Here are some definitions developed by the VLGA and the
Local Government Division for terms typically used by local
governments when consulting with their communities.
The context for this is as follows: local governments exist
to govern their communities; good governance is achieved
when local governments are responsive to communities' needs
and communities are engaged and participate in governance
activities. Consultation is the means by which local governments
inform themselves of communities' attitudes and opinions.
Democratic governance exists when a government governs
for and on behalf of its community. Good democratic governance
occurs when governments govern as a result of being elected
by an informed and engaged electorate. Citizens exercise
their rights and responsibilities by being informed and
The sector has developed a Code of Good Governance that
includes features of legitimacy of government representation,
policy enactment community participation, accountability
and democratic leadership. This is a dynamic code which
is open to constant reviews.
Engagement is achieved when the community is and feels
part of the overall governance of that community. It is
informed, connected and feels it has a role to play. Activities
that can be part of engagement are:
Councils should be committed to ensuring that all groups
have equal opportunities to participate and be involved.
Councils should take active steps to ensure that traditionally
marginalised groups have the opportunity to participate
and be engaged.
Councils that work at engaging their communities through
ongoing activities and policies (eg: festivals, "know
your parks" etc) create an environment in which more
effective consultation can occur.
Engagement, by this definition, is an outcome.
It occurs when there is good ongoing information flow,
consultation and participation between a council and its
Consultation can therefore be seen as part of the overall
concept of engagement.
Community engagement is a characteristic of democratic
Participation means that the community is involved in governance
The process of informed communication between the council
and the community on an issue prior to the council making
a decision or determining a direction on that issue.