Page 4060 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 17 November 2015

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I know, for example, that the government is starting to successfully use online tools to engage with the community on specific issues. TAMS, for example, conducted a survey last year. We were looking at changing the Nightrider bus service. We had two models in mind but we were not sure which we should go with. We were frankly open to either of them. So we put it out as a community survey, particularly online where our target demographic of younger people who use this service really engaged in it. It helped us make a very clear decision.

Similarly, sport and rec recently used an online survey on the design of the Lakeside Leisure Centre water park, which attracted over 1,000 votes. I think that that was another good example. If we had gone to Tuggeranong Community Council we perhaps would not have got such a comprehensive result, for example.

Certainly online processes can be a way of engaging a larger number of people in government decision-making but, again, these things cannot be exclusive. There is a segment of the community that will not be comfortable dealing with online mechanisms. Also, of course, an online mechanism does not allow for that more in-depth discussion and hearing of other people’s views. It is clearly a case where we need to think about the various channels we can operate through.

I will be interested to see how the community councils adapt and respond to the changing political landscape with the five new electorates. I think that there are real opportunities for the community councils to have a stronger voice in these smaller electorates and there are electorates where there will be more than one council. This may mean working more closely together to advocate at an electorate level or perhaps thinking about how those groups operate going forward.

There are also opportunities for the councils to use new technologies to broaden the scope and depth of engagement in their communities and to use online tools—the sorts of things I have been talking about—to open up conversations with a larger audience. As I said before, I think people will always want to come together to discuss things, but there is a range of ways to do that.

Like many small community organisations, in the future community councils will continue to face the challenges of attracting and retaining people in a climate of decreasing volunteerism and attracting members from a range of backgrounds to ensure that their membership is reflective of the community that they represent. This is an issue right across the board, whether it is a sporting organisation or a range of the community organisations that we all meet. We know that they are struggling to find people who will volunteer. The community councils will face the same challenges. Certainly over the years, the various presidents and members of the executives that I have spoken to have lamented sometimes how few members they have to rely on.

I know that being part of an organisation like a community council provides a great opportunity for people to engage in active citizenship and to make a constructive contribution to the community they live in. They are passionate advocates for the issues that they care about and they certainly are an important part of the life of our city. I thank them for the efforts that they make. I look forward to continuing to engage with the community councils over the coming months and years.

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