Adopted by Council on 12 April 2021
This Policy fulfils the requirement for Council to have a Community Engagement Policy under section 55 of the Local Government Act 2020 (the Act) and gives effect to the Community Engagement Principles contained in section 56 of the Act.
The objectives of this Policy are to:
- Give effect to the Community Engagement Principles;
- Outline the framework for Council’s community engagement processes;
- Facilitate understanding of how Council will involve the community and stakeholders in decision-making and development of the municipality.
The Policy is an integral part of how Council will meet the Overarching Governance Principles in section 9 of the Act.
- This Policy applies to all Councillors and employees of Latrobe City Council, as well as all contractors acting in place of an employee of Latrobe City Council.
- This Policy applies to all community engagement processes to be undertaken by Council, excluding matters where Victorian legislation mandates a different procedure.
Principles of Management
Introduction Latrobe City Council is committed to embracing an ongoing dialogue with our community through providing genuine, consistent, inclusive and effective community engagement processes. Successful community engagement allows Council to benefit from the knowledge and experience of the Latrobe City community, and enables community members to influence, and see their influence on the decisions and actions that impact their daily lives and our collective future. To reflect Latrobe City Council’s community engagement values, Council is committed to contemporary and evolving approaches, including a commitment to professional development. Council’s community engagement values are:
- Respect: consideration is shown to all members of the community. The views, concerns and experiences of community members are listened to and each person’s point of view is valued;
- Inclusiveness and accessibility: every effort is made to provide opportunities for all members of the community to participate in both planned and unplanned community engagement activities. All members of the community are supported to actively contribute, regardless of age, gender, sexuality, income, education, cultural background, language skills or disability;
- Integrity and honesty: a trustworthy and honest manner is used in all levels of community engagement practices and decision-making, with processes being open and transparent. Members of the community are given a clear understanding of how their input has been considered as part of the final decision-making process.
- Accountability and ownership: responsibility is taken for Council’s input, decisions and actions relating to community engagement activities;
- Communication: effective communication methods are used throughout the community engagement process when receiving and providing input, making decisions and taking action. This includes closing the loop with participants by clearly demonstrating how their input was considered in the final decision;
- Innovation: new ways to listen to and engage with members of the community are regularly explored, including seeking out solutions to improve discussion, decision-making and action in order to enhance the community engagement experience.
Latrobe City Council’s Framework
There are three key documents and a toolkit that guide Community Engagement at Latrobe City Council. The diagram below demonstrates how these documents relate to each other and deliver on Council’s commitment to its community engagement practice.
|Community Engagement Policy
Overarching document that sets the standards, principles, values and legislated environment
Community Engagement Strategy
Community Engagement Toolkit
Community Engagement Action Plan
Community Engagement Plan
Latrobe City Council’s Community Engagement Policy is required to give effect to five Community Engagement Principles set out at section 56 of the Act. The statements below define our commitment to deliver each principle.
|The community engagement process has a clearly defined objective and scope.||
When engagement is launched, we will publish an Engagement Plan Overview, including a description of the project or matter that is the subject of engagement. This will explain:
If the project or matter has multiple stages of engagement, we will define the objective and scope for each stage.
We will allocate resourcing for engagement that is relative to the scope and complexity of the project or matter.
|Participants in community engagement will have access to objective, relevant and timely information to inform their participation.||
We will provide timely access to factual and transparent information on the project or matter, including:
This information will be provided through a combination of printed, verbal, digital and audiovisual formats.
We will provide information in accessible formats, plain language summaries and provide opportunities to ask questions and receive a response, either individually or via shared communications.
|Participants in community engagement will be representative of the persons and groups affected by the matter.||
We will identify members of the community that have a connection to the project or matter, and publish an assessment of the level of:
This information is used to understand the types of tools and techniques that will be most effective for engagement and communication. Community members who are identified as likely to experience a significant impact from a change or decision, may be offered a higher level of engagement and influence on the decision than others.
|Participants in community engagement are entitled to reasonable support to enable meaningful and informed engagement.||
We will design engagement including the methods, activities and schedule to meet the needs and requirements of identified community members. This will consider:
|Participants in community engagement are informed of the ways in which the community engagement process will influence Council decision-making.||
We will explain how and when the decision will be made, including:
Where there are multiple phases of engagement, we will describe the above for each phase. Methods and tools selected will relate to the type of project and level of influence relative to the IAP2 Spectrum and to the project budget. Providing feedback to participants is crucial in respecting our relationship and partnership with our community. We will:
|A community engagement process must be designed to promote fairness and equity||
Traditional engagement activities can be biased towards the participation of those who are easy to communicate with, have a pre-existing relationship with Council, and are vocal and reasonably comfortable in a public setting.
