Local community engagement projects receive national recognition

City of Greater Geraldton’s Michele McGinity, Jamie Robertson from 361 Degrees, Janell Kopplhuber from the City of Greater Geraldton and Johnathon Woolsrey and Debra Zanella from Hope Community Service.

City of Greater Geraldton’s Michele McGinity, Jamie Robertson from 361 Degrees, Janell Kopplhuber from the City of Greater Geraldton and Johnathon Woolsrey and Debra Zanella from Hope Community Service.

The City of Greater Geraldton and Hope Community Services received national recognition at the International Association of Public Participation - IAP2 Conference for projects enabling the community to have their say.

The City won the ‘Smart Budget’ award for the Community Summit held in March earlier this year.

City Mayor, Shane Van Styn, said the priority list of non-mandatory services co-created by the community during the Summit was an important document Council used to inform the 2015/16 budget.

“In the past months the City and Council has been impacted by reductions in State and Federal Government grants, increased utility costs, a growing backlog of infrastructure renewals and an outcry from the community to keep rate rises down,” he said.

“The priority list was an important piece of information that assisted Council in deciding which services we will continue to deliver and those we will reduce or discontinue altogether when determining the 2015/16 budget.”

Hope Community Services and 361 Degrees won the Highly Commended Award for Health for their community engagement process around the establishment of the Hope Springs Community Farm, a social enterprise in Walkaway that provides professional and life skills training for people affected by  alcohol and other drug issues in a farm setting.

Hope Community Services CEO, Debra Zanella, said in order to be successful, the project would have to be of benefit to, and involve the whole community.

“We were encouraged by the support we got from Geraldton residents, local community groups, teachers, members of the church and business owners. Over the last year we have striven to provide information in a way that was accessible to everyone, listen to input and address any concerns and we will continue to do so moving forward through six monthly updates on our progress to meeting our commitments to the community,” she said.

“To ensure this conversation continues we have established a Community Farm Reference Group comprised of community members, rehabilitation residents and staff, held a community workshop where information on the project was shared which resulted in a unique model for the farm that blended the complimentary elements of a community farm with the traditional therapeutic community model – a proposition unique in the rehabilitation sector in Australia.”

The City is pleased to see other organisations not only choosing to engage with the community but to be doing it so well.

“It is very encouraging to see organisations like Hope Community Services engaging so well with our community and congratulations on receiving national recognition for their efforts,” said Mayor Van Styn.

“I’d also like to congratulate City staff who were involved in the Summit and thank them for their dedication and ongoing commitment to engage with our community.  It is great to see our City recognised for punching above our weight, at the national level.”