At a glance

Victoria State Government, newDemocracy Foundation, Mosaic Lab
October 2016 - January 2017

What problem was it trying to solve?

In April 2016 the City of Greater Geelong Council and its mayor was dismissed after a three month investigation into the council’s governance, administration and culture. The inquiry found that the council had become dysfunctional and that it could no longer govern the city effectively.

Following the dismissal, the Victoria State Government decided to work with the Geelong community to make a future plan. They committed to work with them in the format of a Citizens’ Jury to design a governance structure before re-electing a new council in late 2017. The government commissioned the newDemocracy foundation (nDF) to oversee the proceedings.

The last Council failed to deliver good governance – and a Citizens’ Jury will help ensure that does not happen again.

inister for Local Government Natalie Hutchins

The question

The Citizens’ Jury were asked to consider the question:

‘Our council was dismissed. How do we want to be democratically represented by a future council?’. 

Within this they were asked to consider the following"

  • how the Mayor is elected
  • if a Deputy Mayor is needed and how they are elected
  • the number of councillors
  • representative structures (e.g. whether the municipality is unsubdivided or divided into wards and if they are multi-member wards)

Who was involved?

There were challenges in ensuring genuine, diverse local representation and identifying and reaching the City of Greater Geelong’s many different communities.

The jury was made up of 100 people. They were chosen by nDF from 15,000 Geelong residents who registered their interest in participating. The Jury Members were selected to be descriptively representative of the community in terms of gender, age and geography. In addition to the Jury Members more than 1,200 people participated in the wider engagement activities. Key stakeholders and interest groups as well as all members of the Geelong community were given the opportunity to present their views to the jury either in person or online. This wider participation ensured that the jury was informed on a range of diverse views before they deliberated.

What was the process?

The Citizens' Jury met over 4 weekends in October and November 2016 and again in January 2017. An important part of the process from the beginning was that the Jury was part of a legitimate decision-making process and the members were empowered to make decisions about how their local governance worked. 

The jurors were presented with background papers, submissions, survey responses and feedback from the community. They also heard from a range of speakers. The discussions were facilitated by professional facilitators provided by MosaicLab. This facilitation was used to support the discussions by keeping the jurors on track and help the jurors work together. 

Because of the breakdown of trust with the former council amoungst the community the wider engagement aspect of the project was an important part of the process. This phase included

  • stakeholder briefing sessions,
  • public workshops (in regionally specific locations),
  • a 'Vote Democracy Geelong' survey,
  • opportunities to make a submission,
  • targeted discussions held with key communities of interest including youth, people with a disability, inter-faith groups and culturally and linguistically diverse communities,
  • other events and activities including a public ‘discussion’ event hosted by Deakin University.

What was the conclusion and impact?

The Jury made thirteen recommendations on how to improve local democracy in Greater Geelong. This includes ideas that were presented in the background materials as well as some that were develeoped independently by the jurors during the process.

After the Citizens' Jury the Victoria State Government passed a Bill to implement the practical recommendations as they related to the local governance structure. 

You can view the Jury's final report and recommendations here.

You can view the Government's response here.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash