Statement About the Future of Community Councils

The Community Council model of consultation between Government and the nine ACT Districts is clearly broken and should either be reformed or replaced.

It is clear to the Council Committee, that the ACT Government appears to merely suffer the Community Councils’ best efforts to provide a local and balanced view into their decision making.

It is increasingly difficult for your Community Council to operate given the minimal support from Government. The amount of work required of volunteer members to maintain the activities prescribed by the Deed of Grant is no longer sustainable.  The Government is letting the arrangement wither.

Evidence of the Government’s indifference includes:

  • the local MLAs who steadfastly avoid the Council Public Meetings (meetings that the funding agreement mandates be held)
  • Councils being provided with half-baked proposals from Government (with special mention reserved for the recent Planning Reform Process) and being expected to respond in ever diminishing time-frames
  • Responses that counter the Government’s agenda are often ignored
  • Senior officials and Ministers not attending Council public meetings to gauge feedback on proposals or to just to get the sense of Community sentiment
  • Your Council being unable to persuade the Ministers responsible for Policing, Planning and Sport to attend Public Meetings to discuss identified local matters in their portfolio areas
  • Most recently, we now find Government Directorates denying Council office holders access to the telephone numbers of officials in directorates, making the simplest of inquiries a journey through a proverbial labyrinth of shared email boxes. This is both time consuming and frustrating.

You may have also noticed some commentary in local media about some other community councils expressing similar frustrations.

Perhaps a better Consultation model could involve a “district champion” being appointed within government to manage engagement, including organising periodic “town hall” style meetings? This could be bolstered by the formation of a District Advisory Committee to advise on defined issues.

Remember, the existing model has relied on the availability of a group of volunteers being available to keep Community Councils operating. The pool of people prepared to volunteer is ever diminishing.

Bill Gemmell
Weston Creek Community Council
28 August 2023

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