Community Engagement Policy

Adopted by Council on 14 September 2015

Policy Goals

The purpose of this Community Engagement Policy is to establish the principles and minimum standards of community engagement at Latrobe City Council and demonstrate Latrobe City Council’s commitment to providing genuine and effective community engagement processes.

Policy Implementation

This policy applies to Councillors, staff, contractors and consultants responsible for undertaking community engagement for or on behalf of Latrobe City Council. 

The policy will be supported by the Community Engagement Strategy 2015-2019, the Community Engagement Action Plan 2015-2019 and the Community Engagement Toolkit.

The Strategy sets out Latrobe City Council’s objectives in relation to Community Engagement and the guidelines for successful community engagement. The Action Plan outlines in detail Latrobe City Council’s key commitments and work that will be undertaken to continually improve community engagement practice. The toolkit provides relevant tools and templates that will be utilised by staff undertaking community engagement activities to ensure a consistent and considered approach.

Community Engagement at Latrobe City Council

Latrobe City Council is committed to embracing an ongoing dialogue with our community. To Council, successful community engagement is about empowering, amplifying and capturing the voice of the community. It allows community members to actively contribute to Council decisions and actions by creating an inclusive environment in which community feedback is embraced, considered and acted upon.

Community engagement can be both proactive and responsive. It occurs in planned moments - such as the range of ways Latrobe City Council seeks and uses community input when making a decision - and also occurs in the way Council undertakes services and activities and consistently builds and maintains relationships with community members and stakeholders.

Community engagement enables community members to influence, and see their influence on, the decisions and actions that impact their daily lives and our collective future.

Latrobe City Council will consider undertaking community engagement in the following situations:

  • To enhance a decision or action through community input
  • To help identify community needs and aspirations
  • When the community has raised or expressed an interest
  • Where the community could be impacted by a project, initiative, service or decision
  • When there is a high risk of a matter impacting the community or Council
  • When required by resolution, law, policy or agreement

Community Engagement Process

Community engagement processes undertaken by Latrobe City Council are guided by the standards developed by the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2).

Council officers responsible for planning and delivering community engagement will need to determine the most appropriate level of community participation required, depending on the nature, sensitivity and complexity of the project/initiative being delivered, the level of community impact or interest and any additional external requirements. This also applies to the formation of Council resolutions regarding community engagement.

Community engagement processes initiated by Latrobe City Council will be accessible, inclusive, transparent, accountable, adequately resourced and appropriate for the scope of the project. The selection of community engagement activities will be guided by the Toolkit, the community engagement training program and specific advice from the Community Engagement team.

The opportunity for community members to provide input will be open for a minimum of 4 weeks. All community engagement activities will be included on the ‘Have Your Say’ section of the Latrobe City Council website. Other communication channels, such as face to face contact, noticeboard advertisement, social media, radio, print, television and online newsletters will also be considered and will be selected according to the unique requirements of each project.   

The results of community engagement activities will be collected, evaluated and provided to the decision makers in a fair, balanced and appropriate way and in accordance with privacy and records management requirements.
Council, and Council officers with decision making responsibilities, must ensure that their decision making process includes careful consideration of all results from community engagement and that there is transparency for the community on how their input has impacted the final decision.

Latrobe City Council acknowledges that community input may be considered alongside other sources of information, such as legislative requirements, specialist or expert reports and local or national research studies. In the interest of the whole community, Council has the responsibility to consider all of these factors in the decision making process. 

For community-led engagement processes, Latrobe City Council commits to implementing a culture that embraces a constant state of listening to our communities’ needs and aspirations. Latrobe City Council will provide opportunities for community members to raise ideas, suggestions and issues and will respond effectively to community initiated input. 

There are specific areas where community engagement activities may not occur. These include:
1. Ministerial Exemption Under the Planning and Environment Act 1997, the Minister can exercise powers that withhold public notification of specific land use planning matters.
2. Health, Safety and Wellbeing of the Community
If a situation poses an immediate threat or risk to the health, safety or wellbeing of the community to which Council is required to respond quickly, including emergency events, it may not be possible to engage with the community prior to Council taking action.

Roles and Responsibilities

Latrobe City Council and staff at all levels will adopt the following roles and responsibilities to ensure that the Community Engagement Policy is implemented.

Councillors will, as stated by the Local Government Act 1989:

  • act as a representative government by taking into account the diverse needs of the local community in decision making
  • advocate the interests of the local community to other communities and governments
  • act as a responsible partner in government by taking into account the needs of other communities
  • foster community cohesion and encouraging active participation in civic life

The CEO will:

  • lead the organisation to further embed a culture that strives for and supports quality community engagement processes and outcomes
  • embody and encourage a positive, proactive attitude towards community engagement
  • be accountable through his/her performance reviews for the organisation’s adequate implementation of the Community Engagement Policy

General Managers will:

  • lead each division to create a strong community engagement culture that supports success
  • foster a positive attitude towards community engagement
  • appropriately resource community engagement projects
  • enable the active reduction of barriers to engagement
  • be accountable through their performance reviews for their division’s adequate implementation of the Community Engagement Policy

Managers will:

  • provide reports to Council that openly and transparently reflect the findings of community engagement processes
  • consider community and internal feedback to identify priorities and resources for developing Business Plans
  • advocate for and secure appropriate community engagement resources
  • ensure staff responsible for community engagement have adequate training
  • ensure teams, committees, reference groups, contractors and volunteers are aware of and act within the Community Engagement Policy and Strategy
  • be accountable through their performance reviews for the adequate implementation of the Community Engagement Policy and Strategy by their teams

Project Managers will:

  • assess projects for community engagement requirements early in the project planning stage
  • liaise with the community engagement team as early as possible to discuss requirements and opportunities
  • assign adequate resources to implement quality community engagement
  • take ownership of leading the project team to implement a well-planned, timely and meaningful community engagement process
  • provide clarity for the community about the purpose and objective of any community engagement activity and the opportunity to influence the outcome
  • communicate the opportunities to have a say to support maximum participation
  • provide decision makers with a balanced, objective and comprehensive evaluation of community engagement results to inform their decisions \
  • inform participants and the wider community of the final decision and the reasons why that decision was made

Project team members will:

  • plan and implement good practice engagement programs
  • ensure feedback is captured, recorded and considered appropriately
  • respond effectively to community initiated input

The Community Engagement team will:

  •  build capacity of the organisation to further embed community engagement practice
  •  provide advice and guidance regarding good practice in community engagement
  •  support project teams to plan, develop and evaluate engagement programs
  •  champion, develop and implement accessible engagement tools and platforms that are respectful of cultural backgrounds, language, age, literacy and interest and enable community members to raise ideas, suggestions and issues
  •  ensure that the user of any Council service is provided with an accessible avenue to provide feedback

Risk implications

Failure to undertake community engagement as part of Council’s processes poses a risk to Council’s reputation may cause a level of mistrust amongst members of the community and may result in unsuccessful project outcomes.
Failure to follow this policy may result in further action being taken.       

This policy has been reviewed after giving proper consideration to all the rights contained within the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006; and any reasonable limitation to human rights can be demonstrably justified.