sing. They are well known for pulling a crowd whether it’s on one of their regular cruise ship tours of the Pacific or Atlantic or in the many concert halls that dot the hills around their hometown of Merimbula.

Their signature tune ‘Me and My Shadow’ is always a hit.

“Being twins, we understand each other very well,” Geoff says.

In shaping their music the pair will often work apart in order to challenge their creativity.

“When we wrote ‘The Great Houdini‘, I actually went to the Gold Coast and spent a few years there,” David says.

“We thought it was a good idea to be away from each other, but it’s amazing how things tied up.

“He [Geoff] would write a song and we wouldn’t discuss it, I would write the script, and the words in the song and the script tied in,” David smiles.

“It’s a twin thing!”

The Great Houdini was the first musical the pair worked on – 16 years in the making, hard work that is now paying off.

“It’s a huge show to put on, we have just met with producers in New York and London, and we are looking at staging that later next year,” Geoff says.

The Great Houdini, talks are underway with producers in New York and London. Source: http://www.thegreathoudinimusical.com/
The Great Houdini, talks are underway with producers in New York and London. Source: http://www.thegreathoudinimusical.com/

The pair became mesmerised by the legend of the great magician as 10-year-olds after seeing ‘Houdini’ the movie starring Tony Curtis, twenty years later they felt compelled to write a musical about their idol.

“Dave wrote the script over a 16 year period, and I wrote 60 musical pieces for the show,” Geoff says.

“It had to be perfect,” he says.

The story starts in modern day New York at a Houdini exhibition and works backwards.

“Dave describes it really well as – music, magic and mystery,” Geoff says.

In trying to explain why it is that two Merimbula creatives have stage shows launching a million miles from home, David and Geoff believe there is a sense of confidence missing from the Australian entertainment industry.

“There is a bit of frustration that we are not being accepted by Australian producers,” David says.

“We’ve been to producers in Australia about our shows, and [the impression we’ve been given is that] if it is a success overseas they would probably say, we’ll do it here,” he says.

There is one success closer to home the Willis boys can crow about, and one their Bega Valley fan base can travel to easily.

Billie and the Dinosaurs‘ launched in Sydney last week to sell out shows at the Australian Museum.

Next April the production steps up a notch and will take to the stage in Canberra at Llewellyn Hall featuring the Canberra Youth Orchestra.

It’s a narrated children’s story in the style of ‘Peter and the Wolf’.

David and Geoff have worked with well-known funny man, Tim Ferguson, of Doug Anthony All Stars fame.

David, Tim Ferguson and Geoff Willis, part of the creative team behind 'Billie and the Dinosaurs'. Source: Facebook
David, Tim Ferguson and Geoff Willis, part of the creative team behind ‘Billie and the Dinosaurs’. Source: Facebook

“Tim is the writer and has worked very hard on the script and he is the narrator, he is a lovely person to work with,” Geoff says.

“The Melbourne and Sydney Symphony Orchestras are also interested.”

Geoff has composed all 27 orchestral pieces, while David has prepared all the educational material for the production.

The show tells the story of a 10-year-old girl called Billie who makes friends with real live Australian dinosaurs and together they defeat school bullies.

Despite their growing success far from the shores of Merimbula Lake, both men seem to relish and value their stage work at home.

“We live in a beautiful town, and we are very much appreciated by the people here,” David says.

“I was the conductor of the Sapphire Coast Concert Band and Geoff was the conductor of the Big Band and we only gave that up at the end of last year because of these other projects.

“And of course recently we did a show with Frankie J Holden and Michelle Pettigrove, which was a huge success and raised money for raked seating in the new Twyford Theatre.

“We are happy being here, we love living here,” David says.

David and Geoff Willis and the Sapphire Coast Concert Band. Source: Facebook
David and Geoff Willis and the Sapphire Coast Big Band. Source: Facebook

About Regional, is a new place for the stories of South East NSW, made possible by the contributions of members, including – Sprout Cafe Eden, Kaye Johnston, Nigel Catchlove, Therese and Denis Wheatley – thank you!

Over $5 million for local cycleways including Bega to Tathra link

The long-awaited Bega to Tathra cycleway is set to become a reality with $3 million set aside in the NSW Budget this week.

