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|Brief description of technique
|Usually organised by the council, community
meetings and forums bring together interested people
for information and discussion of an issue. They are generally
held at a community venue, at the site of the matter under
consultation, or at the council offices. They can be held
on a general, ward or neighbourhood basis.
|To what kinds of consultation situations is this
approach best suited?
General or "public" meetings are often held
in response to statutory requirements under land use
legislation or broader strategic planning. They are
often called in response to unforeseen or significant
issues that impact a municipality.
Ward meetings are convened to meet the needs of individual
councillors in communicating with their constituencies.
|How much time is generally needed?
|Two to three hours for the meeting.
|What skills are required?
Well-developed facilitation skills are very important
in this context. Public meetings or forums can often
attract large numbers of people who may feel very passionately
about the issue being discussed and may focus the meeting
on one particular aspect of whatever proposal is on
It is important that all views concerning the proposal
are canvassed and the facilitator or chair should work
to create the space where this can occur to avoid unnecessary
Conflict resolution skills are useful in this context.
|What kind of information do participants require
prior to their involvement?
|Generally, information about the purpose of the consultation
may be provided through promotional exercises or formal
advertising. In some cases, particularly land use planning
applications, information may be provided in a designated
space prior to the meeting and relevant documents made
|Brief outline of how the process usually works
A chairperson or facilitator, who may be a councillor,
local government staff member or external consultant,
will outline the proceedings or agenda and canvas views
to seek agreement on this format and introduce relevant
speakers. Specific reference to the purpose of the consultation,
including details of how the input will be used, is
A set of rules about how views will be heard is outlined
and agreement sought from participants at the outset.
Generally a set of presentations is made concerning
the issue to be discussed. Questions are usually held
after this has occurred.
Structured time is then allotted for questions and
answers, after which there may be an opportunity for
broader discussion and comments from key stakeholders.
There are more innovative ways to conduct community
meetings (for example holding a walking community
meeting) or choosing a venue appropriate to the issue
being discussed (eg: a park, community venue or restaurant).
|How the process is successfully concluded?
The meeting will usually conclude with the facilitator
or local government representative outlining an ongoing
process or resolution which can be put to participants
with some structured discussion.
Details of how any decision made will be and then communicated
to participants is important here.
|How this approach is usually evaluated?
|Evaluation will vary, but may be assisted with a simple
feedback sheet for participants to gauge the appropriateness
of the venue, time and facilitator.
- Provides opportunities for the community to speak
- Meets statutory requirements and enables comments
to be put on record.
- Does not foster dialogue.
- Can create a community versus council environment.
- Can be an intimidating space for individuals to
- Can be captured by a vocal minority.
- Large hall or meeting space.
- Variations on venue or approach have included park
or street-based venues.
- Catering for large numbers may be resource-intensive
but will invite more informal discussions and acknowledge
- A number of local government staff members will
be needed to direct participants within the venue.
|Council or other authority
|Darebin City Council
|Name of Project
|Darebin Poverty Inquiry
|Date of consultation
|November 1999-November 2000
|Aim of consultation
|To identify the causes and manifestations of poverty
in Darebin, with a particular focus on housing affordability,
unemployment, gambling and access to services.
|Consultation methods used
- Public forum to scope issues
- Three community forums on specific aspects of poverty
- Twelve individual interviews with people experiencing
- Two poverty action workshops to identify realistic
and achievable actions
- Broad-based reference group to provide community
input into research methodology and outcomes
|Description of consultation
The concept of community forums was derived
from the method used during the course of the People
Together Project, where several public hearings were
held on issues of concern to Victorians during the Kennett
For the purposes of the Poverty Inquiry, council decided
to hold community forums instead of public hearings
to ensure the format was accessible to community members.
Local residents and community organisations were invited
to talk about their experiences or perceptions of poverty,
the effects poverty was having on Darebin and thoughts
on strategies which could address poverty and other
A panel, consisting of the mayor and several prominent
community leaders, heard written and verbal submissions.
The key research questions provided a format for presentations.
Each presenter was allowed 20 minutes, which included
10 minutes for questions and discussion. People were
given the opportunity to present confidential information
to the panel. The sessions were tape-recorded, with
consent from presenters.
The community forums were widely advertised
in local newspapers and invitations were extended to
a broad range of community organisations. Community
forums were held in small venues to ensure optimum
community access and to create an atmosphere.
More than 20 presenters attended community forums
which were open to the public at Northcote Library,
Darebin Community Health Service and Reservoir Maternal
and Child Health Centre in March 2000.
Issues raised included inter-generational poverty in
families, the difficulties Cambodian households faced
in accessing work and education, issues for single people
in accessing affordable housing and the largely hidden
impacts of problem gambling across the community.
|Success of the consultation
The community forum was successful many perspectives
on poverty were heard. The panel format enabled questions,
clarifications and a dialogue to develop. The composition
of the panel, with a mix of council and community representatives,
ensured the process was community-driven and not dominated
by council. The smaller, non-council venues also ensured
that council 'went to the community', not the other
Presenters represented the perspectives of a range
of service providers and community groups. While some
individuals presented, there were few submissions from
people directly experiencing poverty. This influenced
the next stage of the research methodology, in conducting
12 interviews with people directly experiencing poverty,
from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances.
|The methodology and consultation process used for the
Poverty directly engaged community members in identifying
key concerns and how to address them.