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SECTION FOUR – Doing the Right Thing

Shared use of public space and the needs of different user groups is a common issue that arises in communities and falls within the remit of local councils. When rules about who can use what areas and when are simply imposed from ‘top-down’, there is a risk of some community resistance and loss of goodwill.

More ‘bottom up’ alternatives focus instead on engaging with the community, whether this be through a formal consultation, a needs assessment process or plain old fashioned talking to those people impacted.

Fundamentally most people want to ‘do the right thing’ by others and their community, but sometimes may not be aware of the issues or the consequences of their current actions, or feel that their voice can be heard.

The role of social norms in facilitating cooperation and mutual benefit for community members is one of the platforms of social capital.(50) This can apply to a range of community issues, from the way in which we respond to climate change, resolve disputes with neighbours, care for those who are disadvantaged, and cooperate when shared use of space or amenities is required.

Social norms can also change over time; societal attitudes and behaviours in relation to smoking in public places and use of plastic shopping bags are two pertinent cases in point.

Sometimes just giving residents a chance to contribute can be empowering in its own right, and enhance their views of their local community. Engaging with the community can also produce creative lateral solutions, and support and cooperation is more likely.

It has been said that ‘the good community’ is not created through singular reliance on formal controls, but rather it achieves social order through mutual engagement and negotiation among residents, mediating institutions, and agencies of law enforcement.(51)

While Australia is sometimes seen as being over-regulated and ‘nanny state-ish’ relative to some other countries, there in fact is a growing number of examples of voluntary and collaborative solutions to community based issues.


Doing the Right Thing Case Studies

Public open space can facilitate social interaction

Alliance between local government and dog owners delivers long-term benefits to both

Combined Councils’ watch-dog project reduces dog waste

Opportunity to build community through free dog training

Councils partner with local dog walkers to deliver widespread community benefits

Unleashing healthy lifestyles in local areas


go to SECTION FIVE – Making the Most of What You’ve Got

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