One hundred columns! Who would have thought?

One hundred columns! Who would have thought?
Tony Penna

I write this column with surprise. My first column was edition 25 of Southbank News in November 2013 after being elected as president at the October 2013 AGM.

At that time, I would never have thought I would be here 100 columns later, still advocating for Southbank. I have missed about a handful during this time for various reasons, but I have always looked forward to writing them.

After seeing the AGM presentation of the outgoing president, Michael Smolders, I knew I had big shoes to fill and was prepared to give it my best shot. There were other members on the committee too, but sadly they were all new volunteers just like me, but no less eager. It was certainly a massive learning curve, but I knew I still had the support of the outgoing committee whenever needed. Michael remained a valuable resource.

But looking back, not much has really changed in terms of issues within the community. Open space was the number one issue at that time, and it still is although we have had some small gains owing to Boyd Park and Southbank Boulevard upgrades, but still far from enough. We have had a few tough battles, and a few significant wins. But what has been so striking during this time is the seriousness and attention which has been afforded to the Southbank Residents’ Association (SRA), making us a most credible community representative.

For the most part, our concerns are given due attention and we have not been painted as a NIMBY community group, as too often so many are. We are progressive and have remained relevant. I recall our previous local state member Martin Foley’s comments at one of our AGMs that he engages with many community groups across the Albert Park electorate and SRA was by far the most engaged and progressive group he had the pleasure to work with. Our committee was chuffed to hear that.

While I have been fortunate to lead SRA during this time, our achievements are credited to the hard work and commitment of our volunteer committees. I have had the pleasure of collaborating with this diverse cross-section of our community and made many new friends along the way. They are the real heroes to our representation.

One stand-out achievement during this time was the establishment of the Southbank Owners’ Corporation Network (SOCN), which has grown from strength to strength along the way and now provides a valuable resource and opportunity for OCs to collaborate and improve the inner-workings of their buildings. I have seen great things come from these meetings and am excited to see where this group will continue to move to.

And, of course, thank you to the hard-working team at Southbank News, for making these 100 columns possible!

Another 100 columns you may be asking? I doubt it, but I am still keeping my eyes and ears open as I am bumping into residents throughout the neighbourhood and learning about what they love about our community and what they think could be improved.

Contact me via the email below if you’d like to get involved with our community group. •

[email protected]

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