LGA Review Victoria - changes impacting council community engagement

A new Local Government Act is on the way in Victoria, with submissions on the Exposure Draft of the Local Government Bill to close this Friday.    The draft signals some changes to expectations around community engagement - a shift that is set to impact how councils engage in a number of ways.

In this post, we're summarising the key changes proposed in relation to engagement and highlighting what this might mean for councils and how they engage in the future.

Changes proposed

Community engagement has, for the first time, been included in the bill.  The draft provides an expectation that councils will: 

  • adopt and maintain a community engagement policy,
  • collaborate with the community in the development of the 4-year council plan and its first council budget after elections,
  • develop a community vision with the local community,
  • develop local laws in accordance with the council’s community engagement policy.

The rate cap variation will still require community engagement (as per current requirements).

Importantly. the bill includes five principles for undertaking engagement that align strongly with IAP2 core values. In summary the bill includes:

  1. a community engagement process must have a clearly defined objective and scope,
  2. participants must be provided with information to inform their participation,
  3. participants must be representative of the persons and groups affected,
  4. participants are entitled to support to enable meaningful and informed engagement,
  5. participants must be advised of how the results of the engagement influenced the council’s decision making.

Key implications for councils

The draft has a few key implications worth highlighting in relation to councils and their community engagement.

Deliberative engagement at the collaborate level

While many councils (particularly in the metro area) have engaged their community in their last round of council planning, very few would have engaged at the collaborate level on the IAP2 spectrum. Supporting material released with the draft includes the word deliberative – a form of engagement considered to be very much at the collaborate level.  Collaboration requires allocating more time to engagement activities – a two-hour workshop, a survey, evening public meeting or brief discussion group will not be enough.

Quality information inputs

Collaboration and deliberation also demands in-depth information inputs, so councils will need to provide high quality information to the community about a range of issues, including their budgets. It’s tricky trying to balance provision of clear, easy to digest information with sufficient detail.   We wrote a post about this challenge here.

Representative engagement

Another key shift will be the need to ensure engagement is representative of groups affected. In many cases, that could be all community members in a local municipality. Councils will need to document how they reached out to a range of people (including those that are less likely to participate in regular engagement activities) and included diverse voices.  Or, they might need to use stratified random sampling techniques to ensure the people involved truly represent citizens from across their municipality.

Get involved

Submissions on the exposure draft close on 16 March 2018 and sometime later this year the bill will enter parliament.   You can view the draft and make a submission here.


How do you think council enggagement practices will be impacted by the bill?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.



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