Category Archives: Media

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

Important Update! Some Councillors not signing code of conduct spared due to stuff ups!

Some Councils stuffed up!

Recently there was an issue with a Monash Councillor (Theo Zographos – Councillor in firing line for not signing code of conduct) for not signing the code of conduct in front of the CEO, but now the Government stated there might have been some stuff ups! 

“Councillors who failed to properly sign a new code of conduct have been spared disqualification and will be able to comply by February. Acting Local Government Minister Richard Wynne said there had been a failure of administrative duties by councils and incompetence in some cases.” Source: The Age

The local Government Minister Richard Wynne mentioned that he received letters from council’s admitting they had made a mistake.

Apparently due to the errors, 107 councillors from 13 different councils faced suspension!

Articles to more info in relation to this debacle!

The Age – ‘They stuffed up’: sacked councils to get last-minute

The Age Victoria – More than 100 Victorian councillors face disqualification

ABC News – Local councils ‘failed to comply’ with code of conduct law changes, Victorian Government says

What do members of the community think of this debacle?

Hands off our reserve! Another Council not interested in green open space?

Have you seen this article? Another Council not interested in green open space?

Glendale Reserve, SpringvaleGreater Dandenong Council plans to sell part of Springvale’s Glendale Reserve to Minaret College   GEORDIE COWAN SPRINGVALE DANDENONG LEADER JUNE 01, 2015 12:15PM  
via Greater Dandenong Council plans to sell part of Springvale’s Glendale Reserve to Minaret College | Herald Sun.

The City of Greater Dandenong Council is proposing to sell part of Glendale Reserve located at Whitworth Avenue, which is very much-loved and highly used by community members. The land is occupied by the existing kindergarten and scout hall (used by the Scout Association). 

http://www.greaterdandenong.com/news/1827/proposed-sale-of-part-of-glendale-reserve

The Council proposes to sell the land to property owners, Minaret College (Islamic School) to be used. If Council goes ahead with the sale the land will need to be rezoned and the reserve status removed.

 

Submissions on the proposal from the community were accepted by the council and they had the opportunity to express their views at a consultation meeting, with majority of attendees against the sale.

 

Residents and community members protest that the Glendale Reserve is one of the only green spaces around that area. Buildings on the land can be demolished and will be more open space. This will cater to future generations, young and old. There is a high rate of couples with children in Springvale and the need for open space for children to play and be outdoors. Many children may spend more time on the internet or watching TV due to a lack of open space and a lack of exercise is detrimental to their physical health.

 

Other communities are fighting for more open space as important for the wellbeing of the community.

https://monashandyou.wordpress.com/2015/04/20/green-waverley-research-supports-a-green-space-for-diverse-uses/

Low levels of exercise and obesity is a concern as well as chronic disease. The Greater Dandenong Council CWP Priorities and Objectives 2013-17 states that for recreation, facilities and programs are provided which will help increase participation in sport, leisure and the arts. More participation in physical activity results from providing adequate, good quality parks and open spaces. http://www.greaterdandenong.com/document/25455/community-wellbeing-plan-2010-13

 

Minaret college who is leasing the kindergarten has planned to expand the building if purchase the land. However the council report summary of the proposed sale states that the traffic within Whitworth Avenue can become very congested at the peak school times. By Minaret continuing to expand on this location and increasing the size of the kindergarten, this will only add to an existing concern.                                                       http://www.greaterdandenong.com/document/27619/council-minutes-27-january-2015

 

The Council did mention that if sold, funds could be used to purchase more open space in Springvale North. However in the past another reserve Erickson Gardens was sold to build a new Police Station and had the opportunity to use funds to increase open space, it has not done so. In fact their open strategy report revealed that it is lacking in open space in that area and many other areas in Springvale. http://www.greaterdandenong.com/document/25797/open-space-strategy

 

There needs to be some balance. If allow for this to happen what will stop others doing the same in other areas. The council need to keep this land and consider the consequences if go ahead and sell.

Take a stand now to save the reserve! Attend the Council meeting on 10 August 2015 at 7pm to show your support. Councillors need to know!

Venue: Council Chambers Level 2, 225 Lonsdale Street, Dandenong

 

Glendale Reserve

Want to know more? Click on link provided – Save out spaces plea

Contact Glendale Reserve Campaign Group https://saveglendalereserve.wordpress.com/contact-us/

Save Glendale Reserve Facebook Page

Save Glendale Reserve Facebook Page
Save Glendale Reserve Facebook Page –  click image

Unpublished Letter to the Editor re Monash Council Local Law 1

Many of the ‘letters’ community members send to the newspapers do not get published.  EM&U will publish selected community focussed Letters to the Editor on this web site.

