We recently chatted to Mia McGregor, Councillor at Maribyrnong City Council… as well as mum of two and one of the most community-minded people we know. We first met Mia not long after she started West Welcome Wagon, a completely volunteer run organisation that redistributes material goods to asylum seekers living in the West. Her election as Councillor is a natural fit so we were keen to find out how it’s been going.

Tell us a little about your children.

I have two delightful little boys, who are as different as night and day and great friends. They are at a local kinder and primary school.

What inspired you to become a councillor?

It was a combination of having passion for our community and the relevant skills, plus lots of encouragement and support to run.

I love our community and the wonderful place we live with its gritty vibrancy. I see the changes taking place here, which bring both opportunities and challenges. I want to see the special and diverse neighbourhood character of our area retained, whilst encouraging a thriving economy. Plus I really wanted everyone in Maribynong to feel they are being listened to and that Council is acting on their ideas.

Experience and skills wise I studied law and post graduate psychology and have held senior management roles. I’ve sat on boards and started the asylum seeker charity West Welcome Wagon. Then I met a number of Councillors, including Catherine Cumming, who demonstrated that being a solo parent is no barrier. She encouraged me to run and once I started talking about the possibility I was overwhelmed by community support. It was truly heart warming.   

And what’s your favourite part of the role?

Every day I come home from work uplifted and excited about the work we’re doing! I feel truly blessed to love my job so much. I enjoy the mental challenge, the community engagement and working with a terrific, dedicated team whose primary focus is our community’s welfare and prosperity.

How do you juggle serving your community and being there for your children?

I’m very much in the thick of the parenting/work balance. When I started a year ago I had two pre schoolers and had just become a single parent. I won’t lie, it was a challenge. My littlest had been at home with me or other family members his whole life and suddenly he was in childcare. The other was just about to transition into his first year of school. The election results were announced on a Saturday and our first meeting was that Monday evening. It was on! Most evenings of the week I’m out at meetings or events so I’ve come to relish all the opportunities to put my children to bed myself. Because of the erratic hours of Council duties I needed a nanny and it took some time before we found the right people. My parents were brilliant and helped out a lot. It was a big adjustment for all of us. And the mama guilt, oh the mama guilt! These days we’re all settled into our routine but it brings tears to my eyes remembering those first few months.   

In other ways this is the perfect job for a parent, especially one on parental leave or solo parenting. It’s not full time and we can largely choose our schedules during the day. The large majority of the time I’m there for school and kinder drop off/pick up. I volunteer in the classroom and support play dates. My three year old still naps and many a day I arrange my commitments so that I’m there to lay down with him. Bliss!

Right now I’m keeping half an eye on the water fight play date going on in the back garden, writing this and conscious that in 45 minutes I have to be in business wear sitting in Council chambers for a public meeting! The juggle is real.

Council also bends over backwards to try and be accommodating and supportive. One really key aspect is that they cover the cost of childcare during Council business. There’s only a basic allowance associated with the role, but childcare means it’s doable.

What advice do you have for women thinking about running for council?

Do it!  It’s a wonderful job. Women are generally very under represented on Council and diversity is so important. And parents – in many ways the skills we learn as parents, such as multi tasking, prioritising, delegation, time management and the like make us perfect for the role.

Do you see politics in your future?

I love Council because it is so close to the community. There’s a real opportunity to make a practical difference and remain really engaged with what matters to people. I’m not sure that’s as true for other levels of government.

Later on in my Council term I’d love the opportunity to represent our community as Maribyrnong Mayor. I can’t actually imagine a more satisfying next-step. But at the same time if I was successful I would be giving it 100%, doing it full time, all hours of the day and night, at a time when I’d have a very young child just starting prep and potentially needing his mum around more not less. It is something I would need to weigh up carefully.

If you have any questions or would like help, please Mia at Cr.McGregor@maribyrnong.vic.gov.au

You can find more about Welcome West Wagon here: www.westwelcomewagon.org.au

Profile photo by Wendy Stiles Photography.