Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 05 Hansard (Wednesday, 7 May 2008) . . Page.. 1524 ..
After the themes are decided, at those same meetings two councillors are elected, and they then become part of the cross-Portalegre meeting. They then have to work out priorities with the officials. Do not think that city hall is not involved in this process. They have to work out, through quite an involved formula, how the money for housing is then distributed right across the city, and that is based on a needs index.
I realise that what I am saying here is a very potted version. I do not expect members to understand, but I would just like to talk to you about some of the successes of it. The main thing about participatory budgeting is that it involves the most marginalised people in the community. You do not have to be able to read and write. It does help if you have a community organisation that is prepared to advocate for you, but it involves empowerment. For instance, we visited one villa that had benefited from participatory budgeting, and this was a villa where most of the people who lived there had to earn their money from collecting rubbish. We have been talking about waste a bit today, but go to a Brazilian city and you will see people walking around with carts piled halfway to the ceiling with cardboard boxes, plastic and so on. They make their money out of cleaning up the streets.
The people living in the villa we visited had plastic, paper and so on stored up to the ceiling, and their villas were always burning down. Of course, what do they cook with? One of the projects we visited involved rebuilding all these villas so that now they are rather cute looking little townhouses. They are very close together; we probably would not want to live there, although perhaps we would because they had a great communal atmosphere. The key thing was that they were given a shed where they could sort their paper and their rubbish. It did not smell very good and it was not very nice to be there, but those people were extremely happy about their situation. We are talking about a place with 217 houses and where probably more than 1000 people live. They also had a creche, and they were working on getting a health centre and a whole lot of other things that we take for granted.
They attribute those benefits to participatory budgeting, and they are people who now will not be shut up by anyone. They know their rights and how to use them. They are people who have had part of the budget spent where they needed it and not where politicians thought they needed it or where politicians might find the best advantage.
I am not quite sure how we apply participatory budgeting to the ACT, but I do feel that there is room for thinking about ways that we can involve the most disadvantaged in our budget preparation.
MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Minister for the Environment, Water and Climate Change, Minister for the Arts) (4.02): This is a very interesting matter of public importance. It is quite novel and very different from what we have been used to in recent times in many respects. I applaud Dr Foskey for bringing it forward, particularly in the context of her experience as a result of, essentially, an education trip. It is interesting that, through that experience, a new proposal or discussion, essentially around consultation or participatory budgeting, is being discussed today.