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Mandy Wheatley - 27 May 2014

Mandy Wheatley made the following comments in Non Agenda Public forum at the Ordinary Council Meeting on 27 May 2014. 

Request to end the display of firearms at the Narooma HuntFest

Thank you, Mr Mayor, for allowing me to present my opinion to you and the council members about displaying firearms at the Huntfest in Narooma.

Before introducing myself and the matter which has me speaking to Council, I must thank all our Councillors and staff on the Eurobodalla Shire Council for providing us with beautiful and well-maintained local amenities in this spectacular part of the Far South Coast. Your decisions and hard work play a huge role in maintaining Eurobodalla's beauty and charm against the pressure of economic development. You are to be congratulated.

Self-introduction 

I am a newly retired resident of Narooma, married to a locally born son of the district and we have two sons in their twenties, both of whom have served in the Defence Forces. I have a long history of working in the caring professions in both nursing and church ministry so you might classify me as a nurturer of life and healthy living.  

My father was a responsible man who held a gun licence for many years but surrendered it when he went on a kangaroo cull and returned sickened by the suffering of the animals he and his group of friends shot. He taught me respect for guns in rural settings and respect for the animals we kill for food and not to use them as a means of recreation.

It distresses me immensely that there will be guns and archery displays at Huntfest in Narooma.

One of my greatest concerns is ensuring safe private gun and weapon ownership and the potential for disaster because of unlawful behavior with legally and illegally owned guns.

In my training as a psychiatric nurse and living as a minister in a small rural town in the Upper Hunter with a lively pig-dogging tradition, I have lived with people who told me stories of gun and knife use and misuse.

Having gone to court with a woman seeking an AVO (apprehended violence orders) for an aggressive partner with an alcohol addiction, and having seen the magistrate order the confiscation of the guns held by their partner, I feel I have a right to express concern about encouraging recreational gun ownership.

Having conducted a funeral for a well-respected young man who was 24 years old when he became a victim of a shooting suicide due to depression and marital difficulties, I feel I have a right to speak on behalf of wives and families affected by misuse of guns.

In 2007, 45% of Australians aged 16-85 years, had at some point in their lifetime experienced a mental disorder – be that depression, uncontrollable anger, anxiety or substance abuse. With increasing pressures on society, I am concerned when I read that Sydney has had over fifty drive-by shootings occur since March 2011; (http://guides.sl.nsw.gov.au/content.php?pid=293537&sid=2690160) that there have been more than 9000 firearms stolen between 2004 and 2012, most from homes; and that there are an estimated 10,000 guns on the black market in Australia.  (Gun Control Australia's- Sam Lee)

My experience of living in the Upper Hunter has given me insight into the good the bad and the ugly of using weapons.

  • The good – came from the honour and privilege of living with good people, farmers mostly, who struggled every day with the effects of damage to their properties and stock by ferral pigs, goats, wild dogs, deer and rabbits. They managed their losses, to some degree, with training and respect for the animals whose lives they were going to take. They were "not just going out after an animal for the sake of slaughtering it."
  • The bad – These same good folk told me stories about bringing home wounded pig dogs, to be put down after hunting;  injured pig-dogs and pigs, running away in the scrub to die or breed further, or relocating pig and deer for future hunting in the wild.  Hunting by dogs is cruel, as any sheep farmer whose animals are attacked by wild dogs will tell you.
  • and the ugly – Increasing the number of weapons in our society is blatantly un-Australian. The only people who need guns in Australia, are the military, the police and farmers. No-one else needs weapons of any kind.  Putting guns and weapons in the hands of more people will mean more chances of shooting suicides, accidents and crime as American statistics prove. http://guncontrol.org.au/

We have so much to be proud of in Eurobodalla Shire, including Council's Commitment to acknowledge the rights of Aboriginal people and give respect and recognition of their heritage, beliefs and traditions. When I approached an elder to seek their perspective about the Huntfest and gun display, I was told that they do not give support to the display of firearms in Narooma. They said their young people are in enough trouble as it is without adding weapons to the mix.

In summary

Narooma is a place of unrivaled natural wild beauty http://www.sapphirecoast.com.au/– that is why we have retired here. I fear that it will soon become a place known more for hunting tourism and the ability to access weaponry to kill.

Please consider your Council's vision statement that Eurobodalla Shire will continue to be recognized as a vibrant, caring community, enjoying the quality of life afforded by the environment. Please show us the integrity you have promised us to behave ethically.

In conclusion, I thank you again for your considerable efforts to keep our communities great places and safe places to live.

My question

to you, councilors, is this; why, if you promote consultative processes in the shire, when you promote the unspoilt natural beauty of this part of the world in tourism and relocation of retirees and families, have you allowed the display of weapons at a Huntfest in Narooma, when so many of the public do not endorse your choice as evidenced by our presence here today?

Council's Reply

No response has been provided.