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Discussion Paper on Community Consultation

MS TUCKER (11.08): Mr Speaker, pursuant to standing order 246B, I present a discussion paper by the Standing Committee on Social Policy entitled “Community Consultation on Social Policy Issues”, together with extracts of the minutes of proceedings and the letters between me and the Deputy Speaker authorising the printing, circulation and publication of the discussion paper, dated 13 September 1995. I move:

That the discussion paper be noted.

Mr Speaker, communities have the potential to help formulate strategies for a sustainable future. Our view as Greens is that the principles of ecologically sustainable development should be a major focus of all policy decisions, a view now shared by most governments. Planning for sustainability must be community led and involve working together towards finding common objectives. The essential ingredient for change is will, not expertise. Community-based action is vital if we are to overcome the political, bureaucratic and psychological barriers to change, and community-led processes must be supported by government if plans are going to be implemented. Strong vertical links between community and government also have to be supplemented by horizontal links across all spectrums which cover community interest groups both within and across geographical boundaries. For example, a watershed river plan can be made only if all communities and governments work cooperatively across borders, yet we have few good examples of this sort of action in Australia.

Community consultation is an integral part of community development, which in turn is integral to better community participation. It enables members of our community to have input into decision-making if they wish. If processes which facilitate participation exist and all parties, including government, have a clear understanding of the responsibilities that go with this involvement, the concept of participatory democracy has a chance to be put into practice. While I understand the cynicism about community consultation because of previous and present less than satisfactory procedures held under that name, I believe that it is extremely important to continue the discussion and to be prepared to continue working towards what is basically a significant shift in our culture. People treat process as if it is an add-on, but process is the means by which we arrive at decisions and it should be obvious to us all that the means we use to arrive at decisions is crucial to the nature of the decisions.

The ACT, because of its size and existing community networks, is well positioned to become a model of best practice in this area. Community consultation is part of a move to strengthen community. Community, in whatever form it takes, is an important source of our sense of identity. We are not just a collection of individuals. Andrew Hopkins from the ANU argues:

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