HY William Chan is an elected Councilor in the City of Sydney. He is also an award-winning architect, advocate for design excellence, and a sustainability and housing rights leader.
How would you describe your political path?
Definitely unexpected and unconventional! As a registered architect, it has long been a personal leadership ambition of mine to ‘design for dignity’ in our cities. By working with people as partners, we co-create solutions to complex urban problems and deliver tangible, sustainable outcomes in local communities. I love bringing my technical skills that drive my innovative professional practice and now relish in being able to apply this directly in elected office. Being able to take action at the intersection of both citymaking and policymaking has enabled me to meaningfully govern and ultimately shape the city of the future.
It’s established leaders like Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and Deputy Lord Mayor Jess Scully who continue to inspire and reinvigorate my trust in community-led representation. Clover and Jess’ ability to articulate a clear vision for Sydney, build the right team around them and work intelligently with others to deliver on that positive impact is what mobilized me to join them.
“As a young person and a person of color, I know it’s difficult to be excited about the future right now. But I’ve also seen firsthand how young people across Sydney are rising up to confront these challenges with creativity, resilience and compassion.”
What are the most useful lessons you've learnt on the way?
For far too long, our generation has faced the brunt of accelerating disruptions. From the climate emergency, global COVID-19 pandemic, energy crisis and rising economic inflation.
As a young person and a person of color, I know it’s difficult to be excited about the future right now. But I’ve also seen firsthand how young people across Sydney are rising up to confront these challenges with creativity, resilience and compassion.
If I’ve learnt anything from my time in office, it’s that young people are resilient. We are willing to lean in to courage. We are willing to dare to lead for our generation for a sustainable future. Now, more than ever, we need a new generation of citizen-politicians.
What are the top three things that could be done to get courageous, ethical and trusted politicians in your area?
Devolve decision making to citizens: tap into the wisdom of the community for the greater good of everyone.
Champion technical expertise: inform policies and decisions with evidence-based practice (from environmental science and health, to architecture and urban planning).
Prioritize long-term foresight: deliver for the needs of future generations, and not just the current generation, particularly beyond election cycles.
What ideas and/or people are inspiring you at the moment?
This year’s Australian election saw an unprecedented surge in independents being elected. As an independent, I’ve witnessed how our citizens are voting for better representation and genuine community decision making in the public’s interest, rather than that of the major political parties.
It has been truly formative being mentored by Sydney’s independent powerhouses Lord Mayor Clover Moore and Alex Greenwich, State Member of Parliament. They have proven to the Australian public what can be achieved by acting on the community’s behalf to bring about progressive and compassionate reforms.
Collaborating closely with Clover on council, I’ve admired her relentless pursuit for social justice and fortitude to evolve alongside the community on decisions that enable the fairest, most inclusive outcomes. I believe she is a powerful force in inspiring the next generation of young politicians looking to build social solutions and authentic trust within our systems of government.
What story do you want communities to tell about politicians?
My generation continues to be disillusioned by politics and politicians. But I’ve certainly found glimmers of hope and optimism for ethical and courageous decision and policy-making here in Sydney. Only through intergenerational action can we transform our political systems to be genuinely representative, diverse and inclusive for all.
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