June 5 - 11, 2016: Issue 266

Julie Hegarty 

A week after being sacked by the NSW Government as part of its amalgamation of local councils, Julie Hegarty announced;

‘After serving my community for 21 years as an elected member of Pittwater Council, I have been encouraged by this same community to throw my hat in the ring for the Federal seat of Mackellar as an Independent community candidate.

My objective as an Independent candidate is to honestly and directly represent our community of Mackellar to ensure your views, needs, concerns and expectations are effectively articulated at the Federal level.

I am appalled at the current State and Federal Governments arrogance and display of complete contempt of our communities views in a range of issues that significantly impact on our community values and our future.  I believe that as an Independent candidate I would be in a position to more effectively represent, advocate and negotiate improved community outcomes for the residents and businesses of Mackellar.’

Apart from her two decades of experience serving in local government, Julie has a broad range of experience in other areas, including, but not limited to, being Elected to the Board of Local Government NSW since 2002, Member of Geographical Names Board and Chair of National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council, has sat on Public Libraries Consultative Committee and most recently was elected to the Board of Pittwater RSL. 

What came before all that though? This week a small insight into a lady who doesn’t waste a minute.

When and where were you born?

I was born in Mona Vale Hospital on the 9th of January 1965. I believe the Maternity Ward opened in late December 1964, so I just missed out on being one of the first babies born.

Mum said it was really shiny, everything was brand new.

Where did you grow up?

I was raised at Frenchs Forest, attended Frenchs Forest primary school and then on to Forest High School, a good public education. 

We lived next to Forest High School, in a quiet cul-de-sac, and I remember we’d get cardboard and slide down the hill for fun as youngsters or just ride our bikes around. That was our Sunday afternoons!

We’d walk to Sunday school and get 5 cents for the plate and 5 cents for an ice cream on the way home. 

What did you do when you left school?

As soon as I left school I went straight into Dental Nursing. I did my Course through Redfern TAFE and worked in this field for four years.

Then I worked in Sales Representative positions, selling wine, kitchenware, underwear. 

We then had our own business, running a bus company that did trips from Manly to Palm Beach and back – the bus had roll up sides. I was in the office, overseeing everything. This company, Boomerang Bus Tours, won a couple of NSW Tourism awards.

Around this time I had my first daughter and was also elected to Pittwater Council.

I now run my own driving school, Barrenjoey Driving school, which is teaching young people to drive, which I love doing.

Why did you become involved in Local Government?

By default really. My husband, at that time, and I were doing a development at North Narrabeen and whinging as so any of us can when going through the process of doing this and they’re not getting their own way with Council. All our friends said ‘you should stand’.

My daughter’s father said ‘I’m too busy you will have to’ – I said ‘ok’, and off I went.

I walked around every night, with Monique my eldest daughter in a pram, feeding her and talking to people, visiting shopping centres to speak to people.

I was successful and was elected. The General Manager at that time rang me on Sunday night to congratulate me and tell me the first Meeting was the following night.

I had never been to a Council Meeting before, I had no idea about anything to do with such proceedings. My learning curve was very steep.

Although I don’t have Federal government experience, I don’t see it as any different as what I’ve already done; representing the community, knowing what they want.

What, to you, are the most important aspects to be maintained in a community to keep it a community?

Keep it local. Pittwater has often said ‘we’re unique in Pittwater’. I think every area is unique in a different way. Understanding that uniqueness, understanding the people that make it unique is vital. In Pittwater the environment is really important to the people who live here, the development that fits in with the environment rather than the environment trying to fit around the development. While that is not necessarily a federal issue, it’s certainly what my local people are saying and that can go further into the federal sphere.

What then would you define as the Pittwater environment?

I think it’s everything that’s here, the bush areas, the aquatic side of the estuary, the open green areas, the protection of the coastal zones on the beach side, from dunes and retaining these to the rock pools.

