The Canberra Liberals have attacked Chief Minister Andrew Barr over comments he made earlier this month about the territory’s district community councils.
The ACT Government funds seven community councils, in Belconnen, Gungahlin, North Canberra, Inner South Canberra, Woden Valley, Weston Creek and Tuggeranong.
The councils are voluntary, not-for-profit, community-based associations and currently the peak community representative bodies for their districts.
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Addressing a Public Accounts Committee Hearing on November 4, Mr Barr dismissed “the idea that a community council is in any way representative, given that most of the attendees are of one particular gender in some councils and, again, way out of connect with the demographic distribution of people living in particular regions”.
Member for Brindabella Nicole Lawder (pictured) said the councils played a vital role promoting democracy and citizenship in Canberra.
“It’s a put-down to the members of these councils who volunteer their time and energy standing up for their region of the ACT,” she said.
“Community Councils play a fundamental role in promoting and engaging in grassroots democracy. I can speak for the members of the Tuggeranong Community Council for whom I deal with regularly; they are proud advocates for the community.
“Mr Barr’s position is also highly hypocritical given the government provides resources for the councils.
“The Canberra Liberals believe in greater representation and the vital role of community councils.”
Andrew Barr has responded to the criticisms, acknowledging the role community councils play in providing an outlet for people to discuss issues in their area and have an input into public policy development.
“However, the vast majority of Canberrans do not attend meetings, nor receive their information, so we must find more ways to engage with the community to ensure we hear get a representative range of voices,” he said.
“The Government is committed to improving our communication with all Canberrans. It’s important therefore that we look at new measures to engage with individuals across different age groups by utilising a range of communication methods and forums.
“Our focus on improved consultation isn’t about replacing old engagement methods, but about also using other methods.”
Do you receive communication from your district community council? Do you feel they represent you and your community? How could they communicate better with residents in your area? Let us know in the comments below.