We’d love this resource to be shared by project teams to aid participation in their consultation and engagement processes, and by community groups wanting to make changes in their local communities.
Tips to self-advocate, where a process currently exists
Our advice and in fact one of our evaluation measures is that the community participates in the process and does not go outside of that process to provide feedback. Why? It’s indication of community trust in the process and their belief that feedback will be reported on and used to enable decision makers.
Our advice is participate in the process:
- Attend face-to-face engagement sessions, participate online, seek a project meeting, participate in whatever is available.
- If consultation opportunities are not available, or you’ve missed the workshop, ask for a meeting or interview.
- Direct enquiries to the right people, at the right level. Going higher in the ranks does not always mean you will get more done. The details can be found at the project manager level.
- Package up your ‘ask’, ‘concern’ neatly and connect it to the person you are talking to’s portfolio. We find that the community thinks delivery and responsibility across all areas of Council can be delivered by anyone working in Council.
- Arrange to meet with your local Councillors. This can be done at any time but usually a month after consultation closing is a good time, as your topic of interest will likely go up to Council in the six weeks following consultation closing. Use this time to talk through concerns, aspirations for process or project.
- Attend the Council Meeting (and speak, if you wish), most items go to Council’s meetings, especially Strategies, Policies and Master Plans that require delivery over a number of years or affect Council’s future decision making. The agenda, along with any reports about your project will be publicly available a week prior to the meeting. You can find this information on Council’s website, usually under Council meetings, there is then the opportunity to register to speak. Council’s have a Governance team that manages public enquiries about Council’s governance or interactions with Councillors, providing administrative support to the Mayor and Councillors.
- Continue to build a relationship with Council, this relationship does not need to be confrontational and there are likely to be future stages of the project’s delivery that might work through the elements of interest. We typically find that the community wants to influence the detail of a project, the look, the materiality, the location and often in projects at the conceptual level it’s about if the project is going ahead.
Tips to self-advocate, where a process does not exist
Council’s exist to deliver public value and the services, program and infrastructure delivered is different across geographically areas.
Community can bring items to Council’s attention.
Our advice to get traction on an idea is:
- Determine who is responsible for delivering this service, program or creating the change.
- Anything State or Federal related find your local minister via the Australian Electoral Commission, Find my Electorate. Here you can find which federal electorate you live in, a profile and Map of your federal electorate and the name of the incumbent House of Representatives Member. Find who best aligns with your area of interest, topic, make contact and determine the best way to proceed.
- Anything Council related you could follow steps 3 – 5 above.
- Join an existing group or organisation that is working on furthering your cause or interest, they may not do exactly what you want to work on, over time you might be able to influence the work of that group or scope. You will have a better chance at applying for funding and creating change in an already incorporated group. We recently did some work with the University of Melbourne Graduate Student Association, a membership organisation that advocates for the rights of graduate students and researchers (read more here).