I often feel frustrated at so called ‘community consultations’ that are advertised in the smallest print possible at the back of the newspaper (where I wonder if anyone actually reads?).
Not only am I generally frustrated at the size, style and location of the advertisement but in general they are advertising something that is unappealing to the majority of the population… a public meeting! Yuk.
We need to be thinking creatively about involving the community in decision making and a public meeting is certainly not that! We need to be putting ourselves in the shoes of the community we are targeting and questioning whether we would want to attend a meeting in a community hall on a Friday evening, to sit in rows and be talked at? I certainly wouldn’t.
Mr Collins of Lobethal wrote into the local paper yesterday echoing my thoughts entirely. Reflecting on a recent ‘consultation’ he had been involved with as a member of the public he wrote “That sort of activity certainly does not constitute consultation. [Consultation] requires acknowledgement and considered response by government to legitimate public concerns and/or suggestions in a forum held in a time and place that do not restrict attendance”. Nicely put Mr Collins.
And of course we must not forget that consultation is just one level of public participation. Part of me wonders whether there is any hope of collaborating with the community on decision making if we can’t get the straight forward consultation bit right?
It’s often hard enough to convince decision makers of the benefits of consumer input into their decisions, let alone the value a bunch of 12-18 year olds can bring to the process!
Youth Advisory Committees are popping up everywhere these days and I’m a real fan. I’m often inspired when I come across young people involved in influencing decision makers and how they have a profound ability to articulate the needs of young people in a way that I couldn’t do if I tried!
For information on Youth Advisory Councils within South Australia, including what they are and the funding available to support them, visit the Office for Youth website.
And for those of us no longer in the ‘youth’ category…
“Youth is something very new: twenty years ago no one mentioned it.”
Throughout October and November, 150 citizens from all Australian federal electorates have been taking part in a series of unique events – regional meetings that lead up to Australia’s first Citizens’ Parliament at Old Parliament House from February 6 to 9 next year.
The regional meetings, together with online meetings and the February Citizens’ Parliament event are aimed at making democracy more accessible to Australians beyond the election cycle.
Regional meetings are being held around Australia including Canberra, Newcastle, Melbourne, Coffs Harbour, Fremantle, Adelaide, Brisbane and Hobart with the final meeting being held in Sydney on November 8 and 9. The day long meetings are being held to encourage participants to think about the ideas they have about the question: How can Australia’s political system be strengthened to serve us better?
People are considering the strengths of our governing institutions, responding to issues such as the limitations imposed by the election cycle and the overlapping layers of government.
Overall, more than 2500 people registered as prospective participants in the Citizens’ Parliament and associated activities. Following the regional meetings, all registered participants can contribute to an online deliberation about the question in the lead-up to the February event. Their final recommendations will be presented to the Prime Minister and all Members of Parliament.
The Citizens’ Parliament is funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant in conjunction with the newDemocracy Foundation.
For further information, visit http://citizensparliament.org.au/