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Let the People Be Heard



Councillors enter local councils with the best intent, well at least the vast majority do.


There are over 600 Councillors across the state who offer their time, energy, dedication, passion, and belief in Local Government to their local communities.

Local Government has the power to improve or destroy lives faster than other levels of government.


Being a Publicly elected person brings a host of complexity to a councillor's life.

Whilst there are many benefits, it is often a thankless job, and you simply cannot make everyone happy. It can be mentally taxing.


As a councillor, there will always be someone who doesn’t agree with you, someone willing to tell you that you are wrong, and sometimes people who will express their displeasure with your positions in ways that are unacceptable.


This is part and parcel of public life, and if you're a Councillor you signed up for it.


There has been much said by Council CEOs, the MAV, and some Councillors about SAFETY in public meetings.


Yes, there is always the need for Council Staff to be in a safe workplace, but that isn’t up for discussion, yet it is fear-mongering to suggest the risks are exponential when the evidence says the opposite.

There have been no recorded assaults by members of the public on Council staff or Councillors in recent times. There are claims junior staff feel intimidated by debate and community angst. Perhaps junior staff do not belong in a political environment.

Perhaps all staff that work around a "political" workplace need more exhaustive training in this space to support them. There are claims of severe risks to staff. There are claims that Council meetings and community anger is not safe for the staff and Councillors.

For those who work with the public, think of your local train station, hospitals, paramedics, and police, they are acutely aware of the risks of dealing with the public. They train a lot in this space around the de-escalation of situations and managing hostile environments.

Somehow this has been lost by Councils - they have become comfortable in a bubble where people normally cannot be bothered with them


Any physical or mental health risk is far more likely between councillors.

The biggest risk to safety and mental health is the overt bullying by mostly female councillors towards other councillors. There are some men who are equally as toxic in the chamber.


The toxic bullying culture peddled, enabled and celebrated amongst councillors is the real story, yet no one will dare speak about it.


Debate on issues is encouraged, but there must be an ability for Councillors to debate fiercely and walk out of the chamber and go get a beer or wine together. Toxic personal attacks are simply unacceptable.

Many of our state and federal politicians have learned this - but why not our councillors?


What is the real risk to staff?

The administration of the Council has politicised this amidst claims of behaviour that "threatens staff and public safety". Yes, the risk must be managed and mitigated.

Threatening the public will never work!

It is a LACK OF PROPER ENGAGEMENT with the public that is driving increased attendance, increased frustration, and interruptions to Council meetings.

Doubling down on residents is not the immediate answer.

Of course, any serious threats should not be tolerated.

Closing meetings, pushing them online, restricting attendance - these should be the LAST things a Council does. Councils should always lean in and spend as much time as necessary.

To be clear, people have the RIGHT TO BE HEARD, of course, that does not mean you have to agree, but you must listen. That is the purpose of Local Councils.


The frustrated public

We have seen a rise in frustrated members of the public feeling unheard, stifled, ignored or dismissed when they have engaged with council and councillors.


It is the bureaucracy of the Council that the public is struggling with.

Angst comes from being "managed and not heard". We see much of the community consultation as a tick-box exercise that proved Council never intended to listen in the first place.

It is a problem when the vast majority of Council engagement and research has been shifted to outsourced consultants and online. This only sees residents feel like they are being kept at arm's length from real engagement and in many cases, it leaves the community feeling spoken down to, not heard. This is the core issue that Council Administrations simply don't understand. You cannot outsource your primary reason for existence.

Councillors attack!

Lately, we have seen some Councillors go on the attack against their own community members. Complaints that community members are somehow "unfair, unreasonable in their demands, and “feral” by sitting councillors, reveals more about the councillor than the public. To see a Councillor turn on their constituents or gaslight them in public is appalling.


We all know that Councillors are busy, they deal with a lot. But what is their primary role? It is crystal clear in the Local Government Act 2020, that councillor's role is to REPRESENT the interests of the municipal community.


The role of a councillor is to represent the hopes, dreams, needs and aspirations of the whole community. Residents, Business owners, Mothers, Fathers, Kids, Workers, you name it, that is who a councillor is meant to be there for.


So how does a councillor in their right mind believe that their own constituents are their enemy, are wrong, and need to be banished or admonished publicly? The rise of rude, disrespectful and appalling commentary towards community members on social media from Councillors is mind-blowing.


For any Councillor to say residents have wrong expectations on them, denies the residents rights to be heard and considered. It dismisses and negates the wide range of views that should be warmly embraced.


Councillors may not like what you say, that is not the point. They are meant to represent YOU, not their own views and beliefs. It isn’t at all about what they like or want.

It is also unfair to dismiss or denigrate differing opinions as "hate speech", "disrespectful" or "bullying". Councillors and staff need to grow thicker skin and lean in. Some of the most amazing outcomes from upset residents have occurred when a Councillor or Councillors has taken the time to engage with frustrated residents and done the long haul until they can find common ground. When residents get angry or frustrated, instead of pushing back, Councillors need to LEAN IN.


Speaking to the community

The role of a councillor is NOT to ever push their own view, but rather, the collective view of the community they were elected to serve. How can any councillor even know what the community thinks, unless they are constantly speaking to a wide range of people in the community on a regular basis?


What Councils need more than ever to overcome their public image problems, is for Councillors to spend far more time in the community, listening.


Isn’t that the point?


These days too many councillors are simply reading officers' reports and the views of the machine of council, no wonder residents feel let down.


As a wise and dear friend said to me recently:


"Rates are real earnings, taken from real people.

We need real service, not lip service"


People have the right to be heard.


If only councillors would listen.

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We recently had a Frankston City Council prosecutor at our front door step threatening to arrest my husband over a pool registration. We initially contacted Frankston city council with a couple of questions regarding the pool registration their response was to haul abuse at us over the phone. I reminded her that she works for us and so she asked for me to put my questions in an email and they will respond. We never received a response what we did receive was a abusive voice message left on our phone. Followed by a prosecutor landing on our doorstep with a court summons in six days and if we do not appear in court he made it clear that he…

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All Councils in Terra Australis are unlawful, the referendum the people voted in about these, everyone voted NO, so why are these unlawful councils allowed to continue, and allowed to continue ripping off We The People with fraudulent taxes ????

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suephillips2912
suephillips2912
Sep 04, 2023

Where have the Community Forums disappeared to?

We have Community meetings, during the day, when most ratepayers are at work. This severly hampers ratepayers ability to discuss their concerns.

In the interests of 'Open and Transparent' Councils, it is high time these Forums were re-instated.

Council meetings are a waste of time, as no questions can be asked or comments made during the meeting. Council meetings and forums should be a conduit for ratepayers to raise concerns.

The major concern of ratepayers now is the ongoing affordability of the úpper eschelon' of Council employees being paid exhoribant wages, when the majority of work is outsourced at great expense to Consultants.

There needs to be áccountability' from ALL staff. The noticeable…

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They waste so much of the rates on litigation rather than negotiation. And its time they came down a peg or two and got back to basics. Roads, garbage and parks.

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Unknown member
Jul 09, 2023

IMO councils are a disgrace. The wording of documents to ratepayers needs to be changed. It is often threatening. If you are fined u r treated like a criminal. If u put last years disability sticker by mistake etc. Same for every letter about planning issues etc. The letters are bullying and stand over. Often in a bid to raise revenue. Its called "organisationsl defensive reasoning" by Chris Argyrus. And it permeates all govt bodies who are justifying their existence. Ratepayers pay the wages of these abusive people and departments.

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