Tea break with the Lord Mayor

Lord Mayor Sally Capp starts work at dawn, loves Queen Victoria Market and, despite Melbourne’s die-hard coffee culture, drinks up to six cups of tea per day.

But what is it really like to be in the Council’s top job? We invited the Lord Mayor to reflect on her first months in the role and share her vision for Melbourne’s future.

What have you enjoyed most about your first few months as Lord Mayor?
I absolutely love community engagement – whether it’s talking to people on the street, talking to the media or attending forums all over town. That connection with people who are interested in what’s happening in Melbourne and how can we make it better is one of the things that gives me so much energy.

It’s lovely to see the sense of ownership people have in the city, too – that sense of commitment and involvement from not only ratepayers but the broader community is fantastic.

I’ve also really enjoyed learning about the breadth of services and activities that the City of Melbourne is involved in, and the direct impact we can have on our communities.

Then there’s been meeting and working with so many talented staff at the City, not to mention all of our hard working councillors. Our staff have a real interest in the issues raised by our ratepayers and their dedication to ensuring concerns are followed-up and acted on is inspiring.

It’s been extremely rewarding to work alongside my fellow councillors on initiatives to make our city better.

What have been some of the most special moments so far?
My first citizenship ceremony as Lord Mayor was a very special occasion for me. I was absolutely delighted to see almost 100 people from 37 nationalities become new Australians.

It is a momentous occasion to accept citizenship of another country and there were a lot of proud and emotional people in the room, including me!

What have you found surprising?
When I first started, I saw a report that said local government is the most trusted form of government in Australia at the moment. As someone new to government, that surprised me. But now that I’ve been here a bit longer – seeing how we are integrated into our community in such a fundamental way and those day-to-day interactions we have in people’s lives – I can understand this, and I think it’s fantastic.

What have you found most challenging?
It’s a big learning curve – I’m still learning a lot, because I’m new to politics. I’m somebody who wants to be able to add value from my previous experiences but I’ve also got a lot to learn about how all this operates. I’m very grateful to all my colleagues, including my fellow councillors, for guiding me and giving me advice.

What is your perspective on our city’s rapid growth?  
We are at a once-in-a-generation moment where we are about to transition from being Australia’s fastest growing city, to its biggest.

There are opportunities and challenges that come with this and now is the time – working alongside the councillors and executive team – to put in place initiatives and strategic plans that will set us up well and ensure we are working towards the brightest of futures.

Rather than letting growth stifle us, we’ve got an opportunity to work with State and Federal governments and harness that growth to create a bright future for more people.

What is your vision for Melbourne’s future?
My vision is for a city that successfully embraces growth. It’s about understanding where the gaps are that we need to address and what strengths we can build on.

Most importantly, cities are about people. So we need to really understand what our citizens want for the future and focus on how we can accommodate these ambitions, learning from other great cities around the world.

I’d love Melbourne to be a city where people come because they think they can realise their full potential in life here. So we have to build an environment and a platform to support them in these dreams.

Of course, there are exponential possibilities of what these dreams might be, so this is a challenge – but it’s a very worthy one.

What legacy would you like to leave for Melbourne’s future?
Firstly, we need to create more of the spaces I call the hearts and lungs of the city – our parks and open spaces – to accommodate a growing population.

Secondly, we also need good places to live – which is about amenity as well as diversity, because we want all sorts of people to live in the city and they’ve got different needs from time to time.

I call it right-sizing, and as a city, we need a diversity of residential solutions to support all these stages of life, and all choices.

Thirdly, we definitely want to be at the forefront of the industries and jobs of the future. Melbourne is renowned for its research and development and we’ve got a very healthy start-up ecosystem. So we need to focus on how we invest in these start-ups so they can become ‘unicorns’, as they’re called.

Lastly, we need infrastructure to make our city move and be connected. Our population will increase to eight million by 2050, so we need a mass transit public transport system alongside better solutions for pedestrians and bicycles to increase connectedness around the city.

These are obviously long-term future goals, but we need to be making decisions today that lead us down that path towards that brightest future where people can realise their full potential.

Do you have a favourite part of Melbourne?
I’m a water girl, so I love to go to the river and Docklands. There’s lots of activity going on in these places, but there’s also a sense of peacefulness.

I’m also a big fan of our parks, which is why I have my passion project around the Highline-style park along the north bank. I use the Botanic Gardens a lot but a couple of Sundays ago I walked through the Fitzroy Gardens – it was just lovely to see all the nooks and crannies.

Open spaces are not only good for your own heart and lungs and sense of perspective, but they can also give you a different way to engage with the city. That’s why our parks and gardens are so important.

What is taking up your spare time at the moment?
I’m currently looking for a new home in the City of Melbourne – moving from the family home into something more modern. I can’t wait to be able to be a full-time resident here.

Find out more about Lord Mayor Sally Capp.