2 June 2024

Wagga councillor explains vote against Michael Slater Oval renaming

| Jarryd Rowley
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Councillor and sign in park

Despite voting against the name change of Michael Slater Oval, Cr Richard Foley believes the move should happen only after legal proceedings involving the former Test cricketer have concluded. Photo: Supplied.

Wagga Wagga City Council’s decision to rename Michael Slater Oval was one of the most divisive issues it has had to resolve in recent memory.

The seven present councillors each took their opportunity to debate whether the former cricket star’s name should be erased from Bolton Park, with a 4-3 decision ultimately finding that the move was necessary.

Crs Jenny McKinnon, Georgie Davies, Deputy Mayor Amelia Parkins and Mayor Dallas Tout agreed that the message that keeping the name would convey was not consistent with the values of the Wagga community.

Meanwhile, Cr Rod Kendell cited Mr Slater’s current mental health battles as the cause of his actions, saying they should not reflect on the player he was.

READ ALSO Wagga Council backs a name change for Michael Slater Oval

Lost in the shuffle was Cr Richard Foley, who, despite agreeing that a name change was necessary, voted against it, saying it should not occur until Mr Slater’s current legal issues are resolved.

“We have to abide by legislation. We have to abide by the law,” Cr Foley said.

“Even though he’s got a list as long as your arm, and it’s certainly not a good look, he has to be afforded the legal rights of every other defendant and be clear of the court and to be clear of any adverse publicity before a hearing.

“I voted for the reasons that I’ve just cited, and that is because if there is a mistrial or an aborted trial or a claim that some form of sub judice has occurred about the current matters before the court, he gets to walk.”

Slater was convicted on domestic violence charges in NSW in 2022 including using a carriage service to harass, stalking or intimidating and common assault.

In April, the 54-year-old was back in court in Queensland facing 18 domestic violence-related charges including alleged choking, assault occasioning bodily harm, common assault, unlawful stalking and entering a dwelling at night by break-in. He was not granted bail and remains in custody pending trial.

READ ALSO Riverina councillors urge more women to get involved ahead of local government elections

Cr Foley expressed his understanding to those who were concerned by the council voting down gender lines for the decision but reinforced that if the decision were to be made following Mr Slater’s most recent round of charges, he would have voted in favour of the change.

“I empathise with them, and I gotta tell you, it’s difficult,” he said.

” I made my decisions eventually, after hearing everyone, but I didn’t feel comfortable having to be put into that position. I understand their concerns and I empathise with their concerns.”

Although ultimately agreeing with the decision to change the park name, just not the timeline, Cr Foley expressed that the use of the ”stale, pale male” phrasing during the debate did little to include or help older men understand the public’s concerns.

“It’s childish and it’s silly,” he said.

“This is a serious matter with many, many intersections and complications. There’s multiple factors and the current way that it’s been pushed, that all men must atone for the bad, for the few that are doing the bad thing, isn’t working, hasn’t worked.”

Cr Foley said that leading into the 2024 local government elections, he would be advocating for a regional men’s centre to provide medical, legal and mental health services for men in Wagga Wagga.

“If we want to tackle these matters, and if we want to talk about equality, there has to be an equality of service and provisions and a quality of action taken across the board by government.”

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I agree that using the term stale, pale, male was disrespectful. However I don’t understand the talk about waiting for the court proceedings to be finalised. He has already been convicted once. Isn’t that enough? As for the mental health argument…. It has no place in this conversation. You can not equate mental ill health with violence. That is just a cop out. Many people who are unwell mentally have no violent tendencies.

Remote Leigh1:49 pm 02 Jun 24

Slater was convicted of domestic violence, using a carriage service to harass, stalking & common assault.

Slater remains in jail, facing 19 charges. Allegations of stalking , breaking into a dwelling with intent at night, common assault, assault occasioning bodily harm & choking or suffocation.

Remote Leigh1:33 pm 02 Jun 24

Still, he forgets Slater’s DV charges go back to 2021 and they were prosecuted.

Does he not consider these prosecuted charges serious?

The three councillors who voted against the measure and their arguments were not only embarrassing for Wagga but shameful!

They need to go!

richard foley4:43 pm 04 Jun 24

With respect you are ill informed a public meeting, persons and/or a media publication must limit comment and disclosure of a defendants prior convictions relating to current judicial proceedings, in order not to prejudge the issue or influence a jury. Read this to get a broader understanding of our legal system instaed of the Ray Hadley court of public opinion system. https://lawreform.nsw.gov.au/documents/Publications/Reports/Report-100.pdf

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