If you’re a Werribee South resident, chances are you know Marisa Berton. Ms Berton has lived in the region for 20 years and is vice president of the Werribee South Ratepayers Association.

This year, the business owner was also selected to be on the community advisory committee for the youth detention centre.

What is your connection to the Wyndham area?

I have lived in Werribee South for 20 years and had been visiting my husband’s family, who lived in the market gardens area, for 10 years before that.

We moved to Wyndham for family and work-life balance … and to be close to family. I loved the local surrounds, the beach and the relaxed rural lifestyle.

Tell me about your family.

I grew up and went to school on the eastern side of Melbourne and then studied architecture at RMIT and urban design overseas.

My mother and father immigrated to Australia in the 1950s with only a suitcase of belongings and the promise of a prosperous land. They both came from large farming families from the Abruzzi region of Italy in the Apennine mountain range.

We ate from an extensive homegrown vegie patch, dad raised rabbits, and chickens for eggs and meat, and composting was the norm for us. We were self-sufficient and dad fixed everything, even our school shoes when the soles wore out.

We ate a Mediterranean diet, preserving homegrown produce and salt curing meats that didn’t need refrigeration. It wasn’t something I was proud of so much at the time as a growing teenager, however now I find myself seeking those same cultural traits and enjoying the satisfaction of the whole food process.

You’re vice president of the Werribee South Ratepayers Association, and were recently appointed to the Youth Detention Centre Community Advisory Group. Why is it important for you to be actively involved in your community?

Strength of community is something I was fortunate to grow up with, helping each other and sharing stories and cultural traditions … Ratepayers of Werribee South to me is an extension of this concept in our rural community.

I was selected to be on the Youth Justice Redevelopment Project Community Advisory Committee along with three other community members. Now I’m hoping to contribute to the discussion regarding the building of the project, the local surrounding landscaping and social outcomes for our community.

You’re also a business owner, tell me about your business.

My business was established as a home-based business in Werribee 15 years ago in the area of architecture and urban design. Over the last four years I established a Werribee-based office designing local residential and commercial buildings.

This year I have taken long service leave to concentrate on further education in community leadership and council’s district advisory committee – rural.

What are your hobbies outside of work and volunteering?

Walking along the beach at Werribee South and cooking for my family and friends are hobbies I enjoy, along with my love for visiting many Melbourne and Geelong food and craft markets on the weekend.

If you could change one thing about Wyndham, what would it be?

To advocate for the potential of a Food Region right here in the west. I would love to see locally produced products and locally grown vegetables available in a vibrant market environment for our community and for the many Melbourne tourists that visit this great city as a tourist destination.

Perhaps located in East Werribee’s enterprise precinct as a buffer to the farming precinct. It would create local employment and bring locally grown food close to our growing population.

What’s your favourite Wyndham restaurant or cafe, and why?

I love the water view and catching up with friends at the Wyndham harbour, in Joes Corner Cafe. Occasionally [I also enjoy] breakfast at Chatterbox or Mondell’s in Watton Street. Werribee Mansion and Shadowfax Winery are places we love to spend time at with family and friends, enjoying the environment as well as the food and service.