From refugee to mayor of City of Maribyrnong

Mayor, Cr Cuc Lam.

By Mayor, Cr Cuc Lam

The City of Maribyrnong is home to a diverse, growing, and ever-changing population located in the inner west of Melbourne. Our city has one of the most culturally diverse populations in Victoria, with 40 per cent of residents born outside Australia, coming from over 135 different countries. Maribyrnong features an incredible community of international cultures offering tasty food, a lively arts and festivals presence, quaint villages, rolling parks and gardens and exciting bars and cafés. And in my opinion, some of the best Vietnamese food in Melbourne.

I have been a councillor for the City of Maribyrnong for 11 years, serving two terms as mayor in 2017/18 and currently for the 2023/24 term.

As a former refugee from Vietnam, my interest in local government started when I resettled in Australia and wanted to learn more about how governments worked. I felt the community needed a representative who they could relate to and understood the personal challenges migrants faced.

I’m passionate about advocating for multicultural communities, particularly vulnerable community members who face cultural and language barriers, to find a sense of belonging in Australia.

I was a public servant for over 30 years and recently retired. Along with being a full-time mayor, I currently sit on the board of the Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association, Australia Local Government Women’s Association, and the Western Health Foundation.

It is a privilege to represent the people of Maribyrnong and to ensure all community members have a voice.

I love to keep active by going on long walks, swimming, and watching comedy.

Challenges, goals, and projects

Our municipality endured the devastating impacts of a major flood event in 2022. More than 500 homes, several kilometres of road and footpaths, and a number of our open spaces were impacted – council is continuing to support affected residents through the flood recovery.

Our municipality is a small and densely populated area, and that alone comes with its own unique set of challenges. Areas that need to be addressed include improved air quality due to being home to several truck routes, and better public and active transport networks to improving cycling and walking connections.

Council has a strong commitment toward inclusion and equality and takes pride in this city’s diverse community, including LGBTIQA+ people, families, and communities.

The LGBTIQA+ Strategy and Action Plan reinforces the council’s commitment to LGBTIQA+ people, families, and communities, and identified actions for strengthening social and economic inclusion and reducing barriers to their participation in the city. A LGBTIQA+ Community Advisory Group was also established. I am extremely proud to share that Maribyrnong is the third council in Australia to recently sign the Darlington Statement.

Council is undertaking a major redevelopment that will see historic Footscray Town Hall renovated and restored and a new community park and civic administration building constructed, which is scheduled for completion by December 2024.

The site has a rich history – an 80-year heritage we plan to respect, restore, and celebrate. Recognising heritage constraints, restoration works were designed to unlock the Town Hall’s full potential, returning it to public life and restoring the connection between the community and the civic centre of the municipality. This will include a new flexible community foyer and forum space providing a direct access to community spaces and interface between the Town Hall, new civic building, and new community park.

As part of the project, council is aiming for a modern six-star Green Star accreditation for the new building which is the highest level of certification reaching world leadership in sustainable practices. This includes using responsible materials in the build, reducing upfront carbon emissions and life cycle impact through carbon neutral certified materials, installing a 60,000-rainwater tank, and installing a solar system. Other elements include bike and EV parking infrastructure, dedicated wellness space, and installing indigenous plants and new trees. In line with council’s, Climate Emergency Strategy 2020-2025, the project will further our commitment in delivering a low-impact, environmentally responsible centre.

Achievements as mayor

I was instrumental in driving the council’s first Intercultural Strategy, further cementing our commitment to embracing diverse voices.

Nearly half of our residents were born overseas, and more than 80 languages are spoken in our city. The strategy, which builds on the community’s strengths and experiences as a multicultural city, embraces interculturalism to help grow a socially cohesive city, as well as promoting inclusivity and diversity. It seeks to foster learning, dialogue, and relationships between cultures.

The best part of being mayor is representing the whole city. I often refer to myself as the ‘harmony councillor’ as I’m able to work with all councillors and lead council to create better outcomes for our neighbourhoods and continue driving a prosperous city economy.