Community Consultation

I have just returned from a community consultation for a footbridge that was washed out just about a year ago. We discovered it would be at least two years before a replacement was constructed. After spending all day in a facilitation training session, it was pretty disheartening but not surprising to see zero facilitation skill displayed by the council reps nor the bridge engineers presenting their findings. In essence, the outcome was not an experience of being consulted, especially when the question about who was recording what the community was saying couldn’t be answered.

It was pathetic, and my faith in council has dropped to just about nothing. The start of the meeting didn’t thank people for coming, didn’t state the purpose of the meeting, where they were at in the process and only just outlined how the meeting would go. When chaos broke out and the engineer answering a question became a 1:1 conversation and people started talking amongst themselves, the council representative did nothing. At one point several painful minutes later he got the attention of the room and then quietly said, if there’s nothing else… not, does anyone else have any more questions, or thanking people, or being clear about next steps. Clearly a box-ticking exercise, not a genuine interest in drawing on the care and commitment present in the room full of local residents.

From the Friends of Edgars Creek website, not an image used in the presentation.

The wisdom in that room was vastly underutilised, people who clearly knew the area better than the engineers and council staff, people who had lived there and had family living in the area for 40+ years. People who had seen three bridges built, and washed away. Many of the people in the room were from Friends of Edgars Creek, had planted up the area over years, noting that Melbourne Water had provided funds for planting, yet they were the blockage in terms of standards for a bridge across a waterway they manage.

There was so much disconnect, the Edgars Creek Strategic plan being raised as a factor in the planning, yet the engineer and council rep not seeming to know about it. Later we heard they had been provided with a copy, but it wasn’t acknowledged. Very poor communication skills. I’m considering writing a letter and making observations about my experience and what could have made a difference. My cynical self noted that council really doesn’t give a shit. That the right hand not knowing what the left is doing is just normal, and the care factor in being any different wasn’t sufficient enough to warrant a letter.

The upside is that I got to see who cares about the issue. Lots of longtime residents, very few young people, a couple of families, mom’s talking about the impact it has on getting their kids to school, many members of Friends of Edgars Creek talking about the plantings, the strategic plan and clearly a strong understanding of every angle, incline and tree in the vicinity. It’s nice to know that people care and that as a new resident of a reasonably unwelcome development I can contribute to the expression of care for the place we live in.

This post is 33 in 45 posts for 45 years.

Derby

Today I watched the Rebellion 2017 Roller Derby Tournament, a friend was playing for the winning team. We watched a game yesterday as well. Being in that environment felt different. I felt more at home among women with coloured hair and tattoos.

Mothers with families, fathers taking care of children while moms play derby. It was a great community feel, lots of people cheering for their friends and getting in on the excitement of the game.

This is not your average ‘women in sport’ experience. If you’re not familiar with Roller Derby it’s worth checking out. This isn’t a women’s league of a primarily men’s game. There are a few mixed teams but the vast majority of derby is women playing their hearts out. This is a full-contact sport. It’s one where having thunderous thighs and hefty hips is an advantage to block the jammer. And if you’re small and speedy, you’re likely to be a sought after jammer.

It’s also a reasonably complex game with lots going on, numerous officials to track various positions. As a spectator, there is a lot to pay attention to. I’m not going to go into detail here, I recommend watching Whip It or this video to learn about the game.

My point is that it’s a very different experience from most of the sport out there, that I find generally unappealing. I’ve watched womens’ Australian rules football, especially last year when the historic AFLW league was formed, and a little bit of netball and gridiron or what is called football in North America. I don’t mind it but it doesn’t excite me the way derby does.

It’s a place for rebels and misfits where I feel right at home. It’s appropriate to be as feminine or fat, sporty or freaky as you are or want to be. Fishnets, helmets and knee pads, heavy eye makeup, face paint or simple sporty gear, all common sights at a derby bout.

The other thing that struck me was that the post-game ritual is that everyone from both teams comes together as a single group for photos. The camaraderie and common achievement celebrated is really something. This is the kind of thing that gives me hope.

 

This post is day 14 of 45 posts for 45 years.