Published on 16 February 2023

Meet Your Council – Mayor Moira Were

City of Onkaparinga’s new Council was sworn in on 22 November last year, and they’ve hit the ground running, having allocated half-a-million dollars in grant funding, kicked off a CEO recruitment process, and declared a climate emergency, to name a few.

Onkaparinga Now is launching a new series of articles to help you to better get to know your new Elected Members, and first cab off the rank is Mayor Moira Were.

Stay tuned for more Meet Your Council articles in the near future as we delve into the City of Onkaparinga’s six council wards’ elected members.

City of Onkaparinga’s elected members are your representatives, ready to listen and advocate on your behalf on the local issues that are important to you. You can find their contact details and ward information at council’s website.

ONKAPARINGA NOW (O NOW): What made you want to become mayor?

MOIRA: Wanting to become mayor wasn’t on my mind until mid-2022. I saw the mood of our country moving towards change, expressed through state and federal election results. More people were voting for our environment, future generations, supporting First Nations, and having more of a say. There was also an increase in the number of people feeling left behind in our decision-making processes. I thought—this is the time for my skill set to be put to use for my own community. At my core, I work for systems change and supporting people who want to be part of the solution, and who bring their personal experience in family, community, business and everyday living to the table to help find those solutions. The place where this is closest to local decision-making is local government. I love where I live and I’ve been an advocate for the south for most of my life. It seemed running in the local election was an opportunity to test whether people wanted a mayor with my background or experience. I wanted voters to make a choice, and for one of those choices to be the kind of person I am, and the values I’d bring to the community leadership role of mayor.

O NOW: How has your previous experience and roles equipped you to be mayor?

MOIRA: In so many ways… as a social worker I’ve listened to thousands of hours of people impacted by systems that have failed them. I’ve worked with women and children fleeing domestic violence, people with disabilities seeking support, families facing the death of a loved one, community groups seeking support for their mission, whole programs and organisations building new services and evaluating what works and what doesn’t, and why. I’ve served on boards and committees such as the Medical Board of SA, the SA Fire and Emergency Services Commission, Chief Entrepreneur’s Advisory Board, to name a few, so I know about governance. I’ve been a CEO of Volunteering SA & NT, and the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2)—two leadership roles that prepared me for working with representative bodies and collaboration. I’m a founder of a social enterprise Collab4Good and an advocacy co-operative, Hen House Coop, so I know about models of governance, advocacy and commercialisation. I think the blend of these skills and experiences are excellent foundations for this leadership and facilitation role.

O NOW: You’ve been based in Onkaparinga since the 1990s—tell us about your connection to the region.

MOIRA: I came here for more affordable housing to raise a family. We wanted our children to have a room of their own (we had four), and a five-bedroom house in Port Noarlunga South across the road from a primary school was perfect. After more than a decade there, we moved to Willunga when our last child entered her final year of high school because I’d always loved that village, and I got to know it well by going to the weekly farmers market from the beginning. After my husband died in 2017, I took a year to decide whether to stay or leave, and with all but one of my children now living overseas or interstate, I decided to move to Sellicks Beach at the end of 2019, weeks before the pandemic, to be close to my daughter and her family. I’ve worked in the area for many years, volunteered, and been involved in all kinds of groups such as domestic violence, community arts, choir, church and gardening groups.

O NOW: What makes Onkaparinga such a unique and special place to live?

MOIRA: I love the ancient storyline of our place, the trees—especially the red gums—the coastline and the people. Onkaparinga’s a community full of people who work hard, give it their best and are great neighbours to one another, especially supporting each other in tough times. We have an incredible spirit of volunteering that’s inspiring, from children and young people planting trees and coaching in sporting clubs, to seniors providing transport services and companionship to those who are unable to get about easily.

O NOW: What are some of the key challenges our region faces?

MOIRA: Like the rest of the planet, we’re facing climate change challenges. Our Council and the community, and especially our wine industry, have been active and national leaders in this for more than two decades. We’re also faced with the post-COVID challenges of keeping everyone healthy and safe, with more people working from home, and helping those who don’t have access to technology to be able to fully participate and get the services and support they need. We have women and children impacted by family violence, and I’d love to see Onkaparinga as the safest place for a child to grow up. Local government has a role in supporting families with information, places to go to connect with others, and to advocate for the resources needed that other levels of government and organisations can support. There are business challenges around tourism and getting more diversity into our economy to support small and medium-sized businesses, with many opportunities emerging as our economy transitions to meet the future.

O NOW: What are the key things you’d like to achieve at the City of Onkaparinga?

MOIRA: By the end of my four years as mayor, I’d like to see our city famous for the great work we’re doing in being a resilient, just and kind place to live, work and enjoy. To achieve this, we need to build on the strong foundations we have in approach to the environment, engagement and participation with Kaurna, and integrating ancient wisdom into our decision-making, as well as more members of the community, especially the voices of young adults and children, who’ll inherit the consequences of our decisions. I’m looking forward to supporting the elected members to make high-quality decisions based on good information, robust debate, and an administration that’s well equipped to give us the best available advice.

O NOW: Tell us about your passions and interests outside of work.

MOIRA: I sing in an acapella gospel choir, love live music, and carry a poetry book in my bag for quick doses of inspiration and comfort. I have a neglected garden, which gets attention only every now and again. I like to go for long walks. Travelling and reading and listening to podcasts. I also write a weekly blog because I like to practise reflection, and writing is a way for me to do that. This is my 11th year of doing a weekly blog.

O NOW: What do you want to hear about from local residents?

MOIRA: I want to know what’s important to them, and why it’s important to them. I want to understand how they’d like to participate and help solve problems by being part of the solution. I want them to talk to their local ward councillors and work together.

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Mayor Moira Were in a multi-coloured dress smiles in front of a leafy green tree at Noarlunga's council offices.