“We didn’t always have the right to vote”

“We didn’t always have the right to vote”

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Olwen Searle has a message for voters. Photograph – Aaron Van Rongen.

There will be a changing of the guard at the City of Gosnells when new councillors are sworn in on Monday, with an incredible loss of experience on council

The retirement of Olwen Searle and Julie Brown, who had their last council meeting on Tuesday night, will rob the council of a collective 68 years of experience.

Expand that number to include retiring single-term councillors Carey-Anne Harper and Julie Jones and that number expands to 76 years.

Ms Searle, the longest-serving woman in the history of Gosnells council, said voters have the opportunity to forge a new path forward – provided they actually vote.

“It’s an opportunity to move forward that depends on people voting,” she said.

“Every vote counts and people need to be reminded how hard it was to win the vote, especially women.

“We didn’t always have the right to vote so we need to exercise that right.

“Voting sets a good example to your children that you believe in democracy.”

Ms Brown said it was important voters did their own research and read the profiles of candidates.

“What I’ve noticed is that a lot of candidates are saying they’ll do things that are on a State or Federal level that they just can’t do,” she said.

“This is a changing of the guard and we need to get the right people on board, and as a voter if you don’t read what they candidates intend to do, how can you make the right choice?”

For those who can’t be bothered voting, Ms Searle has a blunt message

“You can’t moan and groan if you don’t vote, you have no right to have a say.”

The city’s voter engagement over the last decade paints a grim picture.

Numbers peaked at the 2017 election, with 27.91 per cent of electors taking part, with 2013 producing the lowest return with just 20.93 per cent putting their hand up.

While 2019’s engagement was higher, with 22.22 per cent of 71,762 eligible voters submitting their ballot, it was also the lowest level of engagement in the metropolitan area.

As of Wednesday October 13, just 23.5 per cent of the 75,680 ballots sent had been returned to the Western Australian Electoral Commission.

There are still opportunities to vote, with a voting booth at the City of Gosnells Civic Centre remaining open until 6pm Saturday night.

Polls will then close and counting will begin, with the new councillors to be sworn in at a Special Meeting of Council on Monday, October 18.