Intimidating democracy undermines good governance, but protecting safety is paramount

Friday, 28 April 2023

The Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) is aware of a number of incidents that have occurred during council meetings involving groups of people attending for the purposes of disrupting proceedings. 

The VLGA is also aware of recent council events that have been disrupted or threatened with disruption by similar groups and individuals.

Local government is the most accessible level of government in Australia and this is something the VLGA's member councils and councillors are proud of.

The VLGA supports the local government sector to uphold the highest standards of accessibility and accountability to ensure every community has its voice heard by councillors and council staff. 

The VLGA also supports councillors to uphold the highest standards of civility and respect in how they carry out their duties and interact with each other and community members.

Civility and respect should be at the heart of public life. Good governance is fundamental to a well-functioning democracy at all levels.

Intimidation and abuse directed at councillors, council staff and other members of the public undermines democratic processes by making it harder for councillors to represent their communities safely.

Victorian local councils deliver over 140 different services to their communities and govern on behalf of everyone in their municipality. 

They create a wide range of mechanisms to give people a voice in decision making, including consultation processes, submissions and council question time. These should be engaged with respectfully at all times.

Ensuring the full diversity of community voices are heard is one of the most important roles of councils and, along with other safeguards, it helps ensure councils and councillors are operating at the highest level of integrity, transparency and performance.

The VLGA supports councils experiencing events like this taking the appropriate precautions to ensure staff, councillor and community safety while maintaining the importance of community engagement around council decision making and the delivery of essential community services.

The VLGA works to support councils by providing tools to support good governance, advocacy to strengthen governance processes, and delivering training and programs to build existing councillor and future councillor capacity to make decisions on behalf of their community.