de Jong, Ursula 2003, Changing community perceptions of 'place', in Refereed Proceedings of the 12th Women in Leadership Conference, Women Leading the Way: Inclusive Societies, Engaged Communities and Healthy Organisations, Edith Cowan University, Perth, W.A., pp. 159-175.
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Refereed Proceedings of the 12th Women in Leadership Conference, Women Leading the Way: Inclusive Societies, Engaged Communities and Healthy Organisations
English, Brian Blahusiak, John
Edith Cowan University
Place of publication
In May 2002 the Australian Department of Defence announced its intention to divest the Defence land at Portsea on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria. At the same time nominations were invited for membership of the Community Reference Group (CRG) established as part of the Portsea Defence Land Master Planning Project. The author actively participated in this voluntary advisory group which provided input on matters of interest to the community relating to the project, provided a medium for information sharing and addressed the sometimes competing needs of different stakeholder groups (such as government, business and residents). A major role of the CRG was to provide a focus for community input on aspects of technical issues, particularly in relation to the planning for the future use of the site, flora and fauna issues, infrastructure provision, traffic and access management, heritage and archaeology, and the integration of the site with both the natural environment and existing community facilities, including the township of Portsea. The author's professional background in art and architectural history, in teaching and in research specifically in heritage related areas; her record of community work both in hands on work and in leadership positions, in Melbourne and on the Nepean Peninsula, enabled her to make a significant and useful contribution to the CRG in contributing to the understanding of the rich, diverse, multilayered cultural and natural heritage of the entire site.
Using this specific example, this paper examines the process of participating in Australian society through engaging communities - engaging women. It examines the invitation to participate, the nomination and selection process, the brief given to the community reference group, the development of the consultative process over the six months of deliberations, and the important role that women played in the project. It looks at what can be learned from the experience: how women in particular led the way in changing perceptions of place within the local community, and consequently in the broader framework of the project. It examines the success of the outcomes both in terms of the specific task of writing the Master Plan for the Portsea Defence site and of the process of community participation: the dynamic inter-relationships in the group; between the group and the consultants; between the group and the Department of Defence and between the group and the Federal Government. It comments reflectively and critically on the effectiveness of the whole process.