Rainbow Dreaming  

Women for Wik

Jan Barham (third from left) collecting signatures for an aboriginal rights petition, Byron Bay, 1997
Image: © Jeff Dawson/Byron Echo

Australia’s First and Only Popularly Elected Green Mayor

In March 2004, as The Greens candidate I was popularly elected as Byron Shire Council’s Mayor. This was not only a first for Byron Shire but was also an Australian precedent. In September 2008 I was re-elected as Mayor.

The Greens have been an active political force on the Far North Coast of NSW since the early 1990’s. I joined The Greens in 1993 after being involved in the Old Growth forest campaigns and the high profile opposition to Club Med and MacDonald’s in Byron Bay. As secretary of the Byron Shire Businesses for the Future, I spent four years opposing Club Med and in 1994 the court upheld the group’s appeal against the approval of the development by Byron Shire Council.

In 1995 I worked on The Greens campaign to elect Ian Cohen as the first Green representative to the NSW Parliament. This was an historical first in NSW. I then worked in his parliamentary office as an advisor for four years with successful outcomes on forest protection. A new political awareness of the range of social, economic and environmental concerns of The Greens was created.

I was first elected to Byron Shire Council in 1999 and in 2002 became Deputy Mayor. My priorities have been to protect the social and ecological environment and promote a more sustainable economic direction.

For fourteen years I worked alongside the local Arakwal Bundjalung people on the development of Indigenous Land Use Agreements to recognise their Native Title rights.

Given Byron Bay’s status as an international tourist destination, I have focussed on retaining it’s low key built character whilst supporting the natural environment, cultural identity and lifestyle of residents. With the challenge of climate change, Byron Shire has been at the forefront of addressing the need for sustainable agriculture, food localisation, community gardens and farmers markets. As a coastal area we also face the longer term issue of sea level rise and have taken a precautionary approach for planning for the future.

I am inspired by the decades of environmental awareness and the active and engaged community opposing inappropriate development. With this comes the challenges and Byron has had many opponents.

But, Byron Shire retains its low-rise development character, is at the forefront of environmental protection, supports an alternative culture and creative industries community and proudly supports Aboriginal rights and self-determination. It makes me feel proud to be elected to serve this community.

Jan Barham, Mayor, Byron Shire, 2009

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