Tame the trolls

A FORMER Derwent Valley councillor who quit after an online campaign against her has called for urgent action to stop social media bullying of local government representatives.

Rachel Power, who owns and runs Mt Field Waterfall Cafe, said strong leadership was needed to drive change.

Ms Power said she and others in local government had “reached dark places’’ as a result of cyber trolls.

Her call comes after former mayor Ben Shaw resigned suddenly from council citing “a minority of despicable community members who are allowed to go unfettered and without consequence spreading vile misinformation, rumors and lies’’.

Deputy mayor Jessica Cosgrove is acting mayor until Mr Shaw’s replacement as a councillor and mayor is determined by a by-election in February.

Ms Power said it was sad that even after two years she and her business were still targeted.

“It’s sad that it will never matter who is in the job there will always be those who target them,’’ Ms Power said.
“My biggest comment would have to be the call for change.
“Right now (again) the Local Government Act is under review. “I have no confidence there will be any major changes, just more tinkering around the edges. “

“It takes a strong leader to drive the change that needs to happen.
“Without change I fear, actually I know, the right people will not throw their hat in the ring.
“What we will also start to see is councillors taking legal action against their councils and the Office of Local Government for not protecting them from slander and ongoing mental and verbal abuse.”

“Individual councillors will not sue trolls because of the real backlash by way of retribution.”
“That type of retribution will not come from a faceless government department however.
“The anti-bullying laws have changed, but they still rely on the individual. “

Is the Minister waiting for someone to take their own life before they act?
“While that may seem harsh, I listened to countless mayors and councillors across this state break down on radio and admit they had reached dark places.
“I was contacted by councillors from across the country who had also been there. I don’t want to see it happen to anyone anymore.’’

At the time of quitting, Mr Shaw said he would shut down his Facebook page, which has happened and he asked for respect and privacy.

A by-election will be conducted by postal ballot, closing on Tuesday February 22, next year.

Nominations open on Monday January 10, enrolment closes on January 13, 2022 and nominations close January 20.

Whoever wins, will hold the position until the ordinary election in October 2022.