FRIDAY is the deadline for public comments to be made about Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors beginning their meetings with a prayer or a pledge.
Words of a pledge have been spoken since December last year (except for one meeting in February) but the agenda item is listed as The Prayer, even though there is no mention of a god, deity or any other supernatural being considered divine or sacred.
The word prayer was retained to describe the pledge following the shire’s in-house lawyer Amanda Sapolu advising that as long as what they were saying was called a prayer, there was no need to consult the public (“God purged from council ‘prayer’” The News 15/12/20).
However, what seemed like a move to avoid seeking public approval to change a decades’ long tradition came unstuck at the council’s 9 February meeting when Cr Antonella Celi “reminded” councillors that “community consultation is foundational to local government”.
The words “almighty God” were used in the The Prayer for that meeting but have been dropped ever since following councillors’ agreeing to test public feeling.
The then newly elected Cr Anthony Marsh, who moved that the pledge be substituted for the prayer at his first council meeting in December, said he had been “listening to voices that aren’t heard; to people that are silent in our community that had a view”.
Cr Marsh’s pledge has been recited ever since, but the wording of The Prayer agenda item is up for comment along with other amendments to the shire’s Governance Rules.
If given the public tick of approval, The Prayer may be dropped from future agendas and replaced by The Pledge, which means it will no longer have to masquerade as a prayer.
Other proposed changes to the rules involve:
- Councillors attending meetings by teleconference.
- Chairperson’s powers.
- Chief executive officer powers.
- Councillors introducing further amendments.
- Notices of motion.
- Inclusion of the “election period policy”.
The deadline for comments and submissions is this Friday, 18 June.
Go to mornpen.vic.gov.au/governancerules to have your say.
Contact the Mornington Peninsula Shire’s Governance team for further information on 5950 1000 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
“We pledge that this council will act in the best interests of the entire Mornington Peninsula community. We will conduct our deliberations and make decisions with an open mind and on each item’s individual merit. We further commit to carry out our duties impartially and in good faith, treating each other with respect, dignity and kindness, and at all times, acting in accordance with the Councillor Code of Conduct and Governance Rules.”
Almighty God, we humbly seek Thy blessings upon this Council. Direct and prosper its deliberations to the advancement of Thy glory and the true welfare of the people of the Mornington Peninsula Shire. Give us the strength and courage to make wise decisions with grace and dignity. Amen.