Category Archives: EM&U

Reflections on Empowering Monash and YOU

A Review of Empowering Monash and YOU (EM&U)

Hariklia and Gayle
March 2017

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.

 Related Content:

Monash Public Question time lags behind other Councils

Public Question time apparently is not Public answer time! 

 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

Related Content:

Feedback to Council: Streaming/Recording of 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.

2016-02-24 09.59.42
Do you want green & open space on Central Car Park? Let your Councillors know what you think! A decision has not yet been announced.

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.

 Related Content:

Green Waverley: The Healthy Alternative

Green Waverley: Research Supports a Green Space for Diverse

Community Initiated Council Forum a Success!

Glen Waverley: Up She Rises!

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.

Related Content:

Save our Creek: Support NRZ4

Councillors to Vote on retaining Dandenong Creek Escarpment

Development or Devastation?

Community standstill and need to act

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

Related Content:

Transparency in Council

Community Discontent over Council’s Stakeholder Engagement likely to continue

No Jargon, Plain English – An Inexpensive Solution for Monash Council

Must read! Investigation into the transparency of Local Government decision making process

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.

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Must read! Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making

Council Transparency

The Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making has been completed and the report publicly released.

I took the time to read through this report and found it very informative and interesting that it revealed some issues relating to Councils. Community members had reasonable concerns about transparency in their Councils and in fact there were many complaints  made to the Ombudsman.

“This investigation arose from a single complaint about a decision made in a closed council meeting – a practice that we found to be widespread across Victoria. Some complaints resonate as a theme: local councils continue to account for some 25 per cent of jurisdictional complaints to my office – more than 3,400 last year. People complaining to my office about council decisions periodically refer to the decision being made “in secret” or “behind closed doors” as evidence to support their concerns. I tabled the report into the original complaint in June 2016, but this has been a far wider investigation, looking at the transparency of decision-making within local government in Victoria.” Source: Deborah Glass Ombudsman.

As part of the investigation 79 Victorian councils were surveyed and 12  were selected to be examined in detail.  

The areas of focus were:

the closure of council meetings and special committee meetings to     the public

• the handling of confidential matters

• the nature and quality of audio and visual records of meetings and       the public’s ability to access records

• the scope and exercise of delegated council functions/powers and       administrative actions; and the reporting of these to council and           the public

• the nature and content of information discussed in ‘assemblies of         councillors’

Due to the findings, there were specific recommendations made in the report to be introduced or implemented. Here is a summary of   some of the recommendations or suggestions:

• relating to the Local Government Act, a requirement for more              detailed reasons in relation to the closure of meetings to be                    specified in the minutes and that embarrassment to, or potential          adverse criticism of, council are not reasons to close a meeting to        the public

implement a mandatory ‘Code of Councillor Conduct’ training               program       

• conflict of interest requirements to extend to advisory committee      members and to have an updated list of committees on a Council’s      website                               

• ensure that agendas are made available to public five days before a     council meeting

 public questions and answers to be recorded in minutes,  through       audio or audio-visual recording and publication, as well as posting       recorded open meetings to council websites

Did you know about section 15 Your right to freedom of expression’ under the Human Rights Charter?  

“People are free to say what they think and want to say. They have the right to find, receive and share information and ideas. In general, this right might be limited to respect the rights and reputation of other people, or for the protection of public safety and order.” Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission

How does this right play a role in Council? As stated in the report: 

“Councils also need to take care regarding restrictions on public question time. Unreasonable restrictions have the potential to be incompatible with not only the right to participate in public life, but the right to freedom of expression in section 15 of the Charter. For example, where councils require questions in writing prior to meetings, they should ensure there is appropriate assistance available to those who may have difficulty placing their question in writing. A number of councils mentioned they offered such assistance. Councils should also ensure that any restriction on the content of questions or submissions by members of the public at meetings which could be considered to limit their right to freedom of expression is appropriately balanced with any lawful restrictions reasonably necessary to respect the rights and reputation of other persons or national security, public order, public health or public morality.”

You will also find a summary of transparency in the report:
What does a transparent council look like?
What does a transparent council look like?
Page 150 -151 of the Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making report. Click to view!

Link to full report: Victorian Ombudsman: Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making

Related links: 

Local government transparency a postcode lottery: Victorian Ombudsman

Victorian public being shut out of local council meetings, ombudsman says

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass says councils must be more transparent over their decisions

Empowering Monash & YOU post – Transparency in Council 

Empowering Monash & YOU post – Feedback to Council: Streaming/recording of meetings

Comments are welcome!

