Do you trust your government?

Published on Monday, 4 July 2022 at 3:37:00 PM

In my opinion...

Council CEO Ingrid Stonhill

Council CEO Ingrid Stonhill

I recently had the pleasure to attend the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) conference in Canberra.  It was a pleasure because it gave me perspective on how we are functioning in Katherine, compared to other councils across the whole of Australia.  There were also some key take away points for me, which are worth sharing. 
On a positive note, local government is the most trusted form of government in our country.  Primarily because we are at the grass roots level and most closely involved with our respective communities.  We have the best ability to engage and consult with community members, groups, and business.  We can respond in a meaningful way to the needs and aspirations of our communities, as well as be close to them and more accessible. 

What was most surprising to learn is that local government delivers 25% of government services to Australia but only receives 4% of taxpayer funding.  The messaging was also very clear that our business-as-usual approach is no longer going to cut it.  We need to look at joining up as a network for doing our core business, and for dealing with complex challenges facing us all such as climate change.
One of the most alarming messages we heard was about the loss of trust and retreat of democracy across the world.  Apparently, people aren’t as supportive of democracy as they used to be, particularly the younger they are, the worse the trend.  There is one explanation offered that a growing number of people access their news about the world through social media.  What this means is that they don’t get a varied view of what is happening around us, because social media feeds send us only information we are interested in, through algorithms. 
Whether you believe this to be true or not, it is alarming to see research that shows “over the last three decades, trust in political institutions such as parliaments or the courts has precipitously declined across the established democracies of North America and Western Europe.  So has voter turnout.”¹ So is this true in our country too?
This type of shift in trust certainly means we have our work cut out for us at Council.  How can we best engage to reassure our community that each and every individual voice is important.  That every member of our community who is of age, has a right to vote and have their say. Not voting is giving up your voice, elections have consequences and your family, friends and community depend on you to vote.  Having your voice counted means you get to have a say in how your tax and or rate money is spent, if you don’t like something, your one voice can influence change.    
Having just completed our strategic planning process, we were excited by the feedback we received, but it is clear to see that if we wish to ensure we buck the trends in the rest of the world, we still have a lot of educating to do.  Your voice is important to us at Council.  We look forward to working with our Katherine community, partnering together, in progress.

¹p. 39 Activist Citizenship Education: A Framework for Creating Justice Citizens By Keith Heggart, 2020 and Foa and Mounk 2016

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