As a resident and as a former Councillor I think we instilled into our residents how important having trees are to break up the skyline. If you look at a hill you should see a ridge with trees rather than just houses. We have a lot of open spaces, some of them private, as in golf courses, some of them public, as in National parks, when you combine that with our aquatic environment you have a way of life that is basically just enjoying the environment, being in that. So our environment is not just there, our environment is part of us, part of what we do and live in. I’m sure there’s not anyone in Pittwater who doesn’t spend time in our environment; we go to the beach, go for a bushwalk, sail, play sports. Everyone is involved somehow, from Marinas and yacht clubs with ‘cleaner environment’ policies for their areas to someone choosing a native plant for their garden instead of something not endemic. People realise the importance of looking after the environment here, not only due to its effect on their business but also because they realise that if we lose the environment we lose, in fact, who we are.

People don’t come to Pittwater, or places like Terrey Hills or Dee Why because they want to go to a café, even though we have superb cafes and restaurants here – they come here because they want to enjoy the environment; they want to go for a bushwalk, go to the beach, go fishing, go to the lighthouse,.

Where did you learn to do what you needed to do and know to be an effective Councillor for Pittwater?

As I’ve always had lots of changes in my work situation, and I like changes, I take them as a challenge to research what to do and how to do it, this set me well for approaching the work involved in being a local representative. As I never worked for a large company, but always worked locally in smaller businesses, learning how to do it correctly came as part of the territory. 

Research is what you have to commit time to. Even standing as a candidate has brought this in again; the last few days have been spent finding out what you need to know about how to do this. Realistically it’s not that different to Local Government, there are differences of course, but also numerous similarities. It’s the same process, and where it differs you find out how to do it correctly.

How many hours work did you do each week for residents as a Councillor?

It varied, but averaged over a year it would have been 20 hours a week. The LGNSW would meet once a month, the other committees I sat on would meet every 2 to 3 months. Part of all of these would be to go through every paper being discussed at these Meetings, whether for Council or the others, and yes, sometimes there would be a phone book thick stack to go through. The more experienced you get at doing that, the more you know what to be looking for in these documents – items will jump out at you, and of course I’ve done the Power Reading course to support that. You do get really used to things that don’t look right, or if a Report says ‘the end results is da dah dah’ you need to ask ‘how did you get that result?’ – you need to know how to ask the questions if something is not transparent. So this is also about challenging assumptions that staff may make, who have obviously completely immersed themselves in that one issue, when I can have 50 issues to address as well as attending to my business or home duties.

How do you do that then – how can you be an effective Representative and a Business owner and a mum?

Allocating time is what works for me, which is something you get better at when you have multiple roles. You have to set realistic goals, things to be done each day and work your way through them. I attended a great seminar with Dale Beaumont. ‘Business Blueprint’. He spoke a lot about outsourcing, not that I actually do that but I have employed a cleaner for the first time in my life – that’s created more time for what else I need to get done.

When you know you have lots to do each day you become pretty organised and good at multitasking; a small example would be putting the washing on while taking the garbage out and taking the dog with you as you go – you do it in one lap around the house. 

Part of that is myself of course; I can’t imagine having a five days a week, 9 to 5 job. I like to be on the go seven days a week and thrive on doing multiple things within each day, it becomes something you’re used to doing.

Some advice I received quite early on when on Council was from John Caputo, who was a Councillor at Warringah at that time. He said ‘regardless of what happens you must always remember that your family comes first, your work comes second, and Council comes third’.

When I feel a bit overwhelmed at times I just push through, give myself the list of ‘to do’ and just work through these. Allocating the time is what woks.

What kept you in Council – why didn’t you get done what you wanted to get done and get out?

For exactly the same reason; I knew I could do things for other people that they didn’t know how to do. Once you have that knowledge the art is putting it to use for others.

It can be as simple as ‘oh, the garbage truck didn’t pick up my garbage’ – and me knowing how to fix that. it can be something that is easy to fix but can be something that causes problems for say, an older resident, who needs their local representative to attend to it for them – I knew which staff member to call when something happens. I didn’t always have to do that, I could tell them, ‘Joe, you need to speak to Fred, because he’s the guy who does that and he will be able to fix that.’

Sometimes people just want to be heard, they want to be able to speak to someone, to say’ please listen to me, I’m really worried about XYZ’.

It’s about being honest too, for instance, the new laws coming in regarding Boat Trailers – this was out of our jurisdiction, a state government change being introduced. It’s also about, in that same instance or others, to keep trying too. If you take on the job of being a local representative you must follow every thing through, make sure you get answers for whom you represent.

