Approaching retirement as a Nurse Practitioner at Forbes Health Service following a career spanning 43 years, Maria Willis has now made a commitment to stand as a candidate for election as a Forbes Shire Councillor in the December 4 local government elections.
Maria is passionate about all aspects of her local community and believes in the importance of transparency, broad consultation, accountability and mutual respect.
"I have the time, capacity, passion, corporate memory and integrity required to be an active and contributing Forbes councillor," Maria said.
"I am not politically aligned and have no financial interest in seeking election as a Forbes Shire councillor."
Maria feels that understanding the governance and structure of government agencies and the distinct roles and boundaries between councillor and council is vital to being a collaborative and effective councillor.
Maria was born at the old Mater hospital in Forbes and had an idyllic childhood on a mixed farming property in the Forbes district.
As the daughter of a farmer, she understands too well the impact of flood, drought and fire has had on the entire community over the years and the importance of having a strong and resilient community who look out for each other in the tough years.
After completing high school in 1977, Maria commenced her nursing journey in Sydney, completing both her registered nurse and midwifery certificates.
Post-graduation Maria gained experience in midwifery, adult and neonatal intensive care before returning to her home town of Forbes in 1991.
"On my return to Forbes I met my husband Mark and we were blessed with three healthy children, who are now grown with partners," she said.
"We were thrilled with the arrival of our first grandchild recently, and that experience has fuelled my passion to ensure Forbes remains a community of choice for young families."
The importance of retaining an experienced medical and nursing team in a rural area like Forbes has not been not lost on Maria.
Her first child arrived by an emergency caesarean and in the decades since, her career in nursing has only strengthened her resolve to fight for continual improvement in the medical services available locally.
"Our children have loved growing up here in a tight knit and supportive community," Maria said.
"As a family we have benefited from all that Forbes has to offer - community support, the variety and ease of access to local business, medical, childcare and school services, employment opportunities, wonderful sporting facilities, our river and the amazing lake precinct".
Maria's wish is that the children of Forbes have the same opportunities as previous generations and have the best facilities available to them into the future.
She continued her career in the roles of district and community-based nursing and in the last few years, she has worked as a Chronic and Complex Care Nurse Practitioner.
During this time. Maria continued to learn, completing a Graduate Certificate in Child and Family Health and a Master of Nurse Practitioner.
"After working in health all these years, I find I am quite attuned to how statistics are used by politicians, Federal and State governments and their ministries to suit their respective narrative and agendas," she said.
"Shades of the old adage "lies, damn lies, and statistics?"
"I have been involved in patient care, community development and health promotion activities since my return to Forbes and have worked with most of the service providers over the years, including education, aged care, sporting associations, the Forbes Shire Council, Department of Communities and Justice, Commonwealth Home Support Program and Catholic Health Care".
Maria has observed numerous restructures and name changes over the years in government organisations which, in her opinion, has resulted in very little improvement at the coal face, and a disturbing silent decline and fragmentation in services, funding, collaboration and lack of effective communication.
Maria is also concerned that these changes have resulted in local service providers being put under ever increasing stress in a demanding and complex workplace, often expected to do more and more, with less resources and support.
"We have different challenges than our city communities when seeking equitable, accessible care and services, recruiting staff and attracting industry. It is well known that our rural communities have poorer health and education outcomes and less access to services than our city communities" she said.
"Maintaining current and future infrastructure, recruitment, financial sustainability and service levels are significant risks for local government, business and service providers into the future.
"The Federal and State Governments prediction of negative growth in Forbes has proven to be incorrect.
"Despite flooding, drought, recession, the threat of amalgamation and the COVID 19 pandemic, Forbes's population has continued to increase".
Maria said she will watch with interest the announcement of the 2021 Census results, and if elected, would move to have a review of current and projected community needs in order to ensure our council and community have appropriate services available and are "future fit".
"My concerns are future constraints in funding and rationalisations of services will be flowing downstream, not just to local government, but to all government funded agencies," Maria said.
She feels that there will be a future cost from debt incurred by dealing with both the COVID 19 pandemic and recent disasters such as the 2019/2020 fire season.
Maria believes it doesn't matter if you have been living in Forbes for six weeks, six decades or have an intergenerational connection to the Forbes Shire, one's willingness to put their hand up to be counted as a voice and advocate for the Forbes community, and being prepared to ask the hard questions, is what really counts.
We have a visually beautiful shire and reliable local businesses trades, industry and agriculture punching above their weight but what is the current state of affairs when seeking medical, hospital, aged and child care and affordable housing?
She believes strongly that under the Local Government Act 1993, one of the roles of a councillor is to make considered and well informed decisions and to represent the collective interests of residents, ratepayers and the local community.
"We have a shire population around 10,000, with 6935 registered voters across the townships and rural properties in our shire voting to elect nine councillors," she said.
"Surely together we can get it right and provide cooperative and honourable representation for our community."
Maria can be contacted on 0427 002 778.
The views expressed in this article are that of the candidate and authorised for publication by Maria Willis, 75 Ferry Street, Forbes. NSW. 2871.
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