Sue Bolton: ‘A True Community Leader’

p8-sue-b-louise-chen[By Susan Price] Community activists, residents and supporters came together to launch Sue Bolton’s campaign for re-election to the City of Moreland Council in Melbourne’s northern suburbs on September 10. Bolton, a member of Socialist Alliance, received some heart-warming endorsements and pledges of support from a number of community members.

‘Sue has always been there for us’

Mariella Teuira, an activist with the campaign to save the Aboriginal Ballerrt Mooroop College site and founder of the Itiki Sporting Club, remembered meeting Sue on a picket line three years ago. “I think most of us met Sue on a picket line somewhere. I remember meeting this passionate lady who was there for the community.

“We were the last standing Aboriginal school and Ballerrt Mooroop was called a ‘dumping ground’. We got all the kids that no other education facility wanted and the government decided … to shut it down and sell it off. We all fought hard, Sue was one of our main activists who pushed the campaign so strongly,” along with Aboriginal elder Gary Murray, who sent his apologies to the launch.

“While we were protesting on the front line, we started a community hub so we could still keep the kids out of trouble … that was run out of the school, but slowly they shut that down as well.

“So two years ago I decided to open a sporting club … directly behind the school. We’ve got about 200 members now. Our job is to engage young disadvantaged youth and underprivileged families using sport as a pathway tool to engage them back into education and community.

“Without Sue we wouldn’t have these facilities. Sue has always been there for us.”

“No matter what issue we have, Sue will always do her best to follow up on everything. Ask Sue and she will get the job done for you.”

“I don’t see any other councillors really pushing the issues apart from Sue. She’s the one who backs our youth in our area. She’s backed us 110% with all our issues. I wish Sue all the best. We’ll be backing her 110% with her campaign.”

‘She gave us a voice’

Nasrin Amin, a Muslim woman who was a speaker at the Moreland Says No to Racism rally organised by Bolton in May, explained how Sue had inspired and encouraged her.

“I met Sue last year, when I was thinking about organising an event called Islamophobia: Raising Community Awareness. I invited a number of organisations to come forward and to see what we can do about it, because I was a victim of racial attacks. Unfortunately not many turned up. But Sue turned up.”

Amin explained that she received a sceptical response from others at the meeting, but not Sue. “She believed in me and she gave me the courage to believe in myself. Other organisations slowly came forward but in terms of practical support, she was my main support.”

When the discussions between Amin and Bolton turned to Bolton’s activism preventing the deportation of asylum seekers, “I was amazed because I was not aware of all these issues going on in the community, so that was kind of an eye-opener for me.

“I was enjoying learning so much from her about the community and the real issues that people were suffering from. And that was our journey together.”

Amin praised Bolton for her courage and determination to make the rally against racism happen, in spite of a massive campaign launched against it by police, sections of the media and even some local traders.

“She was not stopped by the scare campaign. She gave space to people like us. She gave us a voice.

“Actions speak louder than words, so she is a true community leader. She represents the issues of the people — real people and real issues. That is what is truly inspirational.

“Some politicians are just about the power and the money and the popularity. But she works really hard for the people.”

Kurdish community thanks Sue for support

Ozlem from the Kurdish Democratic Community Centre of Victoria thanked Bolton for her strong support and dedication to the Kurdish community, including Bolton’s presence at protests and events. The Kurdish community has been targeted by police and their centre was attacked by arsonists back in 2010. Ozlem thanked Sue for her support during this difficult time for the community.

“You have been a pool of strength in our time of need. It’s great to know you’re only a call away when we need your aid. Your democratic views have been and will hopefully continue to be an asset to the Moreland Council, as you have shown great commitment to fight for everyone’s rights in Moreland.”

‘Sue is the only person who reached out to us’

Tomohiro Matsuoka’s family were impacted by a decision by Moreland Council last December to cut respite care services for their 15-year-old disabled daughter. Bolton was the only councillor to oppose the original decision, which was made in a confidential agenda item, and campaigned with families to have the decision reversed.

Matsuoka spoke about Sue’s work to win reinstatement of the home and community care service, which his family has used for ten years.

“I have known Sue for many years. Most of the time you see Sue … in front of the State Library or in front of Parliament House or in front of Maribyrnong [refugee] detention centre.

But this year it was a bit different for me personally. She literally helped our family and also many families in Moreland with children with disability.”

Matsuoka explained how Bolton contacted him after the family received a letter “out of nowhere” from Moreland council, stating there would be “some changes” to the home and community service, so that there would no longer be a service to families after 7pm on weekdays and on the weekend. There was no consultation with affected families.

“From there we started a campaign. And to this day Sue is the only person who reached out to us.”

When Matsuoka sought information about the decision, he discovered it had been made six months earlier and the information withheld from families because it was considered a confidential budget item.

“Most councillors accepted it. Sue is the only person who voted against the cut. Other councillors, Labor, Liberal, even Greens, they didn’t care. And after we started the campaign — first of all I sent an email to all councillors — most councillors didn’t respond. Sue of course responded.”

Bolton introduced Matsuoka and his family to a journalist at the Moreland Leader. When the decision was finally reversed in July this year, via a motion moved by Bolton that was adopted unanimously by the council, the story was front page news. Several councillors apologised during the council meeting to the families who had been adversely affected.

“If Sue hadn’t told us and helped us, probably we wouldn’t have the service.”

“Because of that, we need councillors like Sue Bolton. She is the only councillor in the north east ward who regularly holds residents’ meetings and listens to every single person’s opinion or complaint, from a major property development issue to just a parking issue in front of someone’s house.”

“If you look at Sue, she is taking notes and she follows up. It’s not like some councillors who just say ‘thank you for your email’. She really listens. And that’s what we need, a councillor who really listens to our story.”

“In Moreland, many people say the same thing, but when Sue says so she really means it and she acts upon it.”