Will Victorian Greens candidate in the seat of Northcote, Campbell Gome, distance himself from a Greens local politician who attempted to use local school children as part of a relentless campaign to shut down Northcote Public Golf Course? And how can he reconcile the actions of his State Greens Leader who publicly praised this campaign? These are the questions being asked by constituents in the State seat of Northcote that Gome will contest this Saturday.
As reported in the Herald Sun today, the Victorian Department of Education and Training confirmed a local resident’s enquiry that Trent McCarthy, the Greens Deputy Mayor of Darebin spearheaded a biased, politically charged drawing activity that took place in his child’s classroom without the knowledge of the school Principal or permission of the parents/guardians of the children.
Angela Singh,Regional Director, North-Western Victoria, wrote in a letter, dated 15th November 2022: “I understand that students at Bell Primary School were recently asked to participate in a design activity by a City of Darebin councillor, Deputy Mayor Trent McCarthy, regarding an issue related to the local public golf course.”
“Department employees are required to ensure that students are not solicited to become agents of any organisation or individual and must not use their position to advocate for or against particular parties, candidates or issues.”
“I am advised that the principal of Bell Primary School, Mr David Twite, had been approached by Deputy Mayor Trent McCarthy, a parent of a student attending the school, with an invitation for students to participate in a design activity related to the use of a local golf course.”
“Mr Twite denied the request. Without Mr Twite’s knowledge, Deputy Mayor McCarthy had also made the request to his child’s classroom teacher who granted permission for students in the class to complete the activity, providing the work for use by the council.”
A map of the golf course with no reference to the outline representing the Northcote Public Golf Course was presented to classes in five local primary schools whilst the community consultation on the future shared use of the golf course was conducted by Darebin Council in late 2021. It said
“DAREBIN COUNCIL WOULD LIKE TO KNOW HOW YOU THINK THIS LAND SHOULD BE USED – PLEASE DRAW OR WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE. ADD AS MANY IDEAS AS YOU WANT!”
Darebin Mayor, Lina Messina recently stated that “Council did not run the activity…. Officers understand the activity sheet was created and distributed by a group of parents.”
Spokesperson for the Northcote Community & Golf HUB, Bill Jennings, said, “The hugely significant fact is that one of those parents was Deputy Mayor, Trent McCarthy. Add to this that in the last week of the consultation period, State Greens Leader Samantha Ratnam sent out a bulk email saying, “I want to extend my thanks to Greens Councillor Trent McCarthy, and the whole Darebin Greens team, who have led the campaign to have the Northcote Golf Course returned to public parkland …”
This message was sent at a time when Deputy Mayor McCarthy was not meant to have formed a view on the future use of the golf course.
Jennings reflected, “Our group presents a vision for shared use of the golf course. We have sought to create ways that there is a value add for the environment, the rate payer, park users and public golfers. We started to hear from parents, local residents who weren’t directly connected with our group that other parents had visited their children’s classroom and ran the drawing activity stating that they were part of the group that was trying to turn the golf course into a park. We know that some parents were annoyed that their consent had not been sought.”
At least 700 children’s drawings were presented to Council on at least two occasions – once with the request that they be counted as part of the Council consultation and in May in a failed attempt by Deputy Mayor McCarthy to re-present the drawings as a petition.
Jennings remarked, “In the May Darebin Council meeting, the Council Officer’s report and recommendations on the golf course were tabled. The report showed that a significant majority of the community, 70% of respondents wanted golf to remain on the site. Deputy Mayor McCarthy, Councillors Rennie and Hannan never referred to the results of the survey, instead choosing to use the children’s drawings in their arguments. A number of teachers are part of our group. When it became clear that the children’s drawing activity were part of a strategy to divert attention from the view of the people, we wrote to each of the Principals and then one member of our group wrote to the Minister for Education – the response came last week from the Department of Education and Training confirming they had been in contact with the Principal of Bell Primary School. It appears from the letter received that the Principal of Bell Primary School, Mr David Twite acted with integrity by refusing the request from the Deputy Mayor to conduct this biased drawing activity.”
“Campbell Gome is a teacher. I have written to him today to ask him, as the potential MLA for Northcote, to renounce his colleague in the Darebin Greens. We have asked for him to call out his leader, Samantha Ratnam for her serious misjudgment of congratulating Greens Deputy Mayor McCarthy for a campaign that included the biased, politically charged drawing activity using children in Government schools, without the permission of their parents or their Principal.
Julie Williams 0467 812 813