Why is it important for people to have a local representative who is local?

It’s vital because they have to know that individual, their track record, their performance. It’s vital because that local representative has to know the characteristics of each area and what’s important to the people in those varied areas. An example; it’s really important to know when someone complains about that street flooding you can tell them that street does flood at that time of the year, that it always has, that that is a low area adjacent to a wetland – it’s about knowing that.

You can’t understand an area unless you’re part of it and have that contact with that area and its people. 

I’m lucky in that through my driving school business, with three RTA’s in Manly, Frenchs Forest and Dee Why, and growing up in Frenchs Forest, then marrying and moving to Dee Why and then the Warriewood and Bayview area, I feel like I know every street in every area. When someone calls me about a problem in a particular street, I immediately know where and what they’re talking about, whether it’s Haig avenue in Belrose or ….. I know where it is.

What if they want the flooding fixed?

I’ll do my best to make that occur- that’s my job!

If you win the right to represent Mackellar – what’s the first thing you will do?

I’d go shopping and buy a warm jacket, it’s a bit cooler in Canberra and I may need it. (laughs)

No, more seriously, should I be fortunate to represent the people of Mackellar than that would be viewed as the start point, the beginning. I would go to Canberra and familiarise myself prior to Parliament sitting – find out where everything is, where anything I may need is- the Parliamentary library for instance.  

The Federal Budget released just prior to the Federal Election announcement – what is your view of its contents and its proclaimed focus on ‘fiscal responsibility'?

We definitely have to keep a focus on fiscal responsibility. People in Pittwater may not think that what happens at a Federal level effects them but it does – everything is relevant. For me it’s about taking the needs and wants of the people here to the next level.

It’s more than that though, to be perfectly honest, I think that sometimes there are points that weren’t pushed strongly enough – or perhaps there weren’t enough Independents to push a point. I was a part of the Liberal party for years and saw the way it works; you weren’t allowed to speak out of turn, you had to follow the party line. As it is for the other major partys.  If someone is in a marginal seat and says ‘I have to provide blah blah blah’, it’s about working towards that, and that’s it.

Money has been cut out of the Arts and regional galleries in this last budget – what is your stance on that?

Not happy about it. 

There have been no firm announcements about reducing the destruction of environment – which clearly has a roll on effect here – what is your stance on that?

A lot of the legislation that has passed at state and federal level lately has had little or no consultation and no listening when there has been any answer. That’s something I can do here, really ask what my community thinks about this, or anything that will affect them, and take that fight to that level. 

What do you do for downtime?

I’m really enjoying cooking at the moment, trying out new recipes. I like my garden, and have been putting a pond in recently.

What are your favourite places in Pittwater and why?

I love Barrenjoey headland and lighthouse. The air up there is so clean and you can see everything. I love West head for the same reason, it’s so beautiful in Ku-ring-gai National Park. 

I love Warriewood beach, and I love it because it’s really wide and flat, a great place to exercise. The beautiful new walking track right around Narrabeen Lagoon is special too- what an awesome asset we have there. The landscaping we did in Bilarong reserve is pretty impressive I think, the rock sculptures for young children are great, great for them to play there.

Warriewood escarpment, the walk from the waterfall up into Ingleside is lovely. I do have a special rock in Ingleside which I’ll visit if I need five minutes to me. This looks right out over Pittwater, and I can sit there and enjoy the view, makes notes on what I wanted to think out, and return refreshed – it’s only five minutes into the bush, wonderful.

We live right next door to Minkara reserve, this too is a wonderful place. 

What is your ‘motto for life’ or a favourite phrase you try to live by?

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I think that’s really important. If I want people to help me when I’m down, then it’s my job to help people when they’re down. When people do little things for you, you feel it, you can feel the intent. 

My mum always said, ‘if you’re feeling a bit blue, do something for someone else and you will feel amazing’. This is so true. It’s not about saving the world it’s about ‘I’ll look after you and you look after me – when you need me I’m here and if I need you, can you please come and help me’. 

Julie with eldest daughter Monique and her mum 

Copyright Julie Hegarty, 2016.