The Community Reference Group (CRG) is one of Council’s key community engagement initiatives providing strategic interaction and information sharing between Council and the community. Membership of the CRG is made up of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, a Council facilitator, and up to 20 community members who are actively representing local communities and industry/demographic sectors.
The CRG was initially developed in March 2011 as a Disaster Recovery mechanism under guidance from external consultants. The first meeting, held 7 June 2011, was attended by the Mayor and 4 councillors, 17 community representatives and 6 senior Council staff.
The initial focus of meetings was to inform community representatives of ongoing Recovery work and receive their input on how individual communities were progressing. Specific issues raised by community representatives were assigned to Council officers to investigate and respond to in the most appropriate way.
The focus and content of meetings have been regularly refined to suit various stages of Recovery and over the past 6 months particularly have aimed to increase the knowledge, communication and engagement skills of key community members. CRG members are now accountable to provide a conduit for accurate information between Council and their local communities and to promote positive and unifying messages that benefit the whole of the Lockyer Valley.
Members are expected to report monthly on issues being raised within their communities and interest sectors that Council may be able to address. Issues raised need to represent a significant portion of a local community or sector and not be the personal issue of one or two individuals. Likewise members are expected to take what they learn and are briefed on in the meetings and report that back to their communities through informal conversations and groups they’re involved in. It is not intended the members will host community meetings to share or gather information.
The increased knowledge and engagement skills of key community members will improve the likelihood that the Lockyer Valley will be more resilient in the future. This will be achieved through targeted capacity building of community leaders and groups, and including those leaders in discussions and activities that increase their partnership in building a positive united culture in the Lockyer Valley.
Council’s Community Development (CD) team provides support and communication with CRG members between meetings to ensure they feel connected to Council, have access to the information resources they are expected to share within their local communities, and that community issues they become aware of are appropriately fed into Council’s systems for follow up. The CD team is also able to provide skill development support so that community members are increasingly confident and competent in their work. It is noted that a substantial part of the success of the Community Reference Group initiative depends upon strong relationships between these community members and the Council team.