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Community Engagement Policy adopted!

A big thank you to the Hepburn Shire community in providing your feedback for the development of our new Community Engagement Policy. Council adopted its new Community Engagement Policy on 23rd of February 2021. We listened, we heard and we acted by incorporating your feedback into the Policy on how you want Council to engage with you into the future. This Policy will form the basis for when, how and what types of engagement we will carry out for different projects and initiatives, depending on their scale, impact and complexity.

We encourage you to read the Policy, and the summary engagement report which captures your feedback. Both documents are available at the right hand side of this page in the document library.

What is Community Engagement

At its core community engagement is about a conversation between Council and the community about important projects and plans that will impact our community. The purpose of community engagement is for Council to hear the communities voice, unearth opportunities and explore challenges and solutions. It can relate to Councils roles and responsibilities, but also matters that are important to the community that are outside of Councils responsibilities that the community is seeking Council to advocate for, or work in partnership with other organisations to achieve.

What is a Community Engagement Policy?

We recognise the importance of working with the community to ensure their voice is heard in the development of this Policy. We are engaging with the community prior to drafting the Policy to gather your thoughts, opinions, and ideas so they can be considered when drafting the Policy.

A Community Engagement Policy is a document that guides Council staff in relation to how Council will engage with the community but also lets the community know what they can expect. The Policy will outline the roles of Councillors and staff when conducting engagement. It also places an importance on how we use community insights in our decision making, and how we inform the community of the outcome.

Our Policy will also provide us with guidance about when and how we engage with the community. Not every project will have the same ‘level of engagement’. We are seeking your input into how we determine what level of engagement is needed for each project later in this paper. There are several factors we consider, including the importance and impact on the community, and what resources Council has available to undertake the project.

Our Policy will apply to all strategies, plans or projects that require community engagement for their development.

Context and background

The new Act sets out some rules and principles for the development of our Community Engagement Policy in sections 55 and 56. Under the Act, Councils must adopt a Community Engagement Policy by 1 March 2021 in consultation with the community that:

  • Gives effect to the Acts community engagement principles.
  • Can be applied to the making of local laws, budgets, and policies.
  • Describes engagement to be used based on the complexity and significance of the subject matter – along with the resources available.
  • Outlines deliberative engagement practices to be used when developing Councils Community Vision, Council Plan, Financial Plan and Asset Plan.

The Act outlines key principles for Councils to follow when they are conducting community engagement. They are:

  • Provide clearly defined objectives and scope.
  • Provide objective, relevant, and timely information to inform participants.
  • Ensure participation is representative of affected persons and groups.
  • Provide reasonable support to enable meaningful and informed engagement.
  • Inform participants about how the process will influence Council decision making.

Deliberative Engagement

Deliberative engagement is a more in-depth form of community engagement that harnesses the community’s creativity and expertise to unearth community priorities and solutions. It provides opportunity for participants in to develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter and work together to reach a representative or common view.

The new Act requires Councils to conduct deliberative engagement for the development of the Community Vision, Council Plan, Financial Plan and Asset Plan.

Some of the key characteristics of deliberative engagement are:

  • Community role. It is clear what the project is, what information we are seeking, what questions we will be asking and how findings and recommendations will be used.
  • In depth exploration. The subject matter will often be be considered in more than one round of engagement to help us capture a broad range of views and refine priorities and actions.
  • Informed. Participants are provided with information to inform their views, aspirations and feedback. Participant views will be considered along with the views and needs of the broader community, Councils roles and responsibilities and other guiding documents such as regional, state, and national policies and legislation.
  • Representative. It is important that participants in deliberative engagement is representative of the population of the Council area. This allows for a broad range of views to be taken into account and the needs of the whole population are considered when making recommendations.
  • Transparent. Engagement findings, and how they were used in the development of plans or decision making are made available to the community.
  • A common view. Participants in deliberative engagement work together to develop a position by weighing and balancing the perspectives of all. Although it may not be a consensus view, all participants have the right to be heard.