Coming together to think. It’s an important time. Say it’s your family and you own a property in common, and now it looks like time to sell. Say it’s your community and there’s a planning proposal that’s going to affect the amenity of a special place. Say it’s your city, and the practices of the elected representatives has gone so far downhill that the state government has stepped in. There are commissioners running the city. But that’s a short-term solution. How would citizens respond to various options for the governance in the long-term? The Geelong Citizens’ Jury on electoral reform saw citizens come together to think.
The Geelong Citizens’ Jury
One Saturday in March I spent the morning at the splendid Geelong Library. The Minister for Local Government, the Hon Natalie Hutchins MP, had made a date to respond to the Jury’s recommendations.
At least a hundred people turned out for the event, many of them interested citizens. After a stunning welcome to country, the Minister highlighted the transparency of the process, in which the jury took place alongside submissions from ‘the people of Geelong’ and online surveys. In other words the government had undertaken a hybrid process. She gave a warm thanks to the jury, highlighting their good sense and commitment, and said that she supported the main ‘practical’ recommendations to go forward to legislation. They had been taken to cabinet. ‘People power shone brightly through this process,’ she said.
There were three jurors as panellists who told of their experience. ‘Discussion without acrimony, one said, ‘it was a democratic experience’. The other woman said: ‘I was proud to be part of the human race, and what democracy can be’. Another juror was clear that the process had taken him outside his comfort zone.
The Minister spoke of the jury as ‘a catalyst for community leadership’. Ideally some of the underpinnings of this might be:
learning new skills in collaboration and negotiation
learning about policy and governance
learning to influence elected representatives
becoming spokespeople or ambassadors of positive governance
an understanding of the commitment required in policy decision-making
Don’t you love autumn? It’s the perfect time for another Jane’s Walk Melbourne! Join me for a Very Public Doddlejot through the CBD on Saturday 3rd May. If you’re a bit puzzled by jotting, or doddling and want to get a feel for the kind of walk I lead here’s what appeared on Jane’s Walk_blog_2013 last year.
We’ll just be a few of the thousands of people around the world who come together on the first weekend in May to walk and talk about what makes a good city during the Jane’s Walk festival. The walks create the time and space for people to learn about their city, connect with strangers and share ideas. There’s also going to be a fascinating walk on Docklands with my sister, Janet, on Sunday! A walk can also be the opportunity to look at community challenges – hence the emphasis in my walk of valuing what’s Public in our city.
Councils in Melbourne build community support through engagements across many areas of council business. Arts and sustainability for example. The opening of ‘Small Worlds’ exhibition at Footscray Library last week demonstrated Maribyrnong City Council’s great work in this area. I submitted a piece titled ‘Road Trips’ and really appreciated the opportunity!
And the treasure hunt, or the ‘Recycled Art Trail” If you could answer question 1. Find something that helps you find your way when you are travelling you’d see my piece, which includes a Melways picked up on the street.
Janet Rice, once a Maribyrnong councillor, spoke about the value of constraints in creativity. She’s seen this using recycled materials in garden design and gift making. A neat segue led to a modestly optimistic conclusion. When we embrace climate mitigation and adaptation, this creativity will kick in.
I felt like a winner hearing her carefully considered speech. Makers of some of my favourites, ‘Herbs for the Burbs’ and ‘Helibot’ got to shake the Mayor’s hand and collect $200. A really exciting range of creative work exploring re-used materials. What was great for me was that ‘Road Trips’ evoked the response I’d hoped for.
To me, being able to hit the mark without being pushy, pedantic or plain boring, makes creativity, purposefully directed, important in all plans and their implementation.
## If you want to push your Facebook buttons for me – here’s a link to the People’s Choice voting!