Community Involvement in Decision Making

Following the recent event ‘Could a ‘Standing Citizen Chamber’ restore trust and resilience?’, a discussion paper was prepared to stimulate conversation amongst local groups interested in improving democracy.

A summary of key points can be found below and the full paper can be accessed here.

Conversation at the event was driven through questions to both of the presenters (Geoff Turner and Cathy Wheel) as well as semi-structured whole of group and small group conversations. Some of the ideas put forward are captured below.

High level statements and ideas

  • Councils will be obliged by the new Local Government Act to set up a community engagement policy. We believe this is a great opportunity for the community to participate in this process.
  • The community wants an opportunity to be involved in decision making, not just ‘advising’. People present felt they had previously been ‘victims of community consultation’.
  • We are not asking for funding, we are asking for process. There is an enormous amount of talent and time in the community and it can be harnessed to support engagement processes. If we can collectively decide on a process that works, then all stakeholders (State and local government, business, service delivery organisations, community groups, philanthropy, individuals etc) can work on the resourcing approach.
  • The needs, concerns and opportunities for our community extend beyond what the Shire has the authority or resources to deliver. We want processes and a vision that is inclusive of our whole lives individual and collectively, including issues like physicality, liveability, access, environment, heritage, economy etc. When the Shire can’t deliver certain initiatives (because of scope or resources), then it can support the community to advocate / apply for funding / seek alternative courses of action.
  • There is a desire to work on an iterative process that helps the Shire to develop their trust in the community and get comfortable sharing power. Building trust, respect and communication goes both ways – the Shire (elected and employed) need to learn to trust residents and residents need to learn to trust them in return. We want to know – what issues are the Shire facing? How do we show the Shire we can help? How do we work in a way that is complimentary and supportive?

Shire-led community “engagement”

There is a desire to work together on the pending engagement policy to decide:

  • Definition of “engagement”
  • What issues are the priority for being addressed by the Shire
  • What issues matter to whom in the community (and therefore who should be engaged in decisions that impact them)
  • What issues will the community be involved in
  • Which engagement methodologies are used for what type of issues (mindful of inclusion and reaching the people who don’t opt-in to consultation. Balancing face-to-face / online).
  • Level of power and authority granted to the community in each engagement methodology
  • How are the processes monitored and by whom
  • What are our metrics of success
  • Who / how is accountability managed regarding delivering on community advice / decisions

There is an overarching desire for transparency, proactive communication to the community, and an inclusive process for all of the above.


The full discussion paper can be accessed here.

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