Local voices needed for exciting new project

First of its kind consultation for Alpine and Wangaratta Councils

Some of Alpine Shire's and the Rural City of Wangaratta's most community-minded citizens are encouraging residents to get involved in a new opportunity to shape the future of their municipalities.

Patti Stafford, Wangaratta's Citizen of the Year, said the process, called deliberative democracy, was the first of its kind to be used in North East Victoria and offered an exciting opportunity for people who are not usually heard, to have their say.

"While some people see traditional methods of community engagement often attracting the 'usual suspects', this new approach involves randomly selecting people to represent the local community demographic," Ms Stafford said.

"People will soon be phoned, asking them to participate. If you are one of the residents to be randomly selected and you are available to participate, I encourage you to get involved. There is no need to have an in-depth knowledge of the subject to be considered, in fact it can be advantageous to have no preconceptions," she said.

Wangaratta Mayor, Cr Anthony Griffiths said this first deliberative democracy process, launched in Wangaratta today, would ask the selected residents to ponder the question: How do we work together to respond to a varying climate?
"Council is really pleased to be supporting this project because it focuses on two important aspects of local government - encouraging active citizenship and using that input to help Council plan for the future," Cr Griffiths said.

Alpine's Acting Mayor, Cr Daryl Pearce said the process is an example of genuinely shared decision making through a collaborative community and council partnership.

"Council has already committed to using the recommendations from the project to direct funding priorities and inform the development of Council's environment strategy," Cr Pearce said.

The project has also attracted the interest of Victoria's Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, Dr Kate Auty.

"There is an enormous amount of creativity, expertise and passion in the community. Supported by good processes and information, the community can produce highly relevant and achievable recommendations on complex and challenging issues like sustainability," Dr Auty said.

"This project is about active citizenship, providing a unique opportunity for local residents who don't usually participate in traditional consultations to have their voices heard and to participate in grassroots, democratic deliberations on issues that affect them," she said.

What happens next: Local voice forum:
When: Two middle weeks of May the market research company makes phone calls recruiting participants. Alpine: 24 to 26 June Wangaratta: 1 to 3 July
Where: Phone calls to homes throughout both municipalities. Bright and Wangaratta
Who: Names selected completely randomly. 20 to 25 residents from each municipality
Contact: Rural City of Wangaratta: Browyn Chapman - Manager Environment (03) 5722 0709. Alpine Shire Council: Cameron Alexander - Environment Officer (03) 5755 0555.

See below for a fact sheet on the local voices project.

Local Voices fact sheet

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