We will design engagement programs to encourage fairness, equity and the participation of p reached groups through:
What is Community Engagement and Why is it Important
Community engagement is about empowering, amplifying and capturing the voice and expertise 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 Council seeks and uses community input when making a decision - and also occurs in the way Council undertakes day to day services and activities, and consistently builds and maintains relationships with community members and stakeholders.
The ability for people to be involved and heard on issues that are important to them and decisions that impact them fosters greater fairness, inclusivity, ownership and transparency in decision-making, and increases community trust and confidence in the activities of Council.
Community engagement is a vital part of Council’s operations, as it provides the opportunity for Council to learn about the variety of views, insights and issues in our region. It enables and ensures the responsiveness of the Council, as well as facilitating and enhancing the quality and effectiveness of major projects, infrastructure works, policy development, service planning, community-led developments and other initiatives.
Who We Engage With
Latrobe City is a diverse community with a broad range of views and interests.
While decision-making activities are of interest to all community members and stakeholders, it would not be efficient or sustainable for Latrobe City Council to engage with the entire community on every issue. Some decisions also affect certain community members or stakeholders more than others.
In implementing community engagement processes, Council considers community to include anyone affected by or with an interest in a decision, and will endeavour to ensure participation of those most affected or with the most interest. People affected will be determined by understanding the potential social, economic and geographic impacts of a project, plan or proposal, and could include individuals, members of community groups and town associations, and neighbours.
When We Will Engage
Embedding strong community engagement into Latrobe City Council’s practices is a key Council priority. The Act sets out a number of matters where community engagement is compulsory.
- Community Vision;
- Council Plan;
- Financial Plan;
- Asset Plan;
- Budget (or any revised Budget);
- Adopting Local Laws;
- Governance Rules;
- Acquiring or disposing of land;
- Leasing of Council land (in some circumstances).
In addition to the matters listed above, where appropriate Latrobe City Council will engage the community under a range of other scenarios, such as:
- Other Policy, Strategy and Plan development;
- Service planning, including development, amendment or improvement of a service provided by Council;
- Area improvement, for example major projects and infrastructure, and upgrades to recreational areas, community assets and Council buildings and facilities;
- Site specific, being any changes to an area, and including matters affecting an individual property;
- Additional legislative requirements under this Act including related regulations, or as required by any other Act, for example:
- Road Management Act 2004;
- Planning and Environment Act 2007;
- Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008;
- Issues affecting the:
- Cultural and social liveability of the community;
- Local economy and labour market; or
- Natural environment.
Community engagement will occur in the earlier stages of a project/initiative, providing an opportunity for the public to influence the development process. Depending on the circumstances, community engagement may be undertaken in more than one stage.
Council will conduct community engagement within timeframes that allow a practical opportunity for community members and stakeholders to participate. There are some instances where the timeframe for consultation is predetermined by legislation.
Not all decisions of Latrobe City Council will provide an opportunity for broad community consultation or active participation. In some instances, a prior decision of Council or a legislative imperative may limit or preclude further discussion or consideration of an issue. A decision may be part of Latrobe City Council’s broad strategic agenda which has already been endorsed and adopted. In other instances, where there are highly complex issues, Council may legitimately seek to only gather the input of stakeholders or experts in a specific field. Some areas where community engagement activities may not occur include:
- where 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;
- a consultation process involving Council that is being conducted by another level of government;
- if the matter involves confidential information;
- where set out in legislation.
