Orange City Council has launched a series of videos targeting abuse and calling for better behaviour across the city and online.
Council says the videos respond to recent incidents when staff were subjected to spiteful and racist abuse as they undertook work around the city.
Orange City Council Chief Executive Officer, David Waddell said he believes it is time to take a stand against abuse.
“I want to make it clear that the vast majority of our local community members treat Council employees with respect and courtesy, but when abuse does happen it can be damaging and should be called out,” Mr Waddell said.
“I have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace to all Council staff.”
Mr Waddell said this did not mean Council or councillors were above criticism but there were easy ways to raise issues with Council respectfully and politely.
“Our staff are very patient and thick-skinned, but it’s time to draw a line in the sand and push back against a problem that seems to be getting worse.”
“Our staff are mothers, fathers and neighbours who live here in Orange too. Most of my staff live in Orange, grew up here and love this city.
“I assume that the people who are abusive wouldn’t treat their mother or brother this way, but they feel it’s okay to say these things to Council staff. It’s not okay, and I hope this campaign can start to turn attitudes around.”
Orange Deputy Mayor, Gerald Power said Council staff, like all local residents, were entitled to a safe workplace as they go about their daily work, free from abuse.
“I was disappointed to learn that from time to time our staff and councillors have been abused by angry people,” Cr Power said.
“It’s not appropriate to go into the details, but this has happened as staff worked at the Council’s customer service counter and passing drivers have abused our road crews on work sites.”
The Council has made three simple videos focusing on abuse happening at a roadworks site, a Council customer service counter and online.
Along with other councils across the state, Orange City Council has also introduced ‘house rules’ to cover its social media channels. The changes are being made in a bid to improve the quality of local debate and protect staff.
“Staff who work on the Council’s social media channels are dealing with the actions of abusive trolls most days. The actions of a few keyboard warriors can make our Facebook pages unsafe places for all residents to have their say,” Cr Power said.
The house rules aim is to make “our social media channels a safe place where members of our community can engage in debate and are free to make constructive comments, questions and suggestions.”
“We ask that anyone engaging with our social media channels shows courtesy, kindness and respect for Council, Councillors, Council staff and all other contributors.”
The new rules mean posts that breach the rules will be removed, and continued breaches can lead to individuals being blocked.
“We want Council’s Facebook page to be a good place for locals to have their say about Council decisions, but currently people who post there can’t be sure they won’t be attacked if they stand out from the mob,” Mr Waddell said.
“This new approach is about being polite. Surely that can’t be too hard. If you want to make a point on a project you can always come to a meeting and address the Council.”
View the videos on Council’s website here.