Community led governance

Goals of community-led governance

Council acknowledges that residents of Byron Shire want the opportunity to be involved in decision-making.

Council has adopted community-led governance principles and below you can read about those principles and how they are being applied to help shape local communities.

1. Empowering Communities

Council adopted Community Engagement Principles, based on the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2) spectrum, many years ago. Council has been using IAP2 principles to maximise the opportunities for community members to be involved in and influence outcomes in their local areas.

A recent successful example of community collaborating with Council and being involved in influencing the way Council delivers outcomes for the community is the Mullumbimby Hospital Project Reference Group. This group of 21 community members, stakeholder representatives and councillors worked for a year to critically research and analyse the site, the environment, constraints and community needs to make recommendations on future uses for the site.

Adopting the community-led governance principles help community and Council move from locals influencing decisions towards being empowered to make the decisions and deliver outcomes for their community. There are a number of recent successful examples of a different ways that community members have been empowered to make the decisions on behalf the community , and in some cases empowered to deliver services to their communities. These include: 

  • Gaggin Park playground, where community voted to choose the final design for the playground
  • Stronger Country Communities Grants where community voted to decide which community projects would be submitted for the grant program
  • Byron Bay Hospital Community Group which worked hard to secure the generous gifting of a significant asset to the community 
  • Infrastructure Funding Community Solutions Panel where 31 randomly selected residents deliberated over four days to consider the priorities for future infrastructure spending from the community's perspective and whose decisions were adopted by Council. 

Most recently, Council has facilitated a second community solutions panel to develop a “Byron Model” for deliberative democracy. That panel was charged with answering the question "How do we want to make democratic decisions in Byron Shire that can be widely supported?" This work is currently underway and for more information visit The Byron Model.

2. Helping communities achieve local visions

Delivering projects and services ‘in place’ is an important part of community-led governance, also called 'community-led development'.

Council and community have been progressively collaborating to develop place-based plans for town and villages, starting with the award-winning Byron Bay Masterplan and continuing with the Bangalow Village Plan. In addition, the Mullumbimby Village and Byron Arts and Industrial Estate Precinct Plan are well underway. The place-based plans for towns and villages contain aspirations that can be delivered by community directly and by community working together with Council and other governments. 

One of the goals of the community-led governance approach is to support delivery of the local community’s visions for towns and villages by empowering them to deliver themselves on the aspirations in their town and village plans. 

3. Learning and sharing

Council wants to work with community to harness the wealth of our collective shared experiences and to grow both Council’s and community’s capacity.  Effective shared learning requires respectful relationships, one of the key community-led governance principles. 


Community-led governance principles

Council has adopted a set of core principles to guide its decision-making, operations and services. They are:

1. Make space for communities to take action themselves and respond positively to local initiatives

Using this principle will involve Council: 

  • Building plans with the people who live, work, care, play and invest in their community
  • Empowering communities with the care and management of public places and projects
  • Fostering a shared ownership of the future
  • Responding positively where it can, to community-driven initiatives and projects.


2. Acknowledge community diversity and involve everyone

 This means Council: 

  • Values different cultural approaches and is committed to building respectful relationships
  • Recognises the diverse contributions that everyone can make
  • Is committed to proactively seeking to involve people who are hard to reach
  • Acknowledges and supports community leaders and volunteering within community
  • Invests in developing capacity and networks of local residents and volunteers
  • Celebrates community contributions and achievements.


3. Encourage maximum and shared use of public spaces

Public spaces and facilities are highly valued community assets. This principle encourages communities to get the most of the public spaces and facilities in the Shire by using them more and using them in shared and innovative ways.

4. Collaborate to join-up services and planning

'Joining up services', and planning for services, means making all the pieces work together, instead of each part trying to work on its own. 

Collaborating to deliver 'joined-up' services, means Council will: 

  • Support and encourage connections between groups, particularly groups who would not usually work together
  • Collaborate with others to avoid duplication in services or, where possible, to fill gaps in services
  • Tailor Council services and planning for the future to match local goals and contexts as well as existing local services. 

5. Forge strong local and regional partnerships to address issues and drive change at community, State and Federal level

Council remains committed to: 

  • Building strong and effective local, regional and state networks and partnerships
  • Supporting locals who are providing services and connecting them with others to grow capacity

Using local evidence-based information to advocate for change at local, regional, state and federal levels.

6. Empower community members through participatory and deliberative democracy

In 2016 Council handed over decision-making power to the community to prioritise the allocation of 13 potential infrastructure projects in the north of the Shire. Since then, Council has expanded the number and types of participatory decision-making opportunities that the community can be involved in.

Participatory or deliberative democracy covers a broad range of opportunities to be involved in and make decisions on behalf of community, including for example participation via place planning groups,  guidance groups, committees, participatory budgeting, innovative community engagement, public hearings, community grant programs and other forms of engagement. 

Being committed to empowering community members to make and shape decisions, means : 

  • Providing opportunities for people to participate in decision-making
  • Providing quality information and good conditions to enable members of community to discuss and deliberate on matters affecting them
  • Where appropriate, using participatory or deliberative opportunities to be involved in decision making. 

Following the success in 2018 of Council's first 'Community Solutions Panel' deliberative democracy process, Council has recently held a second to develop "The Byron Model" for deliberative democracy. A third community solutions panel is also currently underway considering the question "What actions Council can take to align visitor behaviour with community values?". This will help develop the Byron Shire Sustainable Visitation Strategy 2020 - 2030.

7. Have the courage to take informed risks to bring about necessary change

A complex legislative framework applies to Council that can put limits on  what Council does and Council's capacity to involve community in decision-making.  However, where possible, Council will: 

  • Critically reflect on what’s working and what’s not
  • Be flexible - plan and work adaptively
  • Be open to learning by doing and adjusting
  • Use data and local evidence-based information to drive change
  • Measure outcomes
  • Share successes, mistakes and progress widely 

Help shape decisions for our community  

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