How We Will Engage
Council is committed to understanding the needs and views of the Latrobe City community. The community plays an important role in shaping our future direction. The skills and experiences of those in the community should be sought. Council aims to strengthen its partnership with the community by supporting and valuing the community’s contribution.
Level of engagement model
The following table represents our Level of Engagement model that supports a consistent approach to community engagement. The model provides:
- our role in the engagement
- our commitment to the community
- examples of the methods we will use.
All levels of engagement can be supported by methods from the previous level.
The engagement level selected will be influenced by the project’s scope, impact and available resources. Council will also evaluate the complexity and likely impact of a decision against the significance of the outcome when developing community engagement activities. The activity categories below guide this evaluation.
Spectrum of Engagement (IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation)
The Act requires that the development of Council’s Community Vision, Council Plan, Financial Plan and Asset Plan involve deliberative engagement practices. Deliberative engagement is an important approach that will also be used in other non-legislated situations as it is required. What do we mean by ‘deliberative engagement’?
Deliberative engagement is a form of community engagement that places people closer to the decision-making of a democratic society, without taking away from the decision-making powers of the elected Council. It is informed, representative and supported. Deliberative engagement occurs when a representative sample of the community is provided with the opportunity, information and time to reach a joint position or preferred solution. Time, complexity, impact and available resources influence the methods of deliberative engagement. Local Government Victoria has identified the key characteristics of deliberative engagement as:
- authentic engagement with the community;
- good representation of the community in engagement activities;
- clear demonstration of how all views have been considered; and
- accessible and relevant information available to the community to ensure the decision-making process and the community’s level of influence is clear in each instance and that participants are fully informed.
Latrobe City Council’s Approach
For every community engagement activity, a community engagement plan will be developed by Council officers in a timely, effective and innovative manner. Plans will include assessment of the target audience and develop the most suitable tools and methods of communication to encourage a high level and quality of participation that is appropriate to the matter. Relevant approvals will be obtained, through line management and committee structures and where applicable, Council resolutions, prior to commencing activities. To ensure effective community engagement, Council implements the following eight steps to design, deliver and complete community engagement.
- Clearly define the purpose and scope of the community engagement
- Understand stakeholder and community interests
- Design an appropriate community engagement process
- Deliver genuine and respectful engagement
- Review and interpret the engagement data
- Apply the outcomes of the engagement to inform the decision-making process
- Evaluate the community engagement process for improvement
- Close the loop on the community engagement - advise the community of the final outcome and how their feedback was considered in the final decision.
Feedback and Engagement Evaluation
The provision of feedback will be delivered to industry-best practice standard. It will recognise and respect the contributions of community members and stakeholders, and the time that they take to participate. Reporting of outcomes and updates will always be available online through Council’s Have Your Say platform, and other mediums that are requested by the community. It will also be provided directly to those who asked to be kept informed and have provided contact details.
Transparency and openness are core components of community engagement. When a person participates at workshops or events or in forums, contributions and identity are considered public. The same applies for submissions unless anonymity is requested. Responses to surveys, questionnaires and feedback forms may be published but identities, if known, will remain anonymous.
Contact information will be kept secure and separate from any other data provided. Council will only collect what personal information it requires in order to carry out its statutory and legal responsibilities and to deliver its services. Council complies with the requirements of the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 in carrying out these responsibilities.
Accountability and Responsibility
Accountability and responsibility for this policy is outlined below.
- Responsibility to ensure this Policy is consistent with Latrobe City Council Strategic Direction and other Latrobe City Council policies;
- Responsibility for the decision to approve this Policy by Council Resolution.
Chief Executive Officer
Overall responsibility for:
- compliance with this Policy;
- enforcing accountability;
- providing resources;
- performance monitoring.
- compliance with this Policy;
- enforcing accountability;
- providing resources;
- performance monitoring.
- Develop frameworks and procedures in compliance with this Policy;
- Enforce responsibilities to achieve compliance with frameworks and procedures;
- Provide appropriate resources for the execution of the frameworks and procedures.
Employees, Contractors and Volunteers
- Participate where required in the development of frameworks and procedures in compliance with this Policy;
- Comply with frameworks and procedures developed to achieve compliance with this Policy.