Melbourne citizens' jury success offers fresh hope for democratic renewal

3 Jul 2015

The City of Melbourne’s recent experiment asking citizens to develop a 10-year financial plan is being hailed as a success by those working in the deliberative democracy space. Now one councillor is looking to see what other issues could be addressed with the method. 

Bold, fearless and creative suggestions for the city’s future: that was the brief given to Melbourne’s People’s Panel when they first embarked on their task in August last year. The panel of 43 randomly selected Melburnians had come together to advise the council on a 10-year financial plan for the growing city.

This week the council’s final plan was unanimously endorsed, with Lord Mayor Robert Doyle saying it was heavily influenced by the panel’s deliberations. Among the recommendations that made their way into the council vision were planning for more public open space, maintaining a high standard of events and redeveloping the Queen Victoria Market.

The level of active citizenry that results when people get involved in something where they feel like they can actually make a difference—it gives me chills when I see it happen.

Nicole Hunter, MosaicLAB co-founder

The only recommendation not adopted involved increasing council rates by 2.5 per cent more than CPI; the city says the Victorian government plans to introduce a rates capping policy for all state councils.

Councillor Stephen Mayne, chair of the City of Melbourne’s finance and governance committee, says his experience with the citizens’ jury process gave him real hope for democratic renewal.

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