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A curious journey begins ...

28 Aug 2012

Editorial comment: By Shane Scanlan

And so … a curious journey begins as the Docklands Community Forum meets for the first time this month.

The forum is going to need massive amounts of support and backing from the Docklands community if it is to succeed.

There are lots of reasons to expect it to struggle. And you need a big, strong dose of faith to believe it will rise above the odds that are stacked against it.

Let’s look at its parentage to start with.  The City of Melbourne spends an obscenely disproportionate amount of its corporate energy trying to avoid public scrutiny.

Its natural inclination is to do its business behind closed doors where the people it is supposed to serve can’t see or hear what is going on.

And so it was on August 21 at the Docklands Co-ordination Committee meeting when the public was asked to leave so chairman Cr Kevin Louey and a group of senior public servants could discuss in private which Docklanders should be appointed to the forum.

A certain amount of circumspection would naturally be expected around such a discussion, but it was Cr Louey’s comments preceding the confidential session that were telling.

He congratulated the officers involved in the selection process for their “fairness” and “transparency”.  Transparent to whom?  As an elected representative, he clearly doesn’t get whose interests he is supposed to be serving.

I would love to be proven wrong about the City of Melbourne.  After all, they have started the process and I congratulate them for this.

The council and Places Victoria have selected seven Docklanders to serve as permanent members of the forum (with three places reserved for Destination Docklands, the chamber of commerce and the community association).

Some 22 Docklanders were rejected. It is hoped that these publicly-spirited individuals aren’t offended by their rejection and still feel passionate enough to contribute.

Docklands News would like to be able to report on how the decisions were made. But the council’s top Docklands man Rob Moore was too busy to have his regular catch up with us this month.

We understand that some people were excluded because they were members of organisations which had automatic membership.  This is curious because membership of existing community organisations is evidence of commitment to Docklands.

Interestingly, the Docklands Chamber of Commerce has both its current president and vice-president on the forum, albeit with Keith Rankin in the group because of his interest in the waterways.

And the forum has already failed one of its purposes – that of forcing Docklands’ disconnected peak bodies to talk to each other.

I’m sure that staff member Anita Donnelly will make a great contribution to the forum, but it would have been nice to see Destination Docklands chairman Kyle Johnston as the delegate.

Community Association president Roger Gardner has, elsewhere in this edition, voiced his scepticism about the forum.  Sigh. There will be no value in members bringing negativity to the table.

There are 10 permanent members of the forum.  There was to be 12.  Apparently, a young person can’t be found, which explains one of the two vacancies.  The other?

It is curious also why a permanent group has been established.  As yet, the group has no purpose.  Its roles and functions will be worked out in the first few meetings.

Will they be making decisions?  Recommendations maybe?  Will they have special status when voting?  Will there be voting?  Who will set the agenda and who will determine what is able to be discussed?

My hope is that the 10 permanent members of the forum inspire the rest of Docklands to participate vigorously and generously to make it a success.

Everyone needs to get behind these people because they have an extremely difficult job:

They will be operating within a risk-averse corporate culture that values secrecy;

They will be unsure of their rights and whether or not they have any actual “power”;

They will need courage and determination to remain positive and focused on what is best for Docklands as a whole; and

They will similarly need support to remain united as a group.

I congratulate the members on their appointment and wish them the best for the journey ahead. 

Let’s all get behind them.

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