Local Government Voices
There is a dire need to offer local government leaders of distinction and experience an avenue for broader reflection on the larger questions surrounding the direction of Australian local government. Accordingly, the UNE Centre for Local Government has thus launched its Australian Local Government Voices series to provide a platform for such reflection. Australian Local Government Voices consists of an ongoing sequence of published interviews with the finest and most experienced leaders in Australian local government. This will not only allow the broader local government community to learn from the wisdom of these leaders, but also provide the leaders themselves with an opportunity to reflect more broadly on local government with in the light of their experience.
Australian local government consists of around 560 local councils comprised of more than 6,600 elected representatives, with almost 180,000 employees, which expends in excess of $10 billion per annum and controls assets worth about $220 billion. In addition to its sheer size, Australian local government is characterised by an enormous degree of diversity, ranging from the Brisbane City Council with almost one million residents to sparsely populated rural shires, such as the Bulloo Shire Council in Queensland, with its 468 people.
As the third tier of government in Australia, local councils play a crucial role in the daily lives of almost all Australians by delivering an array of vital local services. As a result of its pivotal importance in the day-to-day wellbeing of tens of millions of ordinary people, local government finds itself in constant contact with its constituents, which has served to ensure that it is much 'closer to the people' than its more august national and state government counterparts.
One consequence of the intimacy between local councils and local communities is a frank, ongoing dialogue between local people, local councillors, and local government employees on the nature, quality and costs of local service provision. Often this dialogue takes the form of highly publicised and heated local debates over controversial matters of local importance, which tend to paint an inaccurate portrait of the relationship between local government and local communities as excessively factitious. In fact, the great majority of the discourse between local people and their local council focuses on the minutiae of service provision. This means inter alia that local authorities are very well informed about how well they are meeting local preferences, in stark contrast to the more remote higher tiers of government in the Australian federation.
However, a second consequence of the immediacy between local councils and local communities is that elected representatives and senior executives alike are so heavily engaged in day-to-day discussions with constituents and the local media that they have far too little time to reflect on broader questions about the direction of Australian local government. Moreover, in practice the pressures of everyday policy formulation and implementation are typically so pressing that public statements and public reflections simply mirror these urgencies rather than address wider trends in local governance.
Complexity in Community Planning: A Conversation with Andrea Selvey,
Director of Creative Communities, City of Greater Geraldton, Western
Innovation in Tasmania: A Conversation with Ron Sanderson, General Manager of Brighton City Council, Tasmania
A Conversation with Geoff Lake, Immediate Former President of the Australian Local Government Association, (ALGA)