HarikNG – Administrator and Contributer

Empowering Monash & YOU

Monash Council Election in October – What you need to know!

Monash Council Election

The City of Monash Council Election will be held in October. It will be by postal vote and enrolled voters will receive their ballots via the mail in the first week of October.

What is in the ballot pack?

Council Elections Ballots
State of Victoria (Victorian Electoral Commission) – Easy English Guide
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Derivatives 4.0 licence
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/)

How to complete the ballot paper or vote?

After completing the sheet or adding your vote, then you will need to return it in the mail by 6.00 pm on Friday 21 October 2016, so please be aware it needs to be mailed by this date as voting closes on 21 October 2016. However you do have the option to hand-deliver it to the election office by this date. You can visit the Victorian Electoral Commission website for more information.

Click on Factsheets to enlarge and view! 

Council Election Ballots
State of Victoria (Victorian Electoral Commission) – Easy English Guide
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Derivatives 4.0 licence
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/)
Council Election Ballot
State of Victoria (Victorian Electoral Commission) – Easy English Guide
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Derivatives 4.0 licence
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monash Council Election Candidates and voting

You will find candidate statements in the ballot pack, which is a little information about each candidate before deciding who to vote for. Community members may be already aware who some of the candidates are, but it is very important to vote for a person who you think will do the best for you or the community.  Hence why it is important to get enough information about the candidates by visiting their websites, reading their flyers or contacting them and asking questions. The other option is to  make arrangements to meet them at a convenient time or at their launches and express your views or concerns.

You vote is important so vote wisely!
Monash Council Ballot Voting
State of Victoria (Victorian Electoral Commission) – Easy English Guide
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Derivatives 4.0 licence
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/)

If you interested in meeting some of them, there will be a ‘Meet the Candidates’ event on 6 October 2016 at the Mount Street Neighbourhood House. For further details, you can contact them by phone on 9803 8706 or through their website – MSNH Contact.

For more information regarding the Council Elections:

City of Monash Council Election – Voting 

Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC)

Easy English Guide – Victorian Electoral Commission Vote in Local Council Postal Elections

Reminder! Gayle Nicholas who is the founder member of Empowering Monash and YOU has suspended her role with EM&U while standing for Council.  Community members have contacted EM&U in regards to Gayle’s Campaign and would like to remind people that EM&U’s role does not involve election campaigns, so if you would like to contact Gayle Nicholas, details below.
Website: Glenwaverleyward.wordpress.com.au
Facebook Page Page: @Gayle4Monash 
Twitter: @GayleNicholas4M

Announcement! EM&U Founder Gayle Nicholas has stepped down from her role!

IMG_9662

I would like to announce that Gayle Nicholas who is the founder member of Empowering Monash and YOU has suspended her role with EM&U while standing for Council. Gayle and I established EM&U to provide information to community members and to give them the opportunity to have a say, such as community issues relating to Local Government.

Thank You Gayle Nicholas

I would like to thank Gayle for her outstanding role with EM&U and strongly advocating for community engagement with Monash Council.

Please keep in mind though EM&U will still be running as usual and team members or contributors will still be involved.  If you have any enquires please do not hesitate to contact us by email at eMonashu@gmail.com or through the ‘Contact Us‘ page.

EM&U’s role does not involve election campaigns so if you would like to contact Gayle Nicholas, details below.

Facebook Page Page: @Gayle4Monash 

 

Hariklia Nguyen – Co-founder of Empowering Monash and YOU (EM&U)

Have your say! – The Local Government Act Review Paper

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The government is reviewing the Local Government Act and proposing to make changes that will make Councils more efficient, transparent and accountable, as well as enhancing community participation.

Here are some of the key new reforms proposed:

  • A stronger role for mayors to lead councils
  • Greater consistency in council structures (wards) to make elections fairer
  • Simpler electoral rolls and voting rules
  • Community engagement
  • Accountable and high performing councils
  • More autonomy for councils to cut unnecessary red-tape
  • A consistent, modern rating system

Have a say!

Community members have an opportunity to provide feedback relating to the Local Government Act Review Directions Paper or proposed changes. Feedback can be provided by making  a submission or viewing the summary ‘At a Glance’ and completing  a quick poll.

Link to The Local Government Act Review Directions Paper website: Act for the Future – Directions for a new Local Government Act.

What do you think of your Council? Do you think changes need to be made?

Season’s Greetings from Empowering Monash & YOU

animated-merry-christmas-image-0042

For Community members who celebrate Christmas we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support you have shown for EM&U and your assistance.