Member for Bega, Andrew Constance said, “I am so excited to confirm the funds to build this important project.”

“This will not only better connect two of our great communities it will also provide a fantastic tourism driver and give the region a further economic boost.”

The money will go to Bega Valley Shire Council to work with the community and stakeholders to design, plan and construct the much-anticipated path.

The Bega – Tathra money was the largest part of a big splash of cash for local cycleways.

Other money announced by NSW Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet included:

  • $2 million for a shared pathway from Rotary Park in Merimbula to Merimbula Wharf.
  • Construction of 660 metres of shared path in Moruya along Bergalia Street.
  • Construction of almost 500 metres of shared path in Narooma along the northern end of McMillan Road.

The champagne corks were popping as Doug Reckord, the Secretary of the Bega Tathra Safe Ride Committee shared the news with his dedicated group. Click play for more.

Disclaimer: Author is part-time media officers for Bega Valley Shire Council

New Merimbula priest gives Bible a 2017 perspective

Bishop Stuart Robinson oversees the ordination of 14 priest, including Merimbula's Anthony Frost.
Bishop Stuart Robinson oversees the ordination of 14 priests, including Merimbula’s Anthony Frost.

One of the Anglican church’s newest priests is Merimbula’s, Anthony Frost.

Reverend Frost first put roots down in the Sapphire Coast Anglican Parish in February 2016. His theological studies had elevated him to the role of Deacon and a job based out of St Clements Church under Reverend Lou Oakes.

Towards the end of last year, Rev Frost was ready to take on higher orders and was ordained a Priest alongside thirteen of his comrades at St Saviour’s Cathedral in Goulburn.

Moving from Deacon to Priest allows Rev Frost to more fully take part in the key sacraments of the Anglican Church, in particular, holy communion and confession.

Despite the fact that church attendance is falling in Australia, down from 44% in 1950 to 17% in 2007, Rev Frost comes to his new job with a modern sense of purpose.

“We are needed on the ground,” Rev Frost says.

“There is a strong movement [from within the Anglican Chruch] to deploy ordained people into the community.”

This son of a butcher was raised in Newcastle, New South Wales. On the day I met him he proudly displayed the red and blue socks of his hometown’s footy team hidden under his traditional black and white priests ‘uniform’.

Rev Frost turns 50 in the middle of 2017 and comes to this new career with 24 years in early education behind him, having been a classroom teacher in communities around Mount Druitt, Wagga Wagga, and Canberra.

“I believed teaching was my calling,” Rev Frost says.

“It was an area [profession] where men weren’t working and I felt I needed to do my bit to redress that imbalance.”

Reflecting on his early church experiences Rev Frost remembers his ‘Nan’ taking him to church; he was baptised an Anglican even though his parents weren’t churchgoers.

The Rev Anthony Frost
The Rev Anthony Frost

But, “One day she [Nan] was pulled up for smoking outside the church and she never went back,” Rev Frost laughs.

It wasn’t until his late teens, under his own steam, and with his own spiritual needs, that Rev Frost started a journey that saw him take on religious studies and increasing church responsibilities as a layperson into adulthood.

The journey escalated on March 17, 2011 – St Patrick’s Day, at St Mark’s National Theological Centre in Canberra.

“I was listening to a talk on the pioneering days of the Anglican Church in the Canberra – Goulburn Diocese,” Rev Frost remembers.

“Halfway through the talk, I felt two strong but gentle hands underneath my shoulder blades, gently pushing me forward out of my seat.

“At that point, I knew I was being called to ordained ministry,” he says.

Four years of theological studies and part-time church work followed, ahead of his first full-time church gig in the Bega Valley, covering the nine centres of the Sapphire Coast Anglican Parish.

Now as a newly ordained priest, Rev Frost says he is looking to use his theological studies to contextualise the word and work of God for a modern time.

Challenging preconceived ideas about Christian faith, including the Bible, is important to Rev Frost.

“Scripture needs to be reviewed and looked at from different perspectives,” he says.

The twice-married father points to some of the passages of the Old Testament that appear to condone violence and the exclusion of certain people.

