Community and councils : an examination of sustainability-governance procedures in a local government authority in Australia

by Cesidio Parissi

Institution: University of Western Sydney
Degree: PhD
Year: 0
Keywords: local government; environmental aspects; sustainability; sustainable development; citizen participation; communities; decision making; New South Wales; Liverpool (N.S.W.). Council.
Record ID: 1046707
Full text PDF: http://handle.uws.edu.au:8081/1959.7/46956


In recent years a great deal of the effort in addressing environmental problems has focused on the interaction between citizens and the various institutions of society, often with regard to encouraging the public to participate in the resolution of the problems. Often it is argued that much of this effort of citizen involvement needs to be focused at the local level; in Australia this frequently means at the local government level. In order to help with the task of resolving the global issues through acting locally, the aim of this thesis is to answer the following research question: How effectively does a local government body interact with its community in decision-making processes aimed at achieving a more sustainable society? Liverpool City Council and the community of the Liverpool area that form part of the western region of Sydney, New South Wales, provide the setting for this research. While the discipline of public participation has developed scores of tools for Councils to consider, so far these efforts have largely been limited to change in either the institution or the community as separate entities. In this thesis, the interaction between the two is examined together with the changes in notions of power which come with a deeper involvement of citizens in decision-making for the governance of local councils. Since the thesis topic is complex, the study develops within a multi-faceted and multi-layered framework. In answering the research question, a transdisciplinary process drew relevant ideas from anthropology, the natural sciences, history, theology, sociology and politics. A trans-methodology included elements from Ethnography, Action Research, Grounded Theory and Case Study approaches to research. In order to gather triangulated data sets, a multi-method technique used participant observation, interview and document analysis. The data gathered from fieldwork and presented in narrative style, was subject to a thematic analysis that offers insights into the inter-personal and institutional interactions in a council/community participatory process. These include: Processes in public participation programs need to reflect the desired outcome, that is, practising what is preached; Passion and courage of the project team are important for a change program; Passionate teams still need to reflect on their own biases; Disciplinary and professional silos need to be permeable and accessible; A political culture of passivity requires change in community and Council; Sharing in decision-making allows for shared ownership and greater loyalty to the project; Shared teacher/learner roles between community and council are needed; Communication with and leadership from the powerful in council is needed; Legislative changes can provide assistance for overcoming problems in public participation programs; and Sustainability as a project outcome needs a concerted and continuing emphasis throughout the project. Three models have been developed for better understanding Council/community collaboration. The first model is the…