Are Canberrans active and engaged in important community issues or is Canberra really a centre of apathy?
Our city/state appears to be full of concerned citizens who are community oriented and fiercely defensive of their neighbourhoods. Our small land size is perfect for such social interaction encouraged by egalitarian housing and, despite rising population, still manageable to unite even regions.
We have active community councils covering most districts and made up of local suburbs combining for a greater voice. Governments make much of this participation under the guise of ‘community consultation’ and ‘deliberative democracy’ even if they do not always listen.
But are we really active in defence of our communities?
There is a lot of controversy at present. The ongoing tram saga now at Stage Two to Woden, the Manuka Oval makeover, the relocation of Northbourne Avenue residents to Weston Creek suburbs under a ‘social housing’ definition… Federally we have the proposed education funding cuts, especially to Catholic and independent schools. Surely all matters of moment to the local constituency.
Yet 50 people attended a recent meeting of the Woden Community Council, about 90 at last week’s Inner South Canberra Community Council (suburbs from Narrabundah to Yarralumla represented), 30 participated in the Chapman to Civic walk against a public housing proposal and petitions of 2200 and 900 signatures were received on the same subject.
Granted a public meeting in Weston Creek about public housing was postponed when too many people turned up and 550 Catholic parents were at St Clare’s College to hear about education funding cuts. So, while some issues draw attention, the hip pocket appears of more importance and a federal matter of more concern than territorial.
Nevertheless, all figures quoted above show a disappointing commitment to any major involvement in Canberra’s future by its population considering the possible interest as identified by voters in the 2016 Legislative Assembly election.
Accepting the issues identified earlier are predominantly south side matters affecting South Canberra, Woden and Weston Creek those most concerned are residents of the section of the Kurrajong electorate south of Lake Burley Griffin and those living in the Murrumbidgee electorate of Woden, Weston Creek and Molonglo.
Taking half of Kurrajong’s total number of voters (24,950) and all of Murrumbidgee’s (51,296) we reach 76,246 people who should have an interest in where they have chosen to live, work and raise a family.
Naturally, some people are satisfied with what is going on and proposed by our governments, others have different pressing matters before them, some don’t like going out at night or find public meetings boring, but apart from the piddling attendance numbers I quoted earlier do 76,246 adults all fit into these categories?
Some write letters to the editor, although in my experience many of these scribes also are community activists. Most are old. A sad commentary one often reads being they fear for the future of their children and grandchildren, oblivious to the point the adult children aren’t doing anything to protect their own and their children’s wellbeing.
We should be thankful our governments even bother to consult, don’t you think?