A creative thinker with a rich background in community, corporate and government positions both nationally and internationally promoting multicultural affairs, councillor Paula Masselos has become he first woman of Greek heritage to be elected Mayor of Waverley, a multicultural area with one of Australia’s most diverse communities thanks to its ethnic make-up of Greek, Italian, Russian, Portuguese and Jewish constituents and a growing Asian population.
Her role as Chair of the Multicultural Advisory Committee will help her in this position as she has been a major player in multicultural affairs over the last 30 years. Having started her career as a social worker at the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs she moved on to the Ethnic Aged Working Party Secretariat, the Women’s Coordination Unit and the Education and Promotion, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. She later acquired broad experience in strategic marketing and communications, across a range of roles nationally and internationally serving as director of SBS Radio, director of Cultural Partners Australia, managing director of Embrace Society, WPP Group.
A councillor for seven years, she brings with her a strong reputation in collaborative leadership and advocacy for progressive and compassionate reform as she steps into her new role at Waverly Council, which has 160 years of continuous operation has seen 70 men elected mayor.
“My election makes me the sixth female Mayor, so I pay tribute to the women who have gone before me,” Ms Masselos told Neos Kosmos. “Being the first Greek Mayor of Waverley, I feel very honoured and looking forward to flying the flag for the Hellenic women in the area.”
The newly-appointed Mayor said she is interested in focusing on research towards “finding ways to better developing social inclusion and community resilience and the role of local councils in achieving that” and says she wishes to engage with the community in a “meaningful and beneficial” way.
She is interested in pointing to the diversity of Waverly, with Bondi and Coogee as its main attractions. “This diversity in Waverley is actually seen in local businesses but also the many visitors that arrive from around the world. I spend a lot of time by the beach in Bronte particularly in summer, and I see people visiting from all over Australia; other countries and nationalities. There’s such a lovely, multicultural and diverse feeling to the place and I would love to support it,” she said.
Important priorities for Ms Masselos include infrastructure projects such as the restoration of the Boot Factory which she says is a wonderful heritage building. She also highlights the exploration of a knowledge and innovation strategy within her role with Waverly, “a very highly educated and creative community as it is recognised that the area has one of the highest percentages of innovations in the country.”
As a woman of ethnic background, she knows first-hand the importance of cultural exchange and said she would love to showcase the best of Greek culture. “I don’t know whether the Hellenic guard are actually coming down this year, if they do, we will have them, as I have worked closely with the Hellenic Club to bring them down previously,” she said.
Other issues close to her heart include environmental awareness. “This is something I care about deeply because I am actually an ocean swimmer. I swim across from Bronte for about two kilometres and get to see firsthand what ends up in the ocean,” she says, adding that she has witnessed the impact plastic has on birdlife, an issue which is getting worse.
“I’ve been pushing to abolish single use plastic and facilitate the Plastic Free Bronte community group, who are trying to educate communities about that. Waverley has a very strong sustainability division, so we are working very closely with businesses and residents to build a policy that will ensure that our environment will be kept pristine.”
On her list of projects is building the coastal structure in such a way that can protect against sea-rise.
She pledged to represent the community with honesty and deliver her promises.
“I have committed to do that in an honest way with transparency and integrity. Those are very strong Hellenic principles as well! I like to think that both in my personal and professional life I am guided by a very strong Hellenic philosophy.”