It is with much interest that I read this article …

Comment on Port Augusta’s Mayor: When softly-softly diplomacy isn’t enough to get a town out of the morass by Matt Campbell.

It is with much interest that I read this article and the comments associated with it. As a candidate in the Alice Springs Town Council (ASTC) elections my pitch was based on the Council’s role in promoting social cohesion and being a good decision maker for its constituency (something that I still think needs further exploration).
Underlying this pitch is my belief that things can be better in Alice Springs. For things to be better we need to understand the problem, for it is only in a correct diagnosis (to borrow from the health field) that we can hope to proceed with treatment that fits the “disease”. It is all very well for any one of us to say “the problem is this, and this, therefore is the solution” however I would contend that it is this approach that stifles our ability to understand the problem properly.
What this approach does is allow anyone to proceed, almost instantly, from diagnosis to purported cure. What then generally happens is we then start arguing about whether my cure or your cure is the right one.
As this process goes on we invest in our particular cure, and see our success as bound up with whether our cure is the one adopted. What I would rather see, and is something I talked about throughout the campaign, is better engagement.
Engagement is a much misunderstood term (and it is not my intention to spend time on this here), suffice to say that engagement is principally about the processes through which people work together to understand, define and work on issues of importance to them. For Alice Springs to generate responses that address our problems we need to develop ways to collectively define the problems we face.
It is only in this process that we will be able to devise cures that address the problems we face. This requires the hard work of finding ways to sit down with all members of the town to understand their perspectives, and then to keep working with them to generate solutions.
Such an approach might be decried by some as “softly softly diplomacy” but I would contend that it is anything but. Talking with people to understand problems and generate solutions is not an easy out. Rather it rests on the belief that we live together in a community and it is that generating a “we” rather than an “us” and “them” that our safe and happy future lies. Doing this still means that we need to make hard choices about what we do in terms of our response. The difference being that these responses are generated by the community to address the issues as defined by the community.
I see benefit in learning from what others have done, but I also trust in the creativity and commitment of the people of this town. We need to develop our own home grown solution (bolstered by learning from elsewhere) so that together we are producing the community we want to be part of in the future.
As a post script I think that many of the things John Reid is saying make sense. The promotion of social inclusion (or cohesion) needs to be a basic principle of how Council makes its decisions.

Recent Comments by Matt Campbell

No, you can’t 🙁
Jo, who decides who public space is for? It is not for you or me to say who is welcome and who is not, but (in this instance given the By-law) for the council.
I am with Chansey on this, thinking that skateboarders are part of the community and should be welcome, but respect the right of the council to decide.


Aussie tourists ‘hassled, disappointed, fearful’ in Alice, Uluru
My question, following Steve, is who gets to decide what is acceptable and why are they the arbiters? Serious question.


Federal media laws: Will we become a dictatorship?
Ok Erwin, I’m a bit confused. Could you tell us why it is okay to have a regulator over the broadcast media but not even an accrediting agency to oversee self regulation of print and online? Genuinely seeking to understand the (what appears to me to be) hyperventilation on this one. If there is a real and worrying difference then let us know what it is.


LETTER: Eubena Nampitjin, rest in peace
Sad news about an amazing old lady. Of some comfort is that she was able to pass away peacefully at home, and not somewhere else. My best wishes go out to Jane and the rest of the family at what must be such a difficult time. It is hard to imagine Warlayirti Artists, Balgo and indeed the Western Desert without her. Rest in Peace.


NT needs someone to ‘call things honestly’ says Havnen …
One of the things I question is whether or not International NGOs would really be of great assistance here in the NT. The argument runs that they have models and systems that would enhance sustainability (or something to that effect). Having worked internationally the one thing I can say is that the Northern Australian context is different, and may or may not benefit from international approaches. A friend of mine who has worked in Australia as well as too many places in the developing world to mention said that by far the hardest place he has worked was Australia (in the top end).
My fear is that both the Federal and Territory governments will look and listen to the words of these big NGOs, with their slick PR and be taken in by it thinking “this is the solution”. I think that experience tells us that there are things that are working here, and we need to learn from these. International NGOs with their program logics and all might look nice, but I fear that rather than learning from what works here, we will overlook it and instead invest time and money in approaches that are not tested or proven in this context (indeed if they are in the international context).


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