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After COVID-19: do we want to go back to “normal”?
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Editions
August 09 Edition Cover

Forum reform: Opportunity or threat?

03 May 2018

Forum reform: Opportunity or threat? Image

By Shane Scanlan

The Docklands community is being asked to grow up as the City of Melbourne winds down its involvement in the Docklands Community Forum (DCF).

The forum has been running for six years to agendas set and managed by both the council and the state’s development agency, Development Victoria (DV).

The council has been providing administrative services to the forum, but this is to change over the next couple of years.

The city is seeking up to 20 locals to form the nucleus of a new forum structure. Expressions of interest are open until Monday, May 7 at participate.melbourne.vic.gov.au/dcf.

Over the rest of 2018, the new Docklands Representative Group (DRG) will collectively devise the future shape, purpose and role of the forum.

The council and DV say they will continue to “support” the forum, but it appears this will not extend to secretarial services.

Community engagement officer Melanie Del Monaco told the March 28 forum the DCF would be eligible to apply for community grants to fund its future activities.

So, while it seems the forum will not be as well supported in the future, the current reform presents a terrific opportunity to become relevant and effective.

In assessing the achievements of the forum to date, chairman Phil Spender remarked that the forum had its greatest success when advocating for a primary school in Docklands.

It’s no coincidence that, since 2012, the school issue was the only time the forum has ever actually proposed, debated, voted and passed a motion.

The structure set and administered by the council and DV has been expressly passive when it came to forum participants. The conversation has been decidedly lopsided, with the community’s role largely confined to listening.

Should the new DRG wish it, a reformed 2019-styled forum could structure itself to set its own agendas and formally advocate on issues of concern.

But the opportunities are not just political.

In reporting back on feedback received as part of the reform process, Ms Del Monaco said Docklanders wanted more opportunities to meet and network with each other.

With the demise of the Docklands Community Association, a reformed DCF offers a chance to build a structure that really brings locals together.

The forum doesn’t have to be a procession of Powerpoint-equipped talking heads speaking to a passive group in theatre-style presentation.

It could empower itself to run anything from a “Docklands Ball” to calling for street demonstrations to protest the dumping of extra traffic here from the West Gate Tunnel project.

In recruiting for new representative group members, the council has said:

“We’re looking for a diverse group of people with energy, passion and ideas to help further improve Docklands as a place for everyone. The Docklands Representative Group will comprise of between 12 and 20 people to help organise and lead the forum quarterly.”

“Members will be required to:

Connect to the Docklands community to share and promote the forum, as well as encourage greater and more diverse community involvement in the forum and projects arising from it;

Act as facilitators to ensure the diverse views of the Docklands community are considered and represented in discussions and initiatives;

Work collaboratively with members to develop a new terms of reference and ways of working for the forum;

As appropriate, identify and undertake community-led initiatives that respond to local needs;

Organise, run and promote quarterly Docklands Community Forum meetings with support from City of Melbourne and Development Victoria;

Undertake roles within the meeting as required, such as chairing, minute taking and other responsibilities;

Attend quarterly Docklands Community Forum public meetings (held on Wednesdays in 2018) and monthly meetings of the Docklands Representative Group. Times and days to be agreed with group once members appointed;

Demonstrate respectful engagement and behaviour towards others including community members, City of Melbourne officers, Development Victoria staff and other stakeholders; and

Act with integrity, confidentiality, diligence and care.”

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