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Byron Shire
March 1, 2021

Redesign democracy

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This year I was a volunteer MC at the GREENHouse venue at Woodford Folk Festival.

There I participated in six 60-minute Redesigning Democracy workshops, which I found deeply inspiring. We learned about citizens’ assemblies that use deliberative democracy and how Switzerland uses direct democracy.

Ireland passed gay marriage laws and pro-abortion laws because of recommendations from citizens’ assemblies. Melbourne decided on a 10-year budget with input from a citizens’ jury. I agree, Edward Kent, (letter Jan 23) that such things need to be well advertised, so they can be as representative as possible, but there is a process to choose people who are demographically representative.

If residents are complaining that they don’t like the decisions being made by the council, surely it is a positive step to explore more participative and democratic processes?

Councillors are humans with families and lives, not specialists in every area they have to consider, have mountains of paper to read, some very tough decisions to make, and no shortage of angry residents who are often unaware of the complexities involved, but extremely quick to lay blame and make personal attacks.

Sometimes I feel Byron Shire has an overly developed immune system and we attack even positive things. One of the facilitatotrs Lyn Carson, told me that when people sit in a discussion group and the process is well facilitated, even very politically polarised people can agree on up to 80 per cent of issues. They get educated by a range of specialists on a topic. Good facilitation is clearly key.

I encourage locals to get informed on what newDemocracy is about. Carson will be sharing her passion and experience in conversation with me on Sunday, at Stories in the Club at the Mullum Ex-Services Club – the theme What Do You Stand For?

Jenni Cargill-Strong

Mullumbimby

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