A Review of Empowering Monash and YOU (EM&U)
Hariklia and Gayle
As a newly elected Council is finding its feet in Monash this is a good time to reflect on the achievements and future role of EM&U. As always we welcome the input of community members.
EM&U was an initiative of a group of diverse active people, most of whom first met through the Save Monash Gardens campaign in 2013 /14. Throughout the aged care sale process the community contended Monash Council was not transparent or consultative. Aged care residents, their relatives and the staff were not involved in the decision process.
EM&U was formed to continue working towards better governance in Monash Council. The aim was to better inform the community of any future Monash Council plans, to advocate for community involvement in the decision making process and to ensure the community were listened to. We feel that EM&U has achieved significant progression toward achieving these goals over the last 3 years. In saying the EM&U has achieved this is saying YOU, the community of Monash, have achieved this. We thank you for working with us.
EM&U and community members supported or encouraged some of the following City of Monash matters:
An improved public question time
Community members have found Public Question Time is more of a brick wall than an opportunity for interactive communication and empowerment. It was stressed to Council on many occasions that the Local law relating to Public Question time should be reviewed to ensure that there are no barriers to community members asking questions and receiving appropriate responses from their council, about issues affecting them. EM&U has supported a change relating to Public Question Time.
EM&U approaches to Council on Public Question time received no interest or uptake. However, as candidates advocated for election in the 2016 Council election this issue was often raised. Why? Candidates knew this was a matter of importance to the community and they needed to work on community concerns to be elected.
We are pleased to say the first steps towards improving this situation have been taken by the newly elected Council.
Live streaming of Council meetings
EM&U have advocated for live streaming or recording of council meetings to be implemented, to ensure community have access to Council proceedings, especially for those who are unable to attend council meetings. This will also ensure a more inclusive and transparent Council.
Monash Council, under Mayor Klisaris, knocked our submission for recording and broadcasting back. He claimed it would cost $60,000 and the Council couldn’t afford this inclusive measure. (He did spend $37,000 on a lunch in Oakleigh.) He claimed privacy would be breached, yet the meetings are public anyway. Now, as the local government department puts streaming forward as a favourable transperancy measure, Monash Council acts.
The last meeting of Monash Council was streamed. See: http://www.monash.vic.gov.au/About-Us/Council/Council-Meetings/Live-streaming-of-Council-meetings
To preserve open space and stop over development
EM&U supported the community for a vision of a peoples’ space in Glen Waverley and a healthier lifestyle for those living, working in or visiting the area. Several groups initiated submissions on open space on Glen Waverley Central Car Park. The groups combined and well-developed and researched submissions were presented to Council. The proposals included underground car parking with easy access to shops. A green and open space would provide an inclusive meeting place and as one real estate manager commented, ‘It would make Glen Waverley.’ Importantly, the proposal asked Monash Council NOT to proceed with the Expressions of Interest (EOIs). As in the sale of residential aged care dispute the Council went ahead regardless of the numbers of people in the community asking for a different course of action.
Throughout the community feedback process on this project the community appeared to believe the issue was whether or not the Glen Waverley Library was updated and modernised i.e. by shifting it to Central Car Park. This was not the issue at hand. There was no reason to stop the Library being updated and modernised on its current site. In fact, many in the community prefer this option. In this case the Council’s marketing was clouding community understanding. Many people still do not understand the high probability of high rise buildings being erected on Central Car Park alongside the library.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The Council has NOT announced the results of the tender process so please keep expressing your views on open and green space in Central Glen Waverley to your Councillors.
Residential zoning in Monash
Residential zoning and development has been a huge issue of concern to people across Monash. Whether it is the creek escarpment, McMansions, the loss of sunshine and greenery or access to local schools, the increased development and changing nature of Monash has affected everyone. EM&U has given community members a place to voice their concerns. There is an unequal access to media and communication. The Council has a smooth media machine and access to publications. It is harder for the community and EM&U has done what it can to provide an outlet for community information.
EM&U supporters were active presenting to Planning Panels Victoria on their visits to Monash. At the last meeting the newly elected Council voted to accept the Council Officers recommendations on the Planning Panel Report.
For a more transparent and collaborative Council
The Monash community has frequently requested the Council to involve, collaborate with and empower the community i.e. use the higher levels of the IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum http://www.iap2.org.au/documents/item/84
Looking into the future of Empowering Monash and YOU
The purpose of EM&U was to foster a community where all community members have access to knowledge, community services and media. Community members should be partners in democratic decision making in local government and engaged at the community level and be actively involved in advocating for areas considered a social responsibility, including quality in aged care and inclusive practice. We do hope that the Council will endeavour to make improvements and give the community an opportunity to have a say in the near future.
As key people take on different roles in their lives we question where EM&U is going. At this point in time the emphasis is on the Facebook page. Time will tell whether there is a role to play into the future. We welcome your views.
Thank you for your support and please, follow us on Facebook.