Frequently Asked Questions
Why was a citizens’ jury used in Geelong?
In April 2016, the Victorian Parliament passed legislation to dismiss the Greater Geelong City Council and provide for the election of a new council in October 2017. The dismissal of the council was in response to the findings and recommendations of the independent Commission of Inquiry into the council which found that the council was dysfunctional and poorly governed.
During the debate of this legislation, the government committed to consult the Greater Geelong community about the structure of its future elected council, including the positions of mayor and deputy mayor, both of which could not be included in the VEC’s 2015-16 electoral representation review for Greater Geelong.
The citizens' jury was the primary method the government selected to consult the community.
The structure of a future elected council is not a simple matter. The question of the best structure cannot be resolved through posing one or two basic questions and so is not amenable to a referendum. A citizens’ jury model enabled the community to be fully informed of the issues and options, to put forward its views and ideas and to deliberate and decide what it wants and expects from its future council.
What is a citizens’ jury?
A citizens’ jury is an innovative way to involve everyday people in decision making. This comprehensive, transparent engagement approach allows the community to be placed at the centre of the process.
Citizens’ juries bring together representative, random samples of citizens who are briefed in detail on the background and current thinking relating to a particular issue, asked to discuss possible approaches and/or solutions, and finally craft a set of recommendations to address the issues at hand.
Citizens’ juries create a balance between experts and the public and support good public judgments as an input into effective decision-making.
How was the jury selected?
15,000 randomly selected Greater Geelong residents were sent an invitation to participate in the jury and asked to register their interest to participate. 100 members were then be randomly selected from this group using census data to ensure the final jury was representative of Greater Geelong in terms of gender, age and geography.
The selection and oversight of the citizens’ jury was independent from the Minister for Local Government and the council. The newDemocracy Foundation (nDF) was been engaged by Local Government Victoria (LGV) on behalf of the Minister for Local Government, the Hon Natalie Hutchins MP, to design, select and run the jury with qualified facilitators. The nDF is a non-partisan, philanthropic research foundation that exists with a goal of finding improvements to how trusted democratic decisions can be made which represent the informed general will of the people. The nDF has considerable experience in designing and operating citizens’ juries.
How was the broader community involved in the process?
Dozens of written, detailed and well-thought-out submissions and hundreds of survey responses to the Vote Democracy Geelong survey were received from the community. There has also been a high the level of active involvement by the community in the dozens of community sessions and workshops held over the past couple of months. We have heard from people of all ages, all walks of life and all backgrounds about how they want their community to be governed by a future council.
There has also been a great response to our invitation to the public to come along and observe the jury in action.
Has this been done before?
No other municipality has had this opportunity to influence the representative structure of their council through a citizens' jury process.
Citizens’ juries have been used successfully in a number of other contexts.
In 2014, Melbourne City Council’s Peoples’ Panel was tasked with the development of a 10-year financial plan. The Melbourne Peoples’ Panel was evaluated as being a highly successful example of community engagement. The process was designed by the nDF.
Infrastructure Victoria is currently undertaking a citizens’ jury to develop a 30 year infrastructure plan for Victoria and South Australia is currently undertaking a large citizens’ jury looking at its Nuclear Fuel Cycle. These processes have also been designed by the nDF.
What was the jury asked to do?
The jury was asked to consider the following question: Our council was dismissed. How do we want to be democratically represented by a future council?
In responding to this question, the jury was able to make two types of recommendations to the Minister:
- Practical recommendations that reflect an electoral structure compliant with the Victorian local government legislative framework
- Aspirational recommendations that might not be compliant with the Victorian local government legislative framework, including other ideas about how local democracy can be improved.
The practical recommendations were intended as a minimum requirement for the jury rather than a constrained scope. Given the practical recommendations are based on a structure compliant with the Victorian local government legislative framework, they have a very clear scope:
- how the mayor is elected
- if a deputy mayor is needed, and if so, how they are elected
- the number of councillors
- whether the municipality should be unsubdivided or divided into wards
- if it is divided into wards, the ward structure (for example, single or multi-member wards and boundaries)
In making any aspirational recommendations, the jury was able to consider academic submissions, feedback and ideas from the wider Greater Geelong community and expert and nominated stakeholder speaker presentations, as well as any other speakers the jury nominates to hear from.
What evidence did the jury consider to make its recommendations?
The jury considered a range of materials to arrive at its recommendations and final report, including:
- A Background Paper prepared by LGV and the materials referenced in the paper
- A Supplementary Paper providing submissions from academia coordinated by the nDF
- Community feedback and local submissions made during the community engagement stage in September and October 2016
- Presentations from speakers nominated during the Stakeholder Information Session in early August 2016
- Presentations from speakers nominated by the jury itself
- Further information requests as nominated by the jury itself
Where can I get more information?
- Read the media release: Citizens' Jury to Decide on Future Council for Geelong
- Visit the newDemocracy Foundation website
- Read the newDemocracy citizens' jury process design (note page 8 has been amended in response to feedback from the Greater Geelong community during the announcement event on 12 July 2016 and stakeholder briefing sessions)
- Visit the Geelong Citizens' Jury Website