Developing communities for the future

Speaking at the Local Government Association of Queensland's 102nd Annual Conference, President, Councillor Tom Pyne AM, said that this year's theme, 'Developing Communities for the Future', aimed to give governance equal billing with economic development issues.

"It is difficult for any Council to successfully manage its community's interests without engaging the community in the governance process," he said. "You cannot have a strong economy without a strong community, or vice versa. They are not mutually exclusive: people do count after all!"

Tom Pyne said that in a rapidly changing environment the key to how Councils cope will be governance, 'how we keep all of our citizens on board ship during rough seas, and how we meaningfully engage our communities in economic transformation'.

He quoted Harvard Professor, Rosabeth Moss-Kanter, who wrote, "Communities need a social glue - a means of social cohesion, a way to bring people together to define the common good, create joint plans and identify strategies to enable people, organisations and communities to succeed in a global economy."

Keynote speaker, Professor Michael Sandel, also from Harvard, said that the impact of globalisation touches all nations, creating winners and losers at the national level and within nations.

He pointed to the fact that the wealthiest person in the USA, Microsoft's Bill Gates, has now amassed assets equal to that of the bottom 40% in the US population.

"In this growing inequality, you cannot have a sense of community if people feel alienated," he said. "The task for Local Government in the next millennium is to go beyond services, to address what national parties are failing to do - counter disempowerment." He said national governments are too far removed to answer the needs of the community.

"Local Government is at least potentially equipped to address the worries and frustrations of the people," Professor Sandel said. "It must find ways of building communities and cultivating citizenship."

In a panel session titled, 'Grassroots Democracy', Brisbane's Lord Mayor Jim Soorley said that Councils must build a mandate to stop alienation and disempowerment. As an example, some 6,500 Brisbane residents have volunteered to be part of Council's program, 'Your City Your Say'. Feeding in their ideas as a means of educating, informing and developing a consensus on issues, he pointed to the fact that 90% of this panel believe Local Government has a role to play in addressing the drug problem.

Jude Munro, Chief Executive Officer with the City of Adelaide, speaking on the topic 'Developing Our Communities' asked delegates, what do communities expect of Local Government? She believes it is community leadership in collaboration with residents and demonstrating strong government by translating visions into outcomes.

"Councils also have a role in helping the community celebrate important events and achievements," Jude Munro said. "When 120,000 of Adelaide's one million residents turned out to celebrate the Crows' 1997 premiership win, this was a shot in the arm for a community that had been feeling knocked about for some time. It was a great opportunity to give back to the community."

With the Crow's recent back to back premiership victory, this year's celebration saw an even bigger crowd celebrate not only this victory but the women's netball and men's basketball national titles.