Local Government paving the way for future generations

The 90th Annual Conference of the Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT) was held on 28 and 29 May 2002, this time focusing on the role youth play both within the community and Local Government. Delegates from across Tasmania including elected members, officers and managers, young and old, converged on Hobart over the two day event to discuss a spectrum of youth related, as well as business orientated issues concerning local governance. The message throughout the conference was clear – that the involvement of youth is vital to community sustainability and governance.

Keynote speaker at the conference, Councillor Robert Larocca from Victoria’s Moreland City Council, the youngest Mayor in the City’s history, reinforced this message.

“In the same way that we expect our governments to reflect the gender composition of our communities, we should expect Local Governments to reflect the age composition of communities as well,” he said. “It just makes for sensible and more informed decision making. Get out there and get young people involved in all levels. Only by doing that will you achieve a better functioning democracy.”

He outlined to delegates the following points to consider – you have to take their ideas seriously; you have to give them some control of our processes; and you must allow them to set the agenda and provide them with forums in which to do that.

Another keynote speaker at the conference who reinforced this message was Dr Elaine Stratford, Principal Researcher of the Sustainable Communities Research Group at the University of Tasmania.

“The relationship between Local Government and young people is critical to our long term quality of life,” she said. “It is central to the sustainability of our communities of place and interest. It is crucial to the life systems and processes on which we depend.

“If sustainability is based on ideas of equity and continual improvement, should we not also seek out young people and ask them for their input on issues that may seem well outside their immediate area of concern? To do so is to build their capacities for thinking empathetically, eclectically and socially. It also engenders trust and builds hope through the generations.”

Youth representatives from various Councils throughout Tasmania were also involved with the conference. Two youth forums were held, the first exploring youth image and community understanding of young people, and the second forum looking at best practice methods for consultation between Local Government and young people.