Page 4059 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 17 November 2015

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Community councils provide a conduit for people to engage with government processes and to make their views known on issues affecting their local areas. Through their engagement with the government processes, council members often spend a lot of time researching and understanding complex issues and developing expertise in areas of public policy.

As with many community organisations, groups are often run by a small number of dedicated volunteers working in their own time to advocate for their local community. Of course, they are by their nature self-selective groups and they rely on people having the time and energy to put up their hands and to do the work. Certainly in my time as an MLA I have developed good relationships with community councils. Just in the past two weeks I have had meetings with both the Woden Valley and Weston Creek community councils and discussed issues of interest with those communities.

I also like to attend meetings of the community councils and residents groups regularly to provide information about government projects and to take questions without notice. I certainly see it as part of my job as a minister and also as an MLA and local member to make myself available at such forums. I also find it very valuable as a better way of understanding community views on a range of issues. Along with, of course, all the other conversations we have with people in the community, the community councils do provide a particular perspective and a particular focus on a range of issues.

I think it is worth noting here that there was some discussion earlier about the seven community councils. We do, of course, also have a range of other community organisations in particular residential areas. For example, there is the Kingston and Barton Residents Group, who I met with the other day, the Narrabundah Community Council and there are others across the city that have perhaps areas of smaller focus and that nest under those more regional community councils.

I know government directorates regularly engage directly with the community councils as part of their community consultation processes, both to provide information and to take feedback on projects and issues. Again I would like to say that this is an important forum through which to seek community views. Of course, there are other ways for the government to communicate with the community. To garner a broader cross-section of views, the government needs to explore new ways to connect with people from different ages and backgrounds, such as online and through social media.

I think the discussion that has gone on today has been very interesting in that respect. Having a meeting at 7 or 7.30 at night is necessarily going to be limiting for a range of people. I do think that the community councils tend to attract a certain type of person. It is quite appropriate that they go to those meetings, but I think it is really important—I actually support the comments that the Chief Minister made here—to make sure that there are other ways, in recognition of the fact that there are other groups. The community councils necessarily, because of the time of day they have their meetings, tend to exclude some people out of sheer practicality. It is not because they want to be exclusive but because that is just how people’s lives are.

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