Send your unpublished piece to EMonashU@gmail.com.

Note we reserve the right to choose which letters we will publish.  Abusive, offensive material and material not focussed on the community will not be published.

The email below was sent to Leader Press on 17 June:

Dear Editor,

It was pleasing, at the Monash Council Committee meeting 16 June, to see a reduced power distance between Councillors and Public Gallery. Gallery members who had not made submissions were allowed to speak and ask questions. Whether due to the particular composition of the gallery or a desire to genuinely consult with the community this is a refreshing change from a Council that has rigidly stuck to seventies style procedures and local laws.
The Council needs to go further and revise Local Law 1 to be more in line with other Councils and current business practices. Public Question Time procedures need to be updated allowing members of the public to ask questions and questions to be submitted before the meeting starts (instead of the day before). Meetings should be broadcast for those who cannot attend. Currently there are groups in our community who are unable to attend meetings. Examples are people with disabilities, elderly who do not go out at night and shift workers.
Let’s hope “the times they are a-changing”.

Gayle, Glen Waverley

Related links:

Monash Council Local Law 1

Monash Council complaint re Today Tonight not upheld by ACMA

Save Monash Gardens & Save Elizabeth Gardens

Monash City Council’s complaint to the Australian Communications and Media Authority about Today Tonight’s coverage of the proposed sale of Monash Gardens and Elizabeth Gardens was not successful.

In 2013 Today Tonight ran three segments on the community’s protest against the Monash Council’s proposal to sell aged care residents.  The segments were very successful in informing the community of the protest.  They included interviews with residents directly affected by the sale.

Issues raised were:

Issue 1: Provoke or perpetuate intense dislike, serious contempt or severe ridicule against a person on the ground of age and/or gender

Issue 2: Portray in a negative light by placing gratuitous emphasis on age and/or gender

Issue 3: Accuracy

A. Statements that are not factual e.g. 

Councillors are ‘cowardly’, ‘sneaky’, ‘have reached a new low that is disgusting’, conduct themselves with ‘democracy, Monash style’, ‘ignore’ and ‘fob’ ratepayers, and are motivated by ‘money’, ‘greed’…

View original post 572 more words

We are on Facebook!

We are finally on Facebook!

facebookpage2

Take a look at our new Facebook page where you will find valuable information and updates.  It is another way in connecting with us.  We encourage you to post comments. Thanks to everyone who have already  supported this site.

To visit our Facebook page click on link provided:

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

Don’t forget to share and like our page!

EM&U Media Release 19 Feb 14

Empowering Monash & YOU
Media Release 19 February 2014

Website Bannerv6

Online Community network emerges from Monash Community unrest
https://monashandyou.wordpress.com

The selling of Monash Gardens and Elizabeth Gardens by Monash Council has divided Council and community. Never in the history of Monash, has the poor governance process of Council been exposed by a strong, relentless and public community campaign.   An early expression of community restlessness is the creation of the web blog Empowering Monash and YOU(EM&U).

The unique nature of this successful public campaign was characterised by:

  •  A group of leaders who had no previous experience of politics
  • Rallying of family, friends and community members
  • Active Engagement of senior and elderly citizens
  • Much local and mainstream media news coverage
  • Involvement of churches and other community groups
  • Support from Members of Parliament extending across the three major parties
  • Encouragement and input from independent aged care advocacy groups
  • Support from the nurses and health workers unions

The Council hoped to lessen the damage of going ahead with its sale by selling to a quality ‘not for profit’ provider.  The community is welcoming the provider but it is still aggravated about the leadership and performance of Monash Council.

The context of empowerment is in line with the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2) guidelines – a standard adopted by Monash Council but apparently poorly understood or implemented.

Through the web blog EM&U people from diverse backgrounds will share mutual interests and goals, their experiences and commentaries of local governance and compliance, the different quality of their engagement with Council and their evaluation of Council meeting performance. They will advocate for affordable and quality aged care in Monash and nearby communities. The web-blog promotes inclusivity and shares lessons learnt.

Empowering Monash and YOU Team Members:

Gayle Nicholas                  Dr Chan Cheah                  Hariklia Nguyen