Protecting people, protecting democracy

Publish date:

Statement from MAV President Cr David Clark: Anyone from any community can participate in decision making at their local council. It’s what makes local government such a unique and integral part of our democratic system.

With a rise of disruptive behaviour and civil unrest being felt by all levels of government in many parts of the world, councils have not been immune.

Council Chamber across Victoria are a place for the people. Almost all Council Chambers are a single room, where there are no barriers between the council and the community they serve.

In Victoria there has been a number of councils reporting a rise of disorder, including in Yarra Ranges where they have had to remove the public from meetings on Workplace Health and Safety grounds.

The Municipal Association of Victoria supports Yarra Ranges in this course of action and any council doing what they need to, to ensure the safety of their community, employees, and councillors is their number one priority.

This ongoing behaviour is threatening and unpredictable and it has no place in our communities and shouldn’t be accepted at any level of government or board. Councils are right to take a zero tolerance approach, as the people most at risk are other community members who are in the gallery with the disruptive people.

All councils now provide live streaming of council meetings, so every resident can continue to watch and see council making decisions.  Closing galleries also does not remove the opportunity for public questions of the council, these are still available to residents, all be it in a slightly different manner.

Councils are proud to provide everyday Victorians with the opportunity to participate in community decision making. Asking questions of elected officials in real time is not replicated at any other level of government and local governments take this responsibility seriously.

That’s why even while taking these safety precautions, councils are fully committed to ensuring there are still options available for legitimate community questioning. They are committed to respectful engagement on genuine community concerns and will utilise online tools to do so if need be.

We expect any council in the situation of having to close their public gallery will regularly review this and seek to return to in person galleries at council meetings as soon as it is safe to do so.