We are looking forward to 2016 to continue to promote community engagement and provide information to the community.

Best Wishes

Empowering Monash & YOU

No Jargon, Plain English! – An inexpensive solution for Monash Council

Council information jargon
Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you seen this article?

Monash Council needs gun communications expert to decipher planning jargon into ‘plain English’. Monash Leader Mayor Paul Klisaris says Monash Council might have “lost some people’s interest” with jargon in the first mail-out.  – Source: Monash Council needs gun communications expert to decipher planning jargon into ‘plain English’ 

Perhaps Monash council should have joined the ‘Drop the Jargon’ day and pledged to use plain language! This day was for professionals, health services and local governments to challenge themselves to use plain language.  www.dropthejargon.org.au  

Monash council needs to understand what community consultation and engagement is, as if they did they would have asked the community if a communications expert is needed or the best option to help the community understand information or plans provided to them.

This is what I propose!

Why waste funds on hiring a communications expert when there is a simple way to communicate information to the community?

The best way to provide information to the community is to implement or commence a Community Information Reference Group. Community members can join to review information, including budget and proposed planning documents to ensure that fact sheets are written in plain English and cater to all consumers or community members. This way the community will understand the information provided to them and can have a say. The council can follow examples from health/community services which already provide information, that is accessible and easy to understand and reviewed by community members as part of the Standard 2: Partnering with Consumers. 

A great example is what Link Health and Community has introduced. Their publications or information are reviewed and approved by consumer members. They also have a vital role in producing their quarterly magazine to ensure that it is in a format that is suitable for community members.  

Other Councils such as Mitchell Shire Council have prepared plans in consultation with the community and developed in a format to communicate to community in a clear way. Link: Wallan Structure Plan, Mitchell Shire Council

Review Council Information
Image courtesy of ddpavumba at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This option would be more cost effective as well as Council consulting and engaging with the community. Hiring a communications expert would only assist short time and will not cater to the changing diversity and demographics of the community. Community members are the experts! They are the ones that will read the information provided to them!

Council could commence a long term transparent Information Reference or Working Group and consider these points:

  • Diverse community members should have input in reviewing information or plans to ensure all are catered for
  • Run informal meetings monthly or what members prefer to review items and ensure there are no barriers for members of the group to attend and participate
  • Members to have input on the planning and delivery of information to the public
  • A community engagement officer to facilitate the meetings and take notes or record of discussions, but members should have authority over the decision making
  • Councillors should be invited to the group to listen and seek advice, not as members of the group, as this will ensure community members will have unbiased feedback and authority over discussions and decisions
  • Members to decide on guidelines that are suitable for the committee and reviewing information

Info standing man EM&U Stuart MilesLinks to more info:

Example of a plain English guide

Victorian Government Accessible Communication Guidelines

Communicating data with Colour: a guide to producing accessible maps and visual data

Communicate Clearly – A Guide to Plain English

The challenges of communicating the law to the public

Accessible Communication Guides – Whitehorse Council

Darebin’s Inclusive Communications Charter

Wyndham Cruiser – Wyndham Council

Monash resident’s letter to Council

The following letter commenting on the Amendments to the Monash Housing Plan was forwarded to EM&U by a Glen Waverley resident (name and address supplied):

Monash Municipal Offices, 22ND. July,  2015

293 Springvale Road,

GLEN  WAVERLEY. VIC.  3150

Attention:  Strategic Planning Team.

Dear Sir/Madam,

Ref:  Amendments C120 and C125.

I am writing to outline the concern by many Glen Waverley residents of the proposed development of the GWAC in relation to building heights and density.

The C120 leaflet dated June 2015 outlining DDO12 building heights for Areas B and C, does not provide clear directions, (as stated)  in that 10+ and 8+ storeys gives no indication of the maximum height allowable.   This is a major concern, as plans are before council applying for high rise development  well in excess of these  figures.  We also need to ensure that buildings such as that currently being built on Cnr. Fairhills Parade and Danien Street,  Glen Waverley are no longer approved.  Three sides of this building are barely  1 metre from the boundaries.

We are not against development but against inappropriate development.  The existing Ikon building of 10 storeys,  the now approved 15 storey in O’Sullivan Road, and two of the three apartment blocks in The Glen redevelopment would be regarded as by far, the maximum acceptable  height for buildings in our municipality.  The 23 storey high rise tower submitted to council by the developer promises to be a permanent blight on our landscape, and should not be considered for one moment.

