Unvaccinated councillors in Melbourne’s west force meetings online

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A council in Melbourne’s outer west, which is among the local government areas with the highest number of COVID-19 cases, is still not holding face-to-face meetings due to some councillors remaining unvaccinated.

Melton City Council, on Melbourne’s western rural–urban fringe, will continue to hold its meetings online until at least April, three councillors have confirmed.

Victorian councils can meet in person provided all councillors are double vaccinated.

The council is unable to meet in person as some councillors are not vaccinated. Credit:Eddie Jim

Councillor Sophie Ramsey, who is double vaccinated, said the council was still meeting online due to the unvaccinated status of some councillors.

“There is a notice of motion to [meet online] until April next year, and that will allow everybody who needs to get vaccinated [to get] vaccinated,” she said.

Councillor Bob Turner, who is also double vaccinated, confirmed some councillors were not vaccinated.

“There’s a few of us who are desperate to get back into chambers,” he said. “It’s really important for people to meet face-to-face to build rapport.”

A third councillor, who didn’t wish to be named to avoid conflict with their colleagues, said there were multiple unvaccinated councillors.

Mayor Goran Kesic refused to confirm why the council wasn’t meeting in-person and when asked by The Age if he was vaccinated, hung up the phone.

Both Cr Ramsey and Cr Turner said they weren’t aware of how many councillors remained unvaccinated.

The council is holding business awards on Thursday night that require attendees to be double vaccinated.

Cr Ashleigh Vandenberg, who works as a nurse in a COVID-19 ward and is double vaccinated, said vaccination was “highly important” and that meeting in person allowed councillors to properly perform their jobs.

“To connect with each other and ask questions. I think it’s better advocacy,” she said.

“Employees must be vaccinated to return to work, the same rules should apply to councillors.”

Cr Ramsey, who has a lung condition, said people needed to make a choice over whether to get vaccinated that best suited their family.

“[But] the decision we make doesn’t only affect ourselves, it affects our family, our friends, and the community at large,” she said.

Cr Turner said people’s choice not to get vaccinated needed to be respected.

Councillor Steve Abboushi confirmed he was double vaccinated.

Councillor Julie Shannon said she couldn’t comment on whether she was vaccinated or not.

Councillors Lara Carli, Moria Deeming and Kathy Majdlik did not return calls and messages.

Melton City Council acting chief executive Maurie Heaney has been contacted for comment.

Melton, which takes in Caroline Springs, Ravenhall and parts of Hillside, had 591 active COVID-19 cases as of Thursday.

Victoria recorded 1254 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday. The 10 local government areas to report the most new cases were: Wyndham, Brimbank, Casey, Hume, Whittlesea, Melton, Bayside, Melbourne, Boroondara, and Port Phillip.

Melton had a 95 per cent second dose vaccination rate and a 91.2 per cent first vaccination rate as of November 15.

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