“Jesus is with us here today, through the church and people of faith,” Rev Frost says.

“He is guiding us to discern what is of God, what is loving, and what is not.

“We have so many examples around us now of what is not of God.” he says.

Rev Frost suggests the degradation of the environment and the exclusion of people based on religion and lifestyle are two examples of ‘what is not of God’ in 2017.

Click play to hear Rev Anthony Frost speak with Ian Campbell for the About Regional podcast:


 

With the community celebrations that followed his ordination in late November behind him, Rev Frost says he is getting on with the job of meeting the needs of his community, particularly looking for unmet needs.

Although still relevant, in an affluent town like Merimbula responding to need means something other than the traditional charity work of religious people.

“There can be a different kind of poverty,” Rev Frost explains.

“Where people have a deep need or yearning that’s not being met because of their affluence.

“Often the people who are not so well off in terms of material possessions, are actually more spiritually wealthy than those who are materially wealthy,” Rev Frost says.

As one of the Anglican Church’s newest priests, this Newcastle Knights fan believes he has been blessed by a calling to this wonderful part of the world.

“It’s a little bit of heaven on earth, and I look forward to working with this community and engaging with other organisations and individuals,” Rev Frost says.

About Regional – the podcast, episode six, January 19 2017

Triangle Farm Tilba. From Facebook
Triangle Farm Tilba. From Facebook

About Regional, the podcast, January 19 2017.

In episode six…

The TV show River Cottage Australia has been mothballed, host Paul West gives us the inside story and speaks of his plans for the future. Read more HERE.

Author Deb Hunt shares her amazing love story with a pilot from the Royal Flying Doctor Service, a man given up for dead in a horrific helicopter crash as a young fella that goes on to help lead this iconic organisation.

And one of the Anglican Churches newest priests, Merimbula’s Anthony Frost talks about his life of faith and the relevance of the Bible in 2017.

Thanks for tuning in, feedback, story ideas and advertising enquiries to hello@aboutregional.com.au

About Regional – a new place for the stories of South East NSW.

Cheers

Ian

Listening options:

Click here to listen and subscribe via iTunes

Click here to listen and subscribe via Audioboom

Yellow buoys off Merimbula and Malua Bay listening for sharks

Shark listening station - Malua Bay, supplied DPI.
Shark listening station – Malua Bay, supplied DPI.

The sapphire waters of the Far South Coast naturally draw your attention – forever changing, forever surprising.

This summer, just below Batemans Bay at Maula Bay and further south at Merimbula, a tall yellow buoy beyond the last line of breakers will catch your eye as your bum finds that sweet spot in the sand.

It’s a Shark Listening Station or VR4G, installed during November before the place filled up with holiday makers.

The one off Main Beach Merimbula brings the number of listening stations along the New South Wales coastline to twenty, all designed to give our feeble bodies the jump on these ‘monsters of the deep.’

Other locations include Kiama, Sussex Inlet, Mollymook, Bondi, Byron Bay, Ballina and Lennox Head.

The Member for Bega, Andrew Constance says these satellite-linked VR4G receivers record the presence of tagged sharks swimming within 500 metres of the listening station.

“Information on the movement of tagged sharks captured on the VR4Gs goes straight to a satellite and is then instantly sent to mobile devices via Twitter and the SharkSmart App.” he explains.

There are 114 White Sharks and 88 Bull Sharks that have been tagged by either the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) or CSIRO. These are the beasties that give themselves away when they swim near one of these hi-tech posts.

“Whilst we can’t tag every shark, the new listening stations will enhance bather safety by alerting beachgoers and authorities when a tagged shark is in the area,” Mr Constance says.

“They provide beachgoers with information and knowledge to help them assess their risk of a shark encounter before they hit the water.”

Shark at Bournda Island December 25,from https://twitter.com/NSWSharkSmart
Shark at Bournda Island December 25, from https://twitter.com/NSWSharkSmart

The technology is one component of the NSW Government’s $16m Shark Management Strategy and follows a run of fatal and near-fatal shark attacks in northern NSW during 2016.

Other parts of the strategy being seen locally include regular DPI helicopter patrols running between Kiama and Eden, and soon a new $33,000 viewing platform overlooking Pambula Beach.

