New community engagement toolkit for small councils

New community engagement toolkit for small councils
22 August 2014

A new resource from ACELG will assist rural, remote and Indigenous (RRI) local governments improve their engagement with the communities they serve. While there are numerous resources available about community engagement, this is the only toolkit specially designed for the needs and circumstances of RRI councils.

ACELG Director Associate Professor Roberta Ryan commented:

"This is a comprehensive resource that fulfils a demonstrated need from the sector and will be pertinent to all councils looking to revise their approach to engaging with their communities. I am confident that elected and appointed council staff will find this toolkit an immensely useful reference for their work."

Community engagement is essential to democratic government, yet research by ACELG found that small councils in regional and remote Australia may not have the staff and resources to undertake elaborate community engagement activities. Staff of RRI councils also indicated they would like more practical support to build skills and capacity in this area.

This toolkit aims to address these needs. It is designed as a practical guide with simple tips and advice on engaging communities and includes practical tools, methods and downloadable templates especially suited to the circumstances of RRI councils.

Leon Yeatman, Chief Executive Officer, Mapoon Aboriginal Shire Council (QLD) was one of the previewers of the resource.  He noted:

"I have read the tool-kit and give it my endorsement. It's easy to follow and covers all areas comprehensively. I like the fact that is seeks to identify all facets of council involvement – councillors and staff and effective options for consideration."

Some of the material included in the resource includes social media in RRI councils; matrix for deciding the required level of engagement; template for report to council on community engagement plus many more.

View the Online Community Engagement Toolkit for Rural, Remote and Indigenous councils

7.2 How community input helps decision-making

To develop the resource, ACELG extensively reviewed the availability of community engagement toolkits, guides, manuals, templates and training courses available to local government, and assessed their suitability for RRI councils. However, feedback from practitioners was that current resources are not entirely suitable for the needs and circumstances of RRI local governments.  

Melissa Gibbs, ACELG's Deputy Director noted:

"The key theme underpinning feedback from interviews with practitioners was the need for simplified, user-friendly resources to support RRI local governments to undertake community engagement activities.  It was also noted that many RRI local governments currently engage consultants to undertake their community engagement work.  This is a costly practice that rarely results in any skills transfer to local government staff.  Our research identified a strong desire to build internal capacity and undertake community engagement in-house, provided there were tailored community engagement guides and resources for staff."

The modules covered in this toolkit include:

The toolkit was authored by Michael Limerick, Melissa Sutton and Susan Sheppard, and builds upon one of the key priorities identified in ACELG's Capacity Building Strategy for Rural-remote and Indigenous Local Government.


The tool-kit is published as an online resource - click here


Melissa Gibbs, ACELG Deputy Director / [email protected] / 0412 647 233

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