The recent advertisement by Monash Council in the Waverley Leader dated July 7, gave us some hope.   With the headline of “Protection of Monash’s ‘garden city’ character”  we were heartened to learn that those in council/town planning, may be striving for the same end.   Which brings us to ask “where are all the thousands of future  apartment dwellers going in order to enjoy some open/green space.”    With no back yard,  a small balcony,  a concrete jungle and the distant hills,  it’s a poor substitute for having an open/green space near your door.

This brings us to the Central Car Park, bordered by Springvale Road, Railway Parade North and Coleman Parade.    We ask council/town planning to be forward thinking and courageous, by declaring this area to be an open/green space, e.g. ‘ Monash Square’.  By providing an area where the community could come together for a variety of leisure activities,  we would be the envy of all.

The towns and cities blessed  with well sized  ‘Squares and Parks’  stand apart from the rest.  The proposed small areas of  green space is not conducive for bringing the community together, as one large open area would do.  With such a multi cultural municipality as Monash, the importance of providing a place for people of difference ethnic backgrounds  to mingle and  get to know each other, cannot be overstated.  Taking motor vehicles out of this area  – the traffic and pollution which is ever increasing,  would free up the GWAC considerably.  Additional car parks could be found by increasing the capacity of existing car park areas.

I am outlining thoughts and discussions held with a number of local residents, and ask that the decision makers of Monash look into the future before making these important decisions, and make future generations proud of the wonderful  ‘garden city’  this generation has created  for them.

Yours sincerely,

(Signed)

EM&U thanks this resident for providing constructive feedback to Monash Council on the proposed amendments.  Complaining doesn’t go anywhere but constructive feedback is a step toward creating a better community for us all.

EM&U will consider publishing copies of letters if name and address of writer is provided. Email your letter to EMonashU@gmail.com

Related Links

Glen Waverley’s future – your input is needed – sign our submission

Green Waverley: research supports open space

Green Waverley: do NOT build on Central Car Park

Please Monash Council: May we have some green space?

Green Waverley: Research supports a green space for diverse uses

With more criticism of Council this week over spending $$$ on one of the larger cultural groups within Monash, (see http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/east/monash-council-defends-decision-to-spend-37000-on-free-lunch-for-greek-easter/story-fngnvlxu-1227308571917) the value of an open space where many cultural groups can interact informally becomes apparent.

At least two community groups are calling for Central Car Park in Glen Waverley to be an open space for the purpose of interaction between cultural groups.

Many in the community are expressing outrage at the high rise development planned for the central area. High rise development planning is excessive, does not meet the needs of people living in the area and has ignored community views. Social isolation and health issues are a likely consequence of intensive high rise living. The community are asking for a place to unite, to come together with others from their own and different cultural groups. A place where no one group has control and smaller groups have equal access.

The call for open space (“neutral ground’) to support interaction between the different cultural groups is supported by research:

Research by Dunnett, Swanwick and Woolley (2002) found that local residents often identify green spaces as the centre of their community (see Improving Urban Parks, Play Areas and Green Spaces). By using outdoor spaces to formally and informally bring together people from a variety of cultures, ages, ethnicities and classes, urban green spaces increase social integration and interaction among local residents. Such spaces encourage a diverse range of uses – some of which stem from culture – and serve as “neutral ground,” according to Swanwick, Dunnett and Woolley (see “Nature, Role and Value of Green Space in Towns and Cities: An Overview,” in Built Environment, 2002, 29(2)). Open, accessible green spaces are essential for local people to maintain cultural identity and build social ties.

Source: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/sustainability/2014/02/26/urban_parks/

There are various views on how such open space could be designed, but much agreement that it should be a place for the people. There are multiple options on how this could be achieved and ideas include:

View from IKON over Central car park - will this become a view over more high rise development?
View from IKON over Central car park 2014.  If current plans are implemented this will be a view to multi-storey  buildings.  Many community members would like it to be a view to a green a leafy park – a place for the people.

What views do you have? How will  high rise development affect the community in Monash?

Related Links:

Green Waverley: may we have some green space?

Central Car Park development may pave way for cultural inclusivity

We want your suggestions! EM&U Blog/Site Feedback Survey

We want your suggestions! EM&U Blog/Site Feedback Survey

EM&U survey image

EM&U would like to update the blog/site. What information or topics would you like to see on this site? If you have any suggestions we would love to hear from or you can complete the short feedback survey by clicking on survey image provided.

Please click to complete the survey
Please click to complete the survey