Legislating community engagement at the Australian local government level
Community engagement has assumed a more salient role in the operations of Australia’s local governments. A vast number of legislative instruments and reporting requirements are imposed upon local governments by the states and the Northern Territory across Australia’s seven local government jurisdictions. Consequently, a set of identifiable practices is solidifying as a core element of local government practice and state–local relations. However, while practices have recently proliferated, it is easy to forget that they are relatively new. This article examines the legislative frameworks of Australian local government systems by chronologically mapping the development of legislation and other reporting requirements. It is argued that community engagement now occupies a central place in local government, and that the jurisdictions use four different types of approaches, often simultaneously, which can fruitfully be described as ‘prescriptive’, ‘aspirational’, ‘empowering’ and ‘hedging’. The discussion draws comparative observations and identifies key issues and challenges for the future of community engagement.
Community engagement; Australia; local government; public participation; legislation
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