I am writing to express concerns with Hepburn Shire’s Draft General Local Law No. 2 – Community Amenity and Municipal Places.
My submission will be mostly focussed toward effect in the lives of our young people.
As local teacher and youth health worker, I am well qualified and experienced in a local context to provide input here. After reading the draft of the proposed General Local Law No.2 of 2019 – Community Amenity & Municipal Places, I believe there will be substantial effect into the lives of our young people, peer relationships and families. Also, into youth activities promoted and increasingly supported by council throughout the shire such as skateboarding, bike-riding, youth theatre and nature-based play.
In this, I would like to acknowledge the shire’s recent youth initiatives at Daylesford Community Park, including new skate park facility, building of Creswick Skate Park and Splash Park, and ongoing work on Creswick Trails Project.
As a long-term community participant in Daylesford Community Park (DCP) project and author of the DCP Management Plan, adopted by Council in 2016, I am also concerned that many of our local youth aspirations and future vision will be restricted, most especially the increasing focus toward inclusion of natural play-space areas and promotion of inquiry-based play. Such areas require regulatory flexibility and move toward ‘risk as growth’ health building approach. Also, complementary to youth activity areas, as best we can, to re-imagine our local townships as ‘living playgrounds’ for young people. Our young people require unregulated expression of life, even in public places. Local community is enlivened by their spontaneous and experimental being.
Rather than unpack all Local Laws, many pre-existing, I would encourage Hepburn Shire to re-consider the whole process. In this, seriously engage local young people any consultation process. I believe that young people, much like many of us, are perhaps unaware of existing laws and given their impact into their lives, now and into the future. With this, should be actively involved in any re-drafting process. Also, they offer so much into a wider and emergent overview of local needs and future enfoldments.
My experience is that young people can be highly activated and unexpectantly qualified when that which is being discussed has immediate relationship to their lived experience. Clearly the Local Laws review is a wonderful opportunity to involve young people in local civic matters in a meaningful and engaging way.
With this, it is vital that rather than speak of them, that we speak/listen to them.
In relation, a key objective on Hepburn Shire’s Young People website page states:
‘Giving young people the chance to make decisions in their own lives and in their community, is key to developing a cohesive community where youth are respected.’
This objective aligns well with the Victorian Government’s adopted Youth Engagement Charter, Youth Policy: Building Stronger Youth Engagement in Victoria (2016). The Youth Policy provides a framework and actions that will better engage young people in the future and lead to government policies, services and programs that better meet the needs of all young people in Victoria. Amongst other initiatives, the policy commits to:
- ‘Respect the rights of all young people to participate in decisions that affect their lives.’
- ‘Recognise that young people must be at the centre of decision making about issues that are important to them.’
- ‘Value young people as genuine partners in decision-making processes.’
As I understand, the Hepburn Shire Council currently does not have an active Youth Advisory Group to facilitate this, so I would recommend direct contact into Daylesford College as an immediate action.
In closing, I would like to highlight a lack of youth directive in Part 6: Enforcement.
I believe that any action undertaken by a Hepburn Shire authorised officer in relation to Local Law breaches, needs to have clear process for dealing with young people. In this, I include initial warning, verbal direction to cease action, serving of notice and possible infringement. Obviously, parent/carer involvement where possible, or obviously required, needs to be a key inclusion. Although I would like to trust the officer’s discretion, and young people themselves, I think clear protocols need to be provided. And with this, appropriate staff training in dealing with young people and families in relation to such incidents.
I request to be heard in person at Special Meeting of Council to be held on Monday, 16 December 2019.
Thank-you for your considerations here.
Teacher/Youth Health Worker