THIS week I’d like to highlight the importance of better communication between ourselves at Council and our community.

One of my earliest priorities as a Councillor and now as Mayor is to make sure there are clear channels of communication between Council (both as an organisation and ourselves as Councillors) and our community.

By doing so, we’re able to clearly hear and understand what our community is telling us – whether it’s a service we need to introduce or improve, something we’re doing well, or something that needs to be addressed.

It could also be something we need to advocate for at state and national level on behalf of our community.

The end result of better communication is more conversations, and ultimately, Council and community collaborating on issues important to our region and pushing forward in the same direction.

The more feedback and the more ideas Council receives, the better informed we will be to make decisions that provide the best outcomes for our residents, which is ultimately our end goal – to do what’s best for our community.

Seeking ideas and feedback from our community is an honest and realistic acknowledgement that we don’t have all the answers. We get much better decisions when we receive the input of many, not the few. We’ve got so many amazing community members in our region, many of them experts in their field, and that’s a huge asset for getting a good outcome, especially on issues that are complex.

It also needs to be reiterated that as Councillors we may be in the privileged, and sometimes tough position to be making these decisions, but we, along with Council staff, are part of this community and need to live with the decisions we make.

So how do we go about improving communication?

The media play a major role in helping us get our message, and our requests for feedback and ideas into the community, which is why regular columns such as this are so important, as well as the great coverage our local media outlets provide.

We’ve also recently restarted our Community Conversations, kicking off with Ouyen. These are open community meetings where myself and my fellow Councillors will make ourselves available to towns and areas across our municipality to listen first-hand to what is important to you. Stay tuned to our website, our social media channels, our eNews and local media outlets for details of upcoming Community Conversations.

I’ve also started my ‘Coffee With the Mayor’ sessions, which are regular opportunities for the community to sit down one-on-one with me to talk about anything that’s important to them. Based on the recent first series of sessions and the great information and response I received from our residents, this is certainly something I’m keen to keep doing.

We also regularly call for feedback on important plans and strategies that our staff are developing. The next time you see one advertised or featured in a news story, take the time to look at it and have your say so that we can better understand what’s important to you.

Also, come along to our monthly Ordinary Council meetings. They’re open to the public and a great chance to gain an insight into the decisions we make, as well as catching up with us after meetings.

At the end of the day, whether it’s us as Councillors, our Council management and staff, or our municipality’s almost 60,000 residents, we all live, work and play in this region because we love living here and everything the Mallee has to offer.

By working more closely together we can make our region an even better place to live.