As we commence another new year, it seems no time since we celebrated the new millennium. Now two years since the world joined together to welcome in the year 2000, it is interesting to reflect on what many people, particularly the exponents of social or organisational change, were predicting. That is, the start of a new century encourages people to be more open to change and think outside the square. The added bonus of a new millennium further excited the futurists. But two years on, and as far as Australia is concerned, dramatic or far reaching change has not so far eventuated.

However, on the world stage, events last year certainly led to greater insecurity, with ‘war’ being waged not by a nation or nations but extremist splinter groups. The fact that a relatively small number of individuals could bring such large scale death and destruction, and enormous economic repercussions, not only for USA but around the world, has worked to further undermine the role and importance of the nation state.

The world all at once seemed much smaller and collaboration of nations under international banners all the more vital. This is not only the case in terms of achieving lasting peace, but also environmentally, socially and economically.

As nations continue to be seen as not having all the answers, people are turning to local or regional leadership.So how does Local Government rise to meet these new expectations and challenges. If central governments have failed to deliver a vision for the future, the onus is on Local Governments working with their communities to come up with the goods.

During the 1980s, many Councils in their forward planning used the year 2000 as a neat and convenient target for achieving long term goals. In the 1990s, 2000 loomed too close so 2005 and then 2010 became popular. More recently, 2020 has a nice ring to it. In particular, when projecting people’s thoughts forward as to what sort of community they would like in the future, a ‘20/20 vision’ is an easy concept for strategists to sell.

For any plan to be successful, it must have ownership. Inherently, of all our spheres of government Local Government is best placed to achieve this ownership. But ownership can only come when communities are inclusive and participatory. Alienated, disaffected sectors in our communities are a recipe for disaster.

In 2002, how well does your Local Government area rate as an inclusive, forward looking and vibrant community? A recent worldwide survey indicated that Australians rank very highly in being optimistic about the year ahead. Councils must ensure they are nurturing and tapping into this.

FOCUS wishes all in Local Government best wishes for 2002.