Since the aerial patrols and listening stations became active seven local shark sightings have been reported to the Shark Smart App – all south of the Bega River mouth at Tathra.

The first alert on December 17 pointed to four Whaler Sharks near Bar Beach Merimbula, and two unidentified 2 metre sharks off Pambula Beach – both spotted by the DPI aerial team.

The most recent alert was sent out on December 29 with the helicopter reporting up to eight juvenile Bronze Whaler Sharks off Main Beach Merimbula.

In all cases, nearby authorities were notified and it was assessed that there was little threat to swimmers and surfers – sometimes simply because there was no one in the water.

If there is deemed to be a risk to people, lifesavers on the beach or the aerial patrol have the capacity to clear the water of swimmers.

Looking further north to the Shoalhaven, 13 shark alerts have been trigger during the same time frame around Ulladulla and Jervis Bay. On the Central and North Coasts, where there is a more intensive monitoring effort, 60 alerts have been issued taking in beaches between Lake Macquarie and Tweed Heads.

Unidentified sharks spotted 1km north of Tathra Beach on December 19, from https://twitter.com/NSWSharkSmart
Unidentified sharks spotted 1km north of Tathra Beach on December 19, from https://twitter.com/NSWSharkSmart

Broulee’s Andrew Edmunds, Director, Far South Coast Surf Life Saving says his organisation welcomes anything that helps lifesavers manage risk and allows people to make informed choices.

“Sharks are not the biggest risk to swimmers though,” Mr Edmunds says.

“Since the start of summer, we have had 18 deaths in New South Wales waters, none have been a result of shark interaction,” Mr Edmunds says.

“Unpatrolled beaches, rips and strong currents, not wearing life-jackets, unsupervised pools, ponds, and dams – these are the biggest risks.”

Mr Edmunds is hoping the listening stations might ease people’s concern about sharks.

“People will start to see sharks in the natural environment as normal,” he says.

“The frequency of the alerts will increase over time as more sharks are tagged, people might start to realise how commonplace sharks are.”

Shark Smart alerts as there appear on Twitter
Shark Smart alerts as they appear on Twitter

The yellow VR4G units sit high in the water and have been somewhat of a curiosity to beachgoers this summer with lifesavers taking regular questions.

“Stand-up paddle boarders have also been going out and back to investigate,” Mr Edmunds says.

The odds of being attacked or killed by a shark are said to be 1 in 3,748,067, despite the regularity of their presence in our environment that Mr Edumnds points to.

Those long odds however, are easily challenged by our active imaginations, fed by frequent news reports from the North Coast pointing to surfers bitten or killed and White Sharks snared in drum lines.

The tall yellow buoys that now sit out the front of Merimbula and Malua Bay not only highlight the physical presence of sharks but also our fragile minds when it comes to these creatures.

Social justice the X-factor in Merimbula’s Joseph

Roll up, roll up for Joseph and his dreamcoat
Roll up, roll up for Joseph and his Dreamcoat

There is a certain civic duty sometimes that pushes you to attend a local event. Things only happen when people step up to make them happen, and in a regional community you want to see those people and their events succeed – people turning out is key.

What a buzz, what a bonus when that local event blows your mind!

‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ on stage now at Twyford Hall Merimbula will do just that.

As happens in small communities you will recognise many of the faces taking on this Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice classic – which only serves to heighten the emotion around this production’s success.

I took my seat in row 11 blind to the story.

Joseph is the favourite of Jacob’s 12 sons, jealous brothers conspire but Joseph lands on his feet as the Pharoah’s 2IC because of his ability to see the future through his and other people’s dreams.

David Willis out front of his red hot 10 piece orchestra
David Willis out front of his red hot 10 piece orchestra

It’s a big cast with close to 50 people either on stage or part of the polished, big sounding orchestra lead by David Willis.

Music is a constant, with no spoken word – all song, including an Elvis-inspired tune from the Pharoah.

Sitting at my desk now some hours after the curtain was pulled across the stage and the tunes are still going around in my head – ‘Go Go Go Joseph.’

The local vision for this show started three years ago on the back of a successful production of ‘The Sound of Music’ where director Shaun Wykes and actor/singer Hayley Fragnito first met.

