Category Archives: Disability

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

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Monash Council Meeting Agenda! Hot Issues – What to look for?

Monash Council Meeting

The Next City of  Monash Council Meeting will be held on Tuesday 30 August 2016 from 7.00pm. You will need to submit your questions by noon  today (Monday 29 August).

Hot issues to pay extra attention too!

Hot issues Empowering Monash and You

Development: Five residential apartment towers 6-10 storeys in height and 17 double-storey townhouses

79 objections were submitted by public members: “Key issues raised within objections relate to neighbourhood character, visual bulk, overshadowing, design detail, compliance with residential policy, car parking provision, increased traffic, overlooking and residential amenity.” Source – Monash Council Agenda, 30 August 2016.

The Council has recommended to refuse the proposal!

Monash Community Grants Program:  Report relating to the 2017/18  Grants Program (MCGP) and assessments of applications.

Due to the Public Health Approach to Gambling Policy Statement, funding will not be provided to applicants or community groups who meet at venues that have Electronic Gaming Machines. Already two organisations will be affected! There were some objections to this alteration .  

Links relating to this issue and comments: Dealing Monash Ratepayers a Dodgy Hand

An aged care service opening their doors to community participation!

Community Engagement
Community Engagement – Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Uniting AgeWell have decided to implement a Community Advisory Committee (ACAC) where community members have an opportunity to participate and play a role in improving aswell as planning for future services. They provide home care, independent and assisted living, respite, residential care and community therapy programs.

Community advisory committees are usually implemented at Hospital or Community Health services. They are monitored against a mandatory Standard 2: Partnering with consumers. This ensures that consumers or community members play a role in the decision making and to improve the safety and quality of care provided. More info: Partnering with Consumers Standard 2 Factsheet

Aged Care facilities do not have to follow this standard and operate consumer committees but Uniting AgeWell has decided to  implement one and set up a consumer register. They are probably one of the first to establish such a committee. 

I cannot stress how important it is for aged care facilities or providers to implement these types of committees as it will ensure transparency and accountability, as well as community members advocating for people who use these services. I would like to see other aged care providers implement these committees. It is also a good example of the ‘Doing it with us not for us’ Victorian government’s policy on consumer, carer and community participation. Standard 2: Partnering with consumers should be implemented for aged care providers and made mandatory. 

If you would like to participate in the AgeWell Committee Advisory Committee you can contact contact Nickie Arthur on  9862 0076 or by  email at narthur@unitingagewell.org

An induction and orientation program will be provided and training through the Health Issues Centre for appointed members. Source – Giving older people a voice.

Want to know about your role in the committee? Click on link provided to direct you to their handbook. AgeWell Community Advisory Committee Handbook.

What does the community think about implementing a mandatory Standard 2: Partnering with consumers

If you would like to advocate for this to happen you can send a letter to Hon MP Sussan Ley, Minster for Health and Aged Care asking for this standard to be implemented  to ensure transparency and accountability in aged care facilities or services.

If you are aware of other aged care providers who run consumer advisory committees and not attached to hospitals, please let us know by contacting us.

Links to more information about consumer committees

Consumer Health Forum

Health Issues Centre

Participation and Communication

Our Health, Our Community

Links to other services with committee participants

Monash Health

Link Health and Community

Eastern Health

Sir John Monash Awards – Nominate a worthy community member for this award!

Volunteering
Image source

City of Monash Council is recognising volunteers again this year for their contribution to the community. Volunteers can be nominated for one of the inaugural Sir John Monash Awards.

The Sir John Monash Awards was named after Sir John Monash, an Australian who contributed to the community – “Adopt as your fundamental creed that you will equip yourself for life, not solely for your own benefit but for the benefit of the whole community” – Sir John Monash.  Quote source:  Engineering Australia

For More info – Sir John Monash

 The awards have eight categories:

  • Volunteer of the Year
  • Inspirational Women’s Leadership
  • Youth Leadership
  • Positive Ageing Leadership
  • Sustainability Leadership
  • Active Monash
  • Outstanding Advocate of People with Disabilities
  • Multicultural Champion

If you would like to know how to nominate a volunteer for one of these awards please go to Monash Council website. Nominations close on Thursday 24 March 2016.

Sir John Monash Awards Nominations

Good luck to all the nominees and even if you have not been nominated, it does not matter because all volunteers are champions!

2015 Award winners – List of the 2015 Sir John Monash Award winners

Related articles: Volunteering everyone counts! 

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

Opening Doors program 2015 – Applications Closing Soon!

Would you like to become more involved in your community?

Do you want to meet like-minded people who are passionate about making a difference?

Are you passionate about a particular issue, such as mental health, disability or positive aging?

Are you willing to take the lead in making your community more inclusive?

The Opening Doors Program is currently seeking community members from Monash, Boroondara, Whitehorse and Manningham who are passionate about their local area, and would like to make a difference in the lives of people who may be socially isolated. The 2015 Program will run for 6 months with a graduation ceremony to be held in December. Over the course of the program, you will meet and work with a passionate group of like-minded people, learn about your own talents as a community member and leader, and develop the skills to make a real and lasting difference in your local community. The program is provided FREE to community members in the Inner-East of Melbourne. It is open to people of all ages, cultures, backgrounds and abilities.

For further information about the Opening Doors Program, please contact:

Alex Mills
Project Officer
Opening Doors – A Community Leadership Program For Social Inclusion
P: 8822 8489  E: alex.mills@iepcp.org.au
Information source: Inner East Primary Care Partnership

Green Waverley: the healthy alternative

GayleVN & HarikNG
Administrators 

Empowering Monash & YOU

https://monashandyou.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Empowering-Monash-You/424421444368312

Opening Doors 2015 Flyer.pdf

2015 Application Form.doc

Recording /streaming Council meetings benefits disabled constituents

The following case for the streaming/recording Council meetings was sent to EM&U by one of our readers who wants to remain anonymous.  Identity details have been provided to EM&U and we have decided to publish.  We reserve the right to use our discretion on whether to publish.

I suffer from a variety of medical conditions which can make it very difficult for me to attend council meetings. The other issue is I do not want to constantly rely on my carer to take me to these meetings; this takes away my independence and puts a burden on carer. If I can view the meetings as live streaming or recorded at least I can feel like I am present at meetings. I do not want to read thru long minutes each time to know what was discussed at meetings I prefer to see it as it happens.

anonymous reader (identity details provided)

Reader’s letter to Monash Council supporting streaming / recording of meetings:

letter to Monash Council 17 December 2014
letter to Monash Council 17 December 2014 – click on image for larger version

 

Please let us  know what you think by leaving your comments in the ‘reply’ window below, or click on ‘leave a comment’ above

Related posts

Feedback to Council: streaming/recording of meetings