VLGA: Discussing advocacy within local government
The Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) is a peak body for councillors, local government and community leaders with an emphasis on governance and sustainability.
As the Deputy Chair of the Eastern Transport Coalition I was invited to speak at the VLGA’s Essential Mayors Weekend, a conference designed to assist newly elected mayors throughout their mayoral term.
The topic was ‘kicking above our weight’ with an emphasis on advocacy within local government. Three organisations formed part of a panel discussion, including the Eastern Transport Coalition, the White Ribbon Day and Regional Cities Victoria.
My presentation covered the background of the Eastern Transport Coalition and the diverse geography and demographic that it covers.
I discussed the importance of policies and procedures to ensure that transparency, such as providing ample time is provided for feedback. The composition of the ETC is also a contributor to its success whereby each council provides an elected councillor and council officer. Council officers provide the day-to-day support for the group as well as undertake research and submission development and it is therefore important that both council officers and councillors are actively involved within the organisation.
I also mentioned the need for a united approach and the strength in advocating as part of a region, since this prevents other tiers of government from trying to divide local governments. This also ensures that projects are viewed in a regional context whereby the benefits are demonstrated across local government areas thus making it easier to advocate to other tiers of government.
I presented the removal of zone three as a case study that demonstrated a number of critical success factors, including a united stance on the issue, a strong presence within the media, proactive advocacy with election candidates and the need to engage all sides of politics. Zone three fares were abolished in March 2007 after there was bi-partisan support for its removal during the 2006 State Election.
While each organisation had a different emphasis a number of common success factors emerged including the need for unity, a positive engagement with the media and constructive advocacy across the political spectrum.