“I just love the music,” Hayley says.

“And I am a bit of a softy for family, happy feel good stories.”

Joseph was the first of the many Lloyd Webber and Rice musicals to be performed publicly, with the premiere in 1970.

It has since traveled the world as a major musical but it is estimated that over 20,000 schools and amateur theatre groups have staged their own show.

Hayley Fragnito as Maria in The Sound of Music.
Hayley Fragnito as Maria in The Sound of Music.

Dreamcoat Production’s version at Twyford Hall has all the polish and professionalism of this year’s big touring production through the UK, North America, and New Zealand but it has an X-factor born of its regional roots.

“This is a not-for-profit show and the money raised is going to be donated back to our local community,” Hayley says.

Proceeds from the two-week season will go to the Sapphire Coast Advocates for the Social Justice.

“We have been hearing stories from John Liston who plays Jacob in the show and who is heavily involved with the Advocates,” Hayley explains.

“He’s coming along and saying, ‘Today I helped this homeless couple, the lady was eight months pregnant‘ and this is where the money from the show is going.

“The moment the cast realised that, it’s amazing how much more they are willing to give.” she says.

Hayley is a school teacher at Wolumla who took time off term four to help make Joseph happen, she is a constant on stage as the narrator, her presence and voice shines brightly next to the colours of the show’s famous coat.

Jesse Zammit as Joseph during dress rehersals
Jesse Zammit as Joseph during dress rehearsals

Moruya’s Jesse Zammit is the one wearing the coat, his commitment to the role is perhaps another of this production’s magic ingredients.

Attending rehearsals meant a four hour round trip twice a week for Jesse in the 10 weeks leading up to opening night.

“There’s a big cocktail of motivations,” Jesse says.

“There is such a community spirit and a love for art and creativity, and to be involved with these people just reinvigorates your desire.

“I think that’s missing a bit in the world, I think commerce is trying to strangle art and so just to see a community say, ‘It’s not about the money, it’s just about doing it because we love it’ is so refreshing,” Jesse says.

Jesse and Hayley are friends from ‘way back’ and Hayley was determined that Jesse would be Joseph. Jesse and his busy artistic life were reluctant at first until Jesse had a dream – spooky considering the role dreams play in the life of his character on stage.

“I’ve always believed in dreams, I am a bit of a nutter in that way, I think dreams do have a message,” Jesse explains.

Waiting in anticipation at Twyford Hall
Waiting in anticipation at Twyford Hall

So after initially saying ‘a polite no’ to Hayley and avoiding repeated attempts to bring him on board, Jesse was convinced to take on the role after a dream in which he saw Hayley’s disappear at not being able to find another Joseph.

With time on his visa in the UK winding down, the show’s director Shaun Wykes returned home to do the show, again at Hayley’s instance.

Shaun says he has been enamoured with Joseph since he was three years old when his sisters returned home from a production in Sydney and performed their own version for family.

“It has been an honour to bring this show to the town I grew up in and see it flourish on stage with this incredible cast and crew,” Shaun says.

While reflecting on the power of being involved in community theatre Shaun says a strong connection to people and place develops.

“You appreciate people’s time and how much effort they put in and you see good in the world,” he says.

Tweleve year old Luca Yi as Benjamin
Twelve-year-old Luca Yi as Benjamin

A strong feature of the show is the cast of young performers and singers from local high schools and primary schools. These teenagers and children do us proud, their involvement ensures that relationships like the one between Hayley, Jesse and Shaun continue to be formed.

A special shout out to 12-year-old Luca Yi from Bega who plays Benjamin, the youngest of Joseph’s band of brothers. Luca takes on the song ‘Those Canaan Days’ leading his more grown-up cast, with the audience cheering loudly .

“The people coming up to you after the show and the joy on their faces, when you can give that sort of a gift to people – it’s awesome.” Hayley beams.

Dreamcoat Production presents ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat‘ at Twyford Hall Merimbula until December 4. Click HERE for ticket details.

*Author and family attended at their own expense.

