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Glenelg Shire 2040 Community Plan

A 20-year Community Plan and Vision that outlines key community priorities, associated actions and indicators of success.

"Those leading this process did a top job in gathering community ideas and developing the draft which reflects communities visions."

~ Panel Member

The Project

Conversation Co was engaged by Glenelg Shire Council to develop a 20-year Community Plan and Vision in accordance with the Local Government Act 2020.

The project included developing and implementing a comprehensive engagement program, including a rigorous deliberative process, that sought to capture the vision and priorities of the Glenelg Shire community, along with associated actions for implementing the Plan.

Initial data was gathered through online forms and surveys, local place-based pop-ups, community workshops, targeted interviews, a launch event, direct mail-outs and staff workshops. Each activity sought to understand the community’s diverse needs and aspirations for the future.

88 community representatives deliberated on the findings of the consultation and key priorities for the future. A total of ten meetings were held across four Community Reference Groups, whereby participants debated and discussed the background information provided to them, issues raised by the community, as well as their own aspirations for the future.

The resulting Glenelg Shire 2040 Community Plan and Vision provided the community and Council with a clear direction for the future. Themes, priorities, actions and indicators of success will be used to inform the development of Council’s key strategic documents and work plans. Community members have also committed to its implementation.


  • As a result of the global pandemic, the deliberative component was paused to redesign the remainder of the program in a COVID-safe manner. It was crucial during this time that participants remained engaged in the process despite changing circumstances.
  • The large geographical area, low population density and varying needs of the communities around Glenelg Shire made a one-size-fits-all approach not possible. Our mission was to harness the individual aspirations of the various regions whilst providing a unified direction for the future of the Shire.

Keys to success

  • Developing a place-based approach to engagement activities and development of the Plan and Vision.
  • Being flexible with our approach and adapting to online deliberation practices.
  • Providing additional support to Community Reference Group members to support the transition to online workshops, including: phone calls to each member supporting individual needs, Zoom training sessions, increased online presence, and options to participate via a variety of methods (phone, closed online forum, hardcopy mail, direct email or Zoom).
  • Meeting the community at pre-established events and places they usually congregate (e.g. festivals, schools, community group events) to reach target populations.
  • Working closely with officers across Council to understand existing and planned projects and Council’s ability to meet community priorities.
  • Providing solid, evidence-based research to participants to enable informed deliberation.


This project provided Council with a completed 20-year Community Plan and Vision that outlines key community priorities, associated actions and indicators of success.

Reflections and Key Learnings

  • This was our first Community Plan and Vision developed since the implementation of the Local Government Act 2020 that requires all Councils to develop community plans and visions. We learnt how to navigate community reference groups through large amounts of data and big topics, hone their ideas and prioritise aspirations. Since then, we have shaped our learnings and really refined our processes.
  • This project had to pivot quite quickly to accommodate new styles of working because of COVID-19. Whilst we were lucky enough to have finished all the placed-based engagement before lockdown, our community reference groups were changed from being held face to face to online. This was a big change for all 88 community members as well as for us. Since then, we’ve have facilitated hundreds of online workshops and it’s become the new norm.
  • The greatest takeaway from the project is how willing, ready and self-motivated members of the community are to get involved and have a positive impact on the future of their neighbourhoods. We were so fortunate to have people of all ages and backgrounds actively engaged over a long period.

Making a difference

The philosophy of Conversation Co. is to make a positive difference in the communities that we work in. One of the ways we did this in the Glenelg Shire 2040 Community Plan and Vision project was by contributing to the local economy. Wherever possible, we utilised local businesses to purchase from. Printing for the engagement activities was done via Print Squad in Portland, incentives for participation at pop-up events were bought locally: muffins from Heywood Bakery and fruit from the local fruit and veg store in Portland.

The other big contributor to local communities was the hiring of local staff to help implement the engagement activities. Two local conversation facilitators were hired to work alongside Conversation Co staff at pop-ups and facilitate conversations with their communities members. One of those staff members, Alice Coulson, has become a long term employee with us as a result of her initial employment in the project. Alice, now in an engagement support role, has continued on to work on the development of Glenelg Shire’s Council Plan and Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan, as well as many other projects around Victoria.

Here are the stats for this project:

  • 2,688 comments gathered
  • 1,691 participants


We ran an exercise about creating a commitment to work more collaboratively. Here’s what some participants shared:

“I would be proud of a Glenelg that is net carbon neutral.”
“We need to protect small-scale farming whilst still allowing growth within townships where we already have services.”
“Let’s encourage more business and investment to attract young people to come to the area to live and work”
“I’m excited about a future Glenelg Shire that fosters global citizens, is socially aware and community minded.”
“Better connected cycling infrastructure in and around Portland including out to Bridgewater.”

Panel Member about involvement:

  • “Those leading this process did a top job in gathering community ideas and developing the draft which reflects communities visions.”
  • “I’m pleased Local Governments and their residents were given a chance to participate in the 2040 Vision”
  • “Thanks for the opportunity. Was a thorough and worthwhile process.”
  • ” A great job done in difficult times. Well done.”
  • “Thanks – an interesting process. I enjoyed it and would love to help with implementation.”