Councillor Jennifer Yang was re-elected to Manningham Council in 2012 and this year she is the Mayor.
“Being the first female Chinese councillor in Manningham is significant to me and to my community. I have been working really hard because I feel lots of responsibility, and as the current Mayor I don’t want to disappoint people.
My background as a migrant means I have more empathy with those who were not born in Australia, I find I can help bridge cultural barriers and bring all different groups of people together. I don’t want to be seen as a councillor just for Chinese community, I am proud of my heritage, but I want to serve all communities and help bring them together.
People who do not have English as a first language feel more confident to come to me. They feel I am one of them for I speak with an accent. It may seem strange but I understand, because for me too, often when I talk to a native English speaker I feel less confident in speaking English, it can be intimidating.
Through my council network, I am in a privileged position for I know lots of people. I find I can help bring communities together, such as helping young people with intellectual disabilities to find group housing.
Ever since I came to Australia from Taiwan in 2001 at the age of 24, I have been through various difficult times and challenges in life. I deeply appreciate people who helped me along the way and always want to give back to the broader community in any way I could.
When I was first asked to stand for council 2008 I didn’t know much about local government, my supporters believed the very that fact that I was standing was important, having a young Chinese woman as a candidate meant a lot to my community.
I didn’t win that time but I studied political processes in Australia and learned about the three tiers of government, the importance of good governance and meeting procedures. I finally came into council following a vacancy in early 2011. I was 100% committed to the role of councillor.
I walked the ward, letterboxed with my husband to introduce myself as the new local councillor to residents, and welcome their inputs and thoughts on what I can do to make all our lives better. I help voice residents’ concerns to the council. I leave operational matters to council officers but I always follow through to ensure the matter is acted upon.
I received the highest primary vote in the 2012 elections, and I am now the first Asian mayor of Manningham and the first Chinese woman mayor for Victoria.
There are many ‘unsung heroes’ in the migrant community in Manningham and it is important that I help show the significant contribution that people from all cultures, not only Chinese, have made to mainstream Australia.”