NSW Local Government Elections – there has gotta be a better way

People casting a vote
People casting a vote

The results of the poll have been declared, the new Eurobodalla and Bega Valley Shire Councils are getting down to work, however some voters are perhaps still wondering who are these people?

Leading up to Polling Day on September 10, locals had to contend with a field of candidates that would have filled a few of buses.

Fifty-five candidates stood in the Eurobodalla, 26 in the Bega Valley; contesting nine spots on both councils.

Many voters expressed frustration leading up to the poll around the lack of information about each candidate. People had a real sense that they were voting blind and resented a feeling of being forced to vote without the necessary information.

Moruya’s Keith Dance has served two terms on Eurobodalla Shire Council and lays claim to having contested every council election between 2000 and 2010.

He says he has been arguing against the way councilors are elected for many years.

“My argument has always been – we have eight vacancies (plus the Mayor), we should have eight primary votes,” Mr Dance says.

“As a voter, we should be able to elect our council, not elect one member of a group and hope that their preference trail will go where we want it to go to fill the other seven spots.”

An advocate for below the line (number every box) and first past the post voting, Mr Dance is of the view that many candidates simply contested the election to direct preferences to a lead candidate.

“I makes it hard for people to decipher, to work out what the candidate’s credentials are, or even to know whether these people are fair dinkum,” Mr Dance says.

Eurobodalla Shire Council HQ @ Moruya
Eurobodalla Shire Council HQ @ Moruya

Rather than simply placing a ‘one’ above the line next to a candidate’s name, Mr Dance wants voters to be able to vote for each position on council directly.

‘Above the line’ voting plays out at Eurobodalla Shire elections more so than in the Bega Valley, where the makeup of candidates tends not to lend itself to that extra voting option. Having said that though, preference flows did influence the size of the field south of the Shire boundary at Dignams Creek, so the argument put by Mr Dance is relevant for both Shires.

“We should have eight primary votes,” Mr Dance suggests.

“That would shrink the field down because you would only have people who were fair dinkum about being elected.”

He believes there are at least two people elected to Eurobodalla Council on September 10 that had no desire or ambition to sit in the council chamber. Mr Dance claims these candidates found themselves higher up the preference flow order than was originally intended and hence elected on the back of a strong lead candidate.

“Now they have to try and work out whether they can fulfill the commitment of an elected councilor,” Mr Dance says.

“I used to spend three or four days a week (on council business) so the commitment to be a councilor is fairly high.”

Keith Dance from the About Regional podcast:

Coincidently Victoria is heading into Local Government Elections next month and part of the process unfolding south of the border has merit and would increase voter engagement and confidence according to Mr Dance.

This longtime council watcher believes the postal voting method many Victorian councils adopt would be a win for disillusioned voters in NSW.

“Voting information is sent to the elector and they return it as a postal vote,” Mr Dance says.

“You do not have to run the gauntlet of going into the polling booth with umpteen people in front of you shoving paper in your face saying ‘vote for me, vote for me’ it frustrates the hell out of people.”

Mr Dance says the Victorian system includes candidate profiles as part of the voting information sent out to people on the electoral roll, reducing confusion while increasing confidence in the process.

“We had nearly 12% informal voting, a 12% vote is enough to get one candidate elected, it’s wrong, it just doesn’t work,” Mr Dance says.

Bega Valley election material
Bega Valley election material

A spokesperson for Local Government NSW (LGNSW), which represents the interests of the Local Government sector in NSW, says postal voting does not have widespread support.

“Postal voting could disenfranchise a significant proportion of the voting population, particularly young people and those with less permanent addresses,” the spokesperson says.

Mr Dance disagrees and says, “It allows people to have a proper vote.”

“It needs pushing and now is the time to do it, after the election, people have had enough of this,” he says.

A spokesperson for the NSW Electorial Commission says NSW Local Government Elections are administered according to the legislation.

“Responsibility rests with the Premier and the Minister for Local Government, reforms are therefore a matter for the government of the day,” the spokesperson says.

Any organisation or member of the public can make a submission on the conduct of elections to the NSW Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.

“I raised this issue at a public meeting in Moruya,” Mr Dance says.

“There would have been 70 people in the room and I damn near got a standing ovation.”

Disclaimer: Author is part time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council