Place Based Governance and Local Democracy: Will Australian Local Government Deliver?

The final report of the LogoNet Dialogue process is now available to download from the LogoNet website. The report represents two years’ work by LogoNet Conveners and the input of around 150 contributors and participants in LogoNet activities.

Since its beginnings in November 2016, strengthening local democracy has been a high priority for LogoNet. This led to the establishment of the Dialogue to explore the case for, and ways to promote, effective place-based governance and local democracy as vital elements of Australia’s federal system. The Dialogue also responded to trends such as declining levels of trust in governments and politicians, the inability of ‘big government’ to deal with issues such as climate change, rapid metropolitan growth and increasing inequality, and the impacts of globalisation and populism.

The Dialogue involved an online forum that sought and published a wide range of contributions, informal roundtable discussions, and ‘From the Frontline’ – a series of three specific questions about aspects of local democracy and governance circulated to LogoNet members and supporters, with responses collated into summary reports. In addition, Dialogue themes were addressed at the 2017 and 2018 Future of Local Government Summits sponsored by the Municipal Association of Victoria.

The report outlines the findings of these processes. The Dialogue demonstrated a widespread understanding that place and identity are of fundamental importance to individuals and communities and provide a unique basis for local government and local governance. The process also revealed the major institutional and cultural barriers to the devolution of power, as well as a potential way forward for councils. As the report concludes:

A growing number of councils are responding – in different ways – to the rewarding challenge of fostering community-led governance, but many still lack the courage or willingness to do so. A catalyst is needed to allow communities and citizens to reclaim power over the local and end the waiting.

Completion of the Dialogue process represents a major milestone for LogoNet and will provide a basis for our activities in 2019/20, as we continue to explore opportunities to research and promote place-based governance and local democracy.

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