Victoria’s Cross Border Commissioner: a Regional Partnership priority in action20/05/2019
“We’re doing about 1,000 km a week,” explains Luke Wilson, Victoria’s inaugural Cross Border Commissioner, who took up the role last October.
Over the past few months, the Commissioner – who is based in Wodonga, but is on the road two or three days a week – has been visiting the state’s border areas, meeting with councils, business groups, and speaking with the community, including on local talkback radio.
He’s regularly in Mildura and the Mallee region – where the idea for a Cross Border Commissioner originated through the Regional Partnership Assembly in 2016.
But the Commissioner stresses the border is not just the Murray and he has visited every local government area with a state border, adding that he is looking at issues experienced around both the New South Wales and South Australian borders. Tasmania even gets a guernsey, sometimes.
On his journeys, he’s collected a list of more than 120 border-specific issues which need addressing.
“We’re hearing the issues that people are experiencing in their community,” explains the Commissioner, who adds that border issues cover every possible theme, from access to TAFE to school buses, fishing licences to speed and passenger limits for P and L platers. Some issues, he adds, reoccur in multiple places, others are unique or play out differently in different locations.
“It doesn’t just go on a list,” he adds. “As the issues are explained to us, we have started working on them straight away.”
He adds that while some issues are regulatory and may require changes to rules or the law, many more are just the result of states adopting different practices. These are often thought to be caused by rules, but the rule book is often not the real problem. He’s also collecting a third type of issue - opportunities for collaboration.
“We’re leveraging off existing forums, and ensuring we are linking with existing groups such as the Regional Partnerships,” he explains.
“Every community we go to is supportive of this role,” explains the Commissioner. "There’s a demand for this and the feedback has been positive. We now know the picture. Border residents know we don’t just have to put up with it. We can now work together to fix the issues.”
Win Scott, Mallee Regional Partnership Chair, says the Cross Border Commissioner recently updated the Partnership on his work. ”We were impressed with how much has been achieved since his appointment, and quietly proud that this initiative came from the Mallee,” she said.
You can learn more about the work of the Cross Border Commissioner, and lodge issues directly, at www.crossborder.vic.gov.au .