Below is a recent letter I sent to a number of people and agencies both in Local and State Government. There is an old saying, “it’s not what you do but it’s the way that you do it” that rings true with all things and this issue is no different.
With the very active Shark issue in our local community at the moment I have been looking around at what other areas or councils are doing to support the decision making process around ‘tricky issues’. I have attended a lot of the meetings with the DPI as a representative for the Ballina Chamber of Commerce but I approach you as a concerned community leader. I was witness to the last Ballina Shire Council meeting and watched the continued emotion this issue has bought into the community. The some of the general flavour of concerns continue to be the community fearing they aren’t being heard, the lack of community constellation, the lack of trust in Government, to frustration of wasted time and resources, the injury and impact within the community. While these concerns aren’t exhaustive they are a sample of what is within our community. I understand the State Government decision to now go ahead with the Shark net trial which I support as a step with other measures as you have done.
I want to bring your attention to the results being obtained through Citizen juries.
In South Australia this is what they have to say:
“Citizens’ Juries aim to change the way democracy is done in SA, creating a new balance between experts and the public and giving elected representatives confidence that public judgment (rather than opinion) contributes to better decision-making.
This is a ground-breaking approach for the way governments make decisions; it presents our elected leaders with an uncontrolled result, reached by a group of South Australians whose composition ensures that they able to represent the state. While lobbyists, activists and community groups are welcome to present their points-of-view to the jury, the structured and supported process ensures that final recommendations are developed independently. Juries have given South Australia opportunities to bring the voice of its community into decision-making around a tricky policy issues”
Here is the link for more information with a current citizens jury and also the results of some others http://yoursay.sa.gov.au/initiatives/citizens-jury
What I have found appealing about these type of community run juries are the fact that they are ‘run’ by the people, by the community. What I have found much of the feedback and criticism from the community has been they are not being listened to even after what some may consider exhaustive consultation. I have said before it is becoming more and more obvious that conventional consultation processes may be gaining results but they are certainly not supporting the consistent wider community view. The great result or method of the juries are that they not only have community representatives within them selected from a cross-section of the community but the process is run within the community in their full view. The juries are able to call witness and are supported to find the facts within these areas and not get drawn into or pushed around by emotion. These types of forums will be more and more a thing of the future I think. It takes the pressure away from Government and brings a lot more responsibility back to the communities decisions.
I would be looking for this to be supported with Council as driver for any decisions forward on the shark issue. The coordination of any jury would need to be funded and in the shark issue I’m sure pressure towards the State Government at this point may support something like this to be supported by them in this current climate. This type of thing could also be put on the radar by our Local Council for any further community engagement in the future.
I will be also forwarding this information to all parties at Local, State and Federal level. I look forward to your replies and I am always available for chats around this. My phone number is 0402……. for those who may not already have it.