Richmond Valley Council, Portia Walker-Fernando, Casino, Independent
Tell us about where you live and your family.
I am a proud Bundjalung female, newly become a wife and mother to five beautiful children in a blended family. My family ties are all around Casino and Tabulam and Woodenbong.
I have lived in Casino for the past five years. I decided to move back onto my own country, on Gallibal Land, when I had my first daughter, and have been home since.
I did take a short hiatus to Sydney, but home was calling me whilst I was pregnant with my youngest boy. Since then, I have been actively working in community to try to improve access to youth programs and working with community to advocate for more locally based support.
If you’ve been a councillor – what are you most proud of in your previous term?
I have not as yet. But I have been previously on the NSW Youth Advisory Council for 2020/2021 and am currently serving as a Australian Youth Advocate for Mental Health as part of the Visible Project with Headspace, which is a national group.
What do you bring to the role of councillor this election?
I am willing to listen to community and in a meaningful way, either advocate for community, or where possible, provide a safe space for community to advocate for themselves, including equipping community with the necessary tools to do so.
I am also passionate and caring and compassionate and above all, I uphold my integrity and ensure that I am transparent in all my doings.
What brings you joy in life?
My children and helping others. That sounds cliche, but in all honesty, I love helping my community. If that means putting in the hard work, that means I will do what I need to, to ensure that I am doing what is best for others and beneficial.
My children are also the most important drivers in my life and bring me most joy. I just want to ensure that I am committing to being apart of the building of a better future for them, inclusive of all of the next generation.
What difficulties does your community face?
One of my passions is advocating for more mental health support.
Currently, I am seeing a huge issue with lack of localised mental health support and an inundation of existing support. We are also experiencing a number of suicides and as a community, we are all feeling that.
We have a general lack of services in the Richmond Valley.
The assumption that everything is accessible because it is in Lismore is not fair to our communities, and I understand that there needs to be more advocacy for further support services and programs and activities localised to the Richmond Valley LGA.
It is hard to narrow down just one thing, because then we can discuss the current housing crisis and limited employment opportunities and tourism opportunities.
What is your job? What do you like/dislike about it?
I recently finished working at the Aboriginal Women’s Refuge in Lismore, to continue working as a Youth Engagement Worker with Connect Northern Rivers. I love this job because I get to work with young people in Casino, which includes assisting with the Friday Night Youth Nights, and during the day, supporting disengaged young people to reengage in something they are interested in, be it employment, training, or study.
This work enables me to work young people who would otherwise fall through the gap and have difficulty accessing supports.
Connect is also supportive of running programs in the area that would benefit and improve the wellbeing of young people in the area, as well as the community.
Dare to dream – what is your vision for your region?
I would love to see a thriving community with an increased tourism opportunity and showcasing the amazing land we have and features, as well as further archiving the historical stories and significance of the area.
I would also love to see more localised supports in the Richmond Valley, without the need to travel for essential services, such as mental health services, medical services, shopping for essentials (including clothing).