Councillor Micaela Drieberg says being the 2013 Mayor of Monash City Council is not about telling people what you know.
She believes that unless you are willing to learn and build your knowledge of what your community wants, you will fail in local government.
Micaela sees herself as the “eyes and ears” of her community, making sure that she pays attention to a wide variety of opinions. “I think you can pick up some really good ideas by meeting with people from different walks of life,” she said.
“I try to be as approachable as possible, whether that’s by ditching formalities or making myself available to meet with residents out of hours,” she said. “In doing that, I am maintaining trust with the people who have supported me from the start as they know I am following through on what I said I would do.”
Micaela has started up a twitter account as another way of engaging directly with residents, and puts aside blocks of time to respond to constituents on email. “In my first week as Mayor I wondered how I was going to keep up with the correspondence. Then I realised it’s OK to sit on the couch late at night and work on replies while wearing my jim-jams!”
She enjoys interacting with residents at community meetings or local festivals. “I like to encourage people to have faith in themselves and the contribution they can make to their communities and to council’s decision-making.”
Micaela’s parents migrated from Sri Lanka to Australia before she was born. This background has given her a good understanding of the needs of migrants, which is helpful in Monash where 45% of residents were born overseas. “We need to do what we can to reach out to our newer residents,” she said. “We want them to feel connected with their new community and to be aware of the council services they can access,” she said.
Micaela has a background in public health and is happy being busy. As well as being a councillor, she has her own business, and can be found presenting at conferences, running professional development training, lecturing at the University of Melbourne or hosting ‘Sacred Spaces’ a show on architecture and open spaces on community television, Channel 31.
In her time as mayor, Micaela says she wants to strengthen community engagement and build systems to make the council more accountable to residents and efficiently provide local community services.