It was ‘just the right time’ to walk away

SWANSONG: Outgoing Benalla mayor Justin King has launched a new online mental health portal, Connect Benalla, in the hope of streamlining services for the community.

SWANSONG: Outgoing Benalla mayor Justin King has launched a new online mental health portal, Connect Benalla, in the hope of streamlining services for the community.

It was Justin King’s final mayoral duty and, in his own words, a great way to sign off.

The launch of Connect Benalla, an online mental health portal, was the culmination of a movement which captured the heart of the town.

There were tears in the crowd, and almost some from Mr King, as he spoke at the library on Thursday.

“Connect Benalla is a prime example of what grassroots initiatives look like,” he said.

“When communities come together to help change the direction of a problem.

“If one person can access this site, and I know someone has, it can change their lives and their families.”

And the need for such a service in Benalla was pressing.

The tragic suicide of 16-year-old Max Avdyugin in March shocked but galvanised the community.

A community forum at the convention centre followed in May, where residents came together and passionately implored one another to show empathy and communicate. 

It gave Mr King an insight into what the town’s expectations were for mental health services.

On the night the council distributed leaflets to the crowd, asking them what changes to mental health services they would like to see.

This feedback will be used to help put together a report the council will table to Victorian Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley by the end of the year.

But for Mr King, it’s time to take a break, after having been elected to council in 2012 and made mayor two years later, at the age of 28.

“For me, it's time to have a bit of a rest from it all, because it's been a big four years,” he said. 

“For now, it's just concentrating on being a husband.”

But Mr King said politics down the track could come – at what level he would not say.

He said he wanted to leave now on a high note, citing plans in line for Benalla's landfill as a key achievement.

Mr King conceded Benalla's finances were not in a great position but said it had plans in place.

“Walking away from it now is just the right time,” he said.

“I will be back - I make that no secret.”

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