Riley makes history as first openly Queer Mayor
Supporting the community through the pandemic will continue to dominate council work, says the new Mayor
Thursday, November 18, 2021
NEW Moreland Mayor Mark Riley has celebrated his election by draping himself in the rainbow flag and declaring his pride at being the first openly Queer person to hold the office in the city’s history.
Cr Riley, who represents the Brunswick-based South Ward, was elected unopposed to the $100,434 per annum position on Wednesday night.
The second term councillor was first elected in 2016 and is one of four Greens members on the 11-person council. He was previously Deputy Mayor and spent several weeks as acting Mayor while Annalivia Carli Hannan went on maternity leave this year.
Immediately upon being announced as Mayor, Cr Riley pulled a rainbow flag out of his jacket pocket and draped it over his shoulders while delivering his acceptance speech.
“I am incredibly proud to be able to stand here as elected Mayor of this wonderful progressive, vibrant, diverse and connected city,” he said.
“I am prouder still to be standing here as the first out, Queer Mayor of Moreland.”
Cr Lambros Tapinos was elected Deputy Mayor. Both Cr Riley and Cr Tapinos were elected unopposed.
Cr Riley grew up in Warragul and began his working life as a primary school teacher in Fitzroy.
He has been a long-term activist in the LGBTQIA+ community, including working for the AIDS Council in the 1990s.
He said being Moreland’s first openly Gay Mayor was “a great honour and a responsibility”.
In his acceptance speech, Cr Riley foreshadowed that COVID-19 would continue to dominate the council’s activities, operations and finances for the next year, as it had over the past 18 months, but he was confident it was up to the challenge.
“The pandemic continues to affect everything we do as a community, but with vaccinations we can see the light at the end of the tunnel as a sense of normalcy starts to slowly return,” he said.
“We know our services are vital to the community and its recovery and despite the financial restraints we are up to the challenge. Our community is resilient and I know we will continue to work with everyone as we move into the recovery phase of this pandemic.”
Cr Riley said Moreland could not afford to lose focus on the threat of global warming and had to continue to show leadership on dealing with “the climate emergency”. He said the dense building environment in much of Moreland added to the risks.
“A warming planet is a risk to everything we hold dear here at Moreland: our environment, our health, our wellbeing and our vibrant local economy.
“This is a critical priority for us. While our national leaders may disappoint us day after day, year after year … Moreland will continue with the community to meet this challenge in as many ways as we need to so our children born this year or in the past year and those born in the days to come can live safely.”
Outgoing Mayor Annalivia Carli Hannan listed last week’s approval of the final designs for the $22.3 million Saxon Street community and arts facility as one of the major achievements during her 12 months in the office.
Other outcomes included the transfer of part of an under-utilised car park in Brunswick to allow the development of 30 affordable dwellings; and the opening of two new parks in Brunswick.
She said the council had also played a crucial role in combatting COVID through 17 vaccination pop up centres.
Cr Carli Hannan also gave birth to her second child during her Mayoralty.
“It’s been a really phenomenal experience and something that I’ll cherish,” she said.
In a strange twist at the beginning of Wednesday’s meeting, both Cr Tapinos and Cr Helen Pavlidis-Mihalakos refused to accept nominations for Mayor by Cr Milad El-Halabi, ensuring Cr Riley was elected unopposed.