Commonwealth politicians are increasingly presenting the concept of localism as the panacea to all our wicked problems yet there remains considerable puzzlement across levels of government as to what it really means in practice. Indeed a recent survey of Commonwealth departments and agencies identified several approaches to localism coexisting in one sector (ANZSIG, 2012). What does localism mean in practice? How can it help generate solutions to the problems we are confronting in rural and regional Australia? Does it involve the delegation of decision-making powers and/or delivery functions to the Community or is it really about more informed consultation to legitimate decisions that have already been taken at Commonwealth and State levels? Are we genuinely entering an era of citizen-centric governance in Australia or is this just populist rhetoric aimed to disappoint and further disconnect Canberra from the Australian citizenry?
To help us evaluate whether localism is genuinely a Big Idea with traction or empty rhetoric, a seminar was held on 1 August by ACELG consortium partner, the ANZSOG Institute for Governance (ANZSIG), based at the University of Canberra. The seminar brought together some leading international thinkers on localism with senior practitioners currently engaged in trying to make the concept meaningful in regional policy development.
Panelists included Gerry Stoker, director of the Centre for Citizenship, Globalisation and Governance at the University of Southampton, Megan Lancaster, director of stakeholder engagement at the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, and Mark Evans, director of ANZSIG.
Further information and an option to view a video of the event can be found here.