Commissioner appointed

28 Sep 2018 Swan Hill Guardian, Swan Hill VIC (General News) by Caitlin Mcarthur VICTORIAS first cross-border commissioner will be based in Wodonga and divide his time between a number of government offices along state borders. While the state Coalition had pledged to base the commissioner in Mildura a tri-state border area Minister Pulford had previously told The Guardian the government would not limit recruitment by location. Minister for Regional Development Jaala Pulford announced the appointment of Luke Wilson to the new role on Wednesday. As cross-border commissioner, Mr Wilson would be responsible for promoting the interests of Victorian border communities, resolving issues and developing common approaches with neighbouring states. The need for a cross-border commission was first taken up by the Mallee Regional Partnership in 2016, but cross-border issues in the local area were brought to the forefront in June this year, following the harrowing experience of a Murray Downs family. In July, a mother of three told the media how she had been forced to hide in a room with her children, barricading the door with a mattress while her husband confronted an intruder, who allegedly tried to throw a barbecue through their sliding glass door to gain access to the home. Despite a number of calls made to triple zero and expectations a car would be sent from the Swan Hill Police Station, just 15 minutes away across the Murray River, the family were forced to wait for the arrival of a unit dispatched from Barham Police Station, almost an hour away. The woman told media her husband was forced to recruit a neighbours assistance to restrain the intruder until New South Wales Police arrived. The Guardian understands the alleged aggravated burglary was the second one to be committed by the man that night, with the first taking place in Swan Hill. It was later revealed confusion over cross-border powers and which members were recognised officers in both states, in addition to communication problems between state emergency response agencies and triple zero lines delayed response. Mallee Regional Partnership chair Win Scott said she was thrilled the government had listened to the Mallee. The appointment of Mr Wilson to the role ensures we have a capable and experienced individual working for communities right along our borders, she said. Minister Pulford said the appointment of Mr Wilson to the critical role was a win for locals living and working across the states borders. While members for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes and Mark Gepp welcomed the step towards solving cross-border issues. The invisible line that separates one state from the other is too often a barrier, Ms Symes said. The cross-border commissioner will help solve problems and strengthen ties between people that live, work and operate in our border communities. Mr Gepp said the recruitment showed the government had listened to its regional partnerships and were getting on with it. This is a unique opportunity to work side-by-side with border communities to make living and working in our border communities even better, he said. Mr Wilson has a background in both public and private sectors, with experience in areas including agriculture, forestry and energy. He currently holds a senior position in the Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR), and will commence in the new role next month. Based in Wodonga, Mr Wilson would divide his time between Victorian government offices in Mildura, Echuca and Wodonga, and visit communities and businesses along the state border from Mallacoota to Portland to ensure all communities engaged directly. Over the coming months, I will be meeting with many individuals and organisations, and am really looking forward to hearing from you, and then getting things fixed, he said. This is an exciting opportunity to address a real need. The Mallee Regional Partnership championed the establishment of the Cross Border Commissioner, with the Labor Government committing $760,000 in the Victorian Budget 2018/19 to establish the position.