Melbourne councillor Nic Frances Gilley used the occasion of endorsement of the council’s Reconciliation Action Plan 2018–20 on June 5 to accuse former councillor Richard Foster of lying.
Speaking at the Future Melbourne Committee, Cr Frances Gilley said how sorry and ashamed he felt for letting down his former running mate, Aboriginal woman Brooke Wandin, at the 2016 election.
Ms Wandin was elected to the council but was found to be ineligible and was brought before the courts on electoral fraud charges. She was not convicted and received a diversion order.
And, as much as he blamed himself, Cr Frances Gilley said none of it would have happened if Mr Foster had not lied to them.
“I am only here (as a councillor) because I spent quite some time, energy and effort to get an Aboriginal woman, the first Wurundjeri woman, elected to council – Brooke Wandin,” he said in a personal explanation. “I encouraged her to stand and she said ‘I’m only doing this because I feel safe with you’.”
Mr Foster enlisted Cr Frances Gilley and Ms Wandin as lord mayoral candidates to channel votes to him in the councillor section of the 2016 election. However, the pair incorrectly nominated in the councillor election and Ms Wandin was successful. Mr Foster was not.
Mr Foster subsequently reported Ms Wandin to the Victorian Electoral Commission for falsely using his Kensington home address to nominate.
Cr Frances Gilley said: “We were lied to by a former councillor who needed our votes – I didn’t understand that at the time – needed us to stand as lord mayoral candidates.”
“As a consequence of that need, he lied to her about her accommodation and she tried several times to get clarity from him, to the point where it was minuted and recorded.”
“And, as a consequence of that, she found herself in court. She was made ineligible. She had to stand down. Her family felt that she had let the family name down.”
“She had a whole period of time where it was very difficult in her own community – and anywhere else. She couldn’t find a job and actually feared going to get a job. That is not where Brooke is right now.”
“But I was the person who encouraged her. I was the person who stood behind her that she trusted. And I then trusted somebody else who was not trustworthy.”
“What’s interesting is that she went through the court system and so did he – and he got let off for good character with a reference from one of my council colleagues, who’s actually not with us today.”
“I want to say sorry to her. I want to acknowledge that I am the white guy. Who’s six foot, two. Who actually got the job. And she didn’t.”
“I want to acknowledge that the court recognised – saw the good behaviour of the man involved – and not hers.”
“I want to acknowledge that the Herald Sun, every single time that they told that story, that was leaked to them from that former councillor, put her picture in the paper and not his.”
“So, I want to just acknowledge that I am part of the problem and acknowledge that it has not changed enough yet because, if it had, the welcome to country would have been done in Woiwurrung, by a Wurundjeri woman who is a direct descendant of William Barrack.”
“And that would have been historic!” Cr Frances Gilley concluded.
Mr Foster declined an invitation from CBD News to respond to Cr Frances Gilley’s claims.