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    COMMUNITY FOCUS: Stawell’s Lauren Dempsey wants to better her community by becoming a Northern Grampians Shire councillor. Ms Dempsey will stand for election in October. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER
  • Hero image
    COMMUNITY FOCUS: Stawell’s Lauren Dempsey wants to better her community by becoming a Northern Grampians Shire councillor. Ms Dempsey will stand for election in October. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Lauren keen to make a difference in Northern Grampians


Health promotion worker, mental-health advocate and former youth action councillor Lauren Dempsey will nominate for council elections in October.

Ms Dempsey, 30, launched her campaign to become a Northern Grampians Shire councillor on Monday and will vie for one of three seats in Stawell ward. 

“Nominating for council popped up on my radar before the last election in 2016 and I was interested, but I probably wasn’t ready,” Ms Dempsey said.

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“Now that the opportunity has come up again and I’ve had a few people encourage me to do it, I’ve been looking into it more seriously. 

“I’m passionate about the community and I’m always trying to improve it. Joining council is a way to provide a voice for the community and for me to be able to have a say.”

Ms Dempsey joined Northern Grampians Shire’s Youth Action Council in 2013, receiving an introduction to local government.

The YAC was designed to provide young people with a practical opportunity to make a difference in the community. 

“Sitting on the youth council for several years, I learnt a lot about local government and built relationships in the council,” Ms Dempsey said.  

“I’m not interested in joining council for the political side of things, although I understand there will be political issues and debate – I want to join to support the community. 

“I want to make informed decisions to ensure the best for Northern Grampians Shire. These decisions won’t always be popular, I am aware of that. 

“You often see on social media that people are quick to jump in and complain without knowing the facts. That frustrates me, but to be a councillor you have to have a thick skin and let things go.”

Ms Dempsey works as a health promotion co-ordinator for Grampians Pyrenees Primary Care Partnership, which covers Northern Grampians, Ararat and Pyrenees municipalities.

“I have a focus on preventing illness and disease within the community and supporting people to live well, eat well and be well,” she said.

“My work involves building partnerships with local governments, health services and neighbourhood houses among other groups. 

“Even though my work role is separate from a councillor role, I am driven to work towards the things I value in all aspects of my life.

“I sit on a school council and I don’t even have kids – they needed a community representative and I said I was happy to be involved.

“Growing up, I thought it was a normal thing to be involved in your community and I’ve continued to be involved when I can.” 

Young citizen

Ms Dempsey moved to Stawell from Geelong in 2013 and wasted no time becoming involved in her new community.

She was the municipality’s Young Citizen of the Year in 2016, winning recognition for her contribution to the community, particularly as a mental-health advocate.

Ms Dempsey said while she had a strong interest in improving physical and mental-health outcomes for the community, she was also interested in other issues she considered key to the region, including a housing shortage and finding ways to retain people in the municipality. 

She said she wanted to ensure there was appropriate infrastructure and opportunities to attract people to live and work in Northern Grampians Shire.

“My aim is to help make sure
Stawell and Northern Grampians is a more liveable place,” she said.

Ms Dempsey’s desire to attract people to the region stems from her own successful move. “I get a lot of people saying it’s weird to move here from Geelong, when for most people it’s the other way around,” she said.

“I had a friend who lived here and I used to visit them and I just really liked the area. 

“Stawell has a good community feel about it – it’s a very different feeling living in a rural area and it’s something I didn’t know I was missing until I moved here. I love being part of a small community.

“People band together in times of need. If there is a tragedy in someone’s life, everyone bands together to help them out, even if they don’t know them.”

Ms Dempsey said she was thrilled with support from friends and colleagues after announcing her interest in standing for council elections. 

“I’ve been doing a lot of research,” she said. 

“I’ve been attending webinars and Zoom sessions and doing a lot of reading – there are actually a lot of resources available. Everything is online, too, so I have all the resources at my fingertips.

“I really like making informed decisions and that’s one of the reasons I think I’d make a good councillor.”

Ms Dempsey said she would also like to see a higher representation of women in local government.

“Plenty of women have inspired me and I’d love to inspire others too,” she said.

“You can really make a difference when you believe in something.”

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