22 March 2022
Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to address Council and the community this morning regarding GMR 22/026 Policy Review for Exhibition.
I am presenting as Co-Convenor of A Better Eurobodalla (ABE), a community forum dedicated to having open and inclusive government in our region. ABE expects that before governments, at any level, make decisions that will impact their communities, they will undertake broad and meaningful consultation, listen to and share expert advice, and proceed using a transparent decision-making process so that the community understands who makes decisions, when and why.
In applying these principles to this motion, the ABE review has focussed primarily on the draft Creative Arts Services Policy which is recommended, along with the other draft policies, to be placed on public exhibition for the purposes of public consultation for a period of 28 days. It will then be presented to Council for consideration and adoption. along with a report to consider any submissions received during the exhibition period. I will also touch on GMR 22/026 the draft Yellow Bellied Glider policy.
For some context a simple general definition of policy from the Australian Government states that government policies contain the reasons things are to be done in a certain way and why. (www.pmc.gov.au> domestic policy). Good policy relies on robust contemporary information to inform what will be done and why.
The Creative Arts Services Policy falls under:
Delivery Program Link: 9.1.2 Implement effective governance, an area central to ABE’s purpose.
Council agenda paper, under General Manager’s reports, describes theCreative Arts Services Policy as being:
‘designed to position the role of creative arts as instrumental to engaging communities, cultivating new industries, celebrating, promoting and developing the Eurobodalla’s distinctive characteristics, economy and reputation as a strong and vibrant community.’
It further states that ‘The policy has been reviewed and no substantive changes are recommended at this time, apart from minor referencing updates.’.
Having read and reviewed the draft Policy our concerns are:
- There is very little for the community to understand or comment on in the document. It describes a set of policy aims which use terms such as increasing opportunities, cultivating partnerships, working effectively and providing leadership. Laudable in principle but essentially motherhood statements that are difficult to criticise but also hard to comment on in any useful way.
- There is no indication in the document that it reflects contemporary circumstances. We have had bushfires, floods and Covid since the last review. What does this mean for the creative arts and the Council services that support them?
- The draft Policy states that the policy will be implemented by following Council’s Creative Arts Strategy. This Strategy from 2019 (also pre-dating fires and Covid) is not up for discussion or consultation and it is here that any relevant actions are to be found.
- The draft Policy of 2022, and the performance indicators by which the success or otherwise of the Policy can be measured, do not directly link to any of the 46 priority actions from the 2019 Strategy.
- A draft policy that simply says, in effect, that we are going to do what we are already doing is not meaningful.
- So unfortunately, this is a poor document for the purposes of public consultation. It is an example of the ‘tick the box consultation’ that Council should avoid.
- If we want our community to be engaged with Council, to read, review and comment on Council products there must be content that justifies peoples’ time and energy.
The draft Yellow Bellied Glider policy (GMR 22/026) indicates there is no need for any substantial changes to the Yellow Bellied Glider policy, despite the massive impacts of the 2019/20 black summer bushfires to biodiversity and tree cover across the Eurobodalla.
Also significant is that the Commonwealth government has recently listed the Yellow-bellied glider as “Vulnerable” under the EPBC Act, identifying the black summer bushfires as a key factor that increased risks to this species. The draft policy does not acknowledge this, and is in urgent need of revising and updating to reflect contemporary circumstances, as well as correct anomalous dates and references circulated in GMR22/026.
We know that community members have long had concerns about the quality of consultation by Council. Among other things, the Community Engagement Framework and Participation Plan adopted by Council on 26 November 2019 tells us that ‘Ineffective or tokenistic community engagement can be detrimental to the good faith of the community in the long term’. (P4) ABE considers effective community engagement to be a key element of delivering good governance, where a ‘tick the box” approach is not desirable or effective.
The arts and culture community of Eurobodalla is a vital and substantial contributor to the well-being, social capital and economy of the Eurobodalla, as are our fragile natural resources. Consulting about these is important and should be done by providing meaningful content and the opportunity for the community to engage.
A Better Eurobodalla