The ACT Government has moved to increase direct community engagement with the announcement of a new online community panel as part of a Whole of Government Communications and Engagement Strategy.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the new Community Panel would be in place by mid-year and would make it easier for Canberrans to contribute to policy development and government decision-making.
Mr Barr acknowledged that the community wanted a more coordinated approach from the Government and said it wanted to hear from everyone, not just those who can attend community meetings.
“The online panel is part of our election commitment to increase representative consultation for the Canberra community. We want to ensure the decisions we make reflect what the community really thinks,” he said.
“As we prepare for a city that will be home to 500,000 people by 2030, we are planning for where Canberrans will live, the schools and hospitals they will need, how they will easily move around the city and adapt to climate change. It’s important that everyone’s views are heard, not just those who can attend public meetings.”
This echoes the view of City Renewal Authority head Malcolm Snow who told The RiotACT last year that he wanted to see more Canberrans have their say on planning and development issues and not have them left to a vocal minority.
Mr Snow said consultation and collaboration would be essential in any successful re-imagining of the city but the challenge was to engage a broader cross-section of the community.
“Too often in cities, it is often a very vocal minority that tends to take the centre ground. What is important in any city is that there is a healthy debate about the direction the city should be taking. It’s an important ingredient and one that has to be done genuinely, transparently and in a very considered way.”
Mr Barr said an online Community Panel would enable the ACT Government to engage with a sizeable representative group of Canberrans and be an important listening tool for the ACT Government to understand the views and opinions of the community.
“We are working towards the panel starting up mid-year and we will make further announcements in due course about how Canberrans can get involved,” he said.
Mr Barr also released the Whole of Government Communications and Engagement Strategy which he said outlined the conversations the Government would have with Canberrans and the information they would need to know over the next two years.
“This strategy is about being open and transparent about our agenda. We were elected to deliver a series of commitments. We will be clear about what is open for change as a result of community feedback and when we are sharing information to keep the public up to date on new or changed services, policies or programs,” he said.
“We have heard from the community and from our key stakeholders that they want a more coordinated approach from government. This document is the start of that work. It will be updated annually to respond to emerging issues.”
Mr Barr said in the Strategy document that the Government had drawn on the experience of the British Government and its Government Communications Service which he said was a recognised global leader in government communication, as well as seeking expert advice from the University of Canberra’s Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance.
He said the Government had begun trialling ‘deliberative democracy’ techniques like citizens’ juries and panels but these were expensive and other approaches such as the online panel were more appropriate.
Canberrans can register to receive notifications on upcoming engagements at www.yoursay.act.gov.au/
The Whole of Government Communications & Engagement strategy is available at www.act.gov.au/yoursay/our-conversations
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