Each level of Government operates in complete different ways, and so it's useful to know about the inner workings and procedures, key people, and the level of potential impact your advocacy can have for each one. Engaging with your local council can be very easy and can lead to some fantastic outcomes!
How does it work?
Councils are made up of two parts: the elected representatives (councillors) and administration (council staff).
Councillors are democratically elected by the residents and ratepayers of the municipality. Once elected, they are responsible for reviewing matters and debating issues before their council, and making decisions.
Council staff are responsible for providing advice, implementing council’s direction and taking action on council decisions. Council officers also provide advice and expertise that help a council to form policy decisions, along with delivering services and implementing decisions. Usually the heads of departments form a group referred to as the Executive, led by the CEO.
Why contact your council?
While your local council might not be making the daily news like state and federal governments, decisions made in the local council chamber can have huge effects of your local community. Local councils are in charge of many community services, cultural centres and events, and have avenues (including cash) to support the arts.
One important fact to know is that council staff cannot advocate to council. This means that even if they see a particular need in the community, or feel the council should support something, they are unable to recommend this to council themselves. This is why it’s so important for the community to get involved, and further highlights how engaging with your council, even in small ways, can make a difference. Council staff find it difficult to act if there is silence from the community.
Once something is on the radar of council, they may instruct staff to prepare a council report on the matter, but staff cannot instigate this themselves.
Do your research
Doing your research first ensures that you are advocating from an informed place, can make the best case possible, and that you know what the Council already offers (there’s no point advocating for something that already exists!).
It’s well worth reading the Council’s four year Council plan, and/or their arts and culture policy/strategy (if there is one) to see what is on the agenda in the coming years. Get to know what arts programs are being offered, and identify any initiatives that you can link in with. You can also use these documents to check if the Council is funding/doing the things it said it would.
If your Council doesn’t have an arts and culture policy/strategy, pushing for the creation of one might be a good place to start with your advocacy!
Make contact with the Council officers
It’s always important to make contact with relevant Council officers. Council officers are a good source of information, which you can use to your advantage; there are often projects underway, or new strategies that the officers will know about, and may be able to link you into. They are also often in charge of certain initiatives, projects, and budgets. Take any opportunity to get to know Council staff and let them know about what you are doing.
You can contact a Council officer and request a meeting, but failing that, there are other ways to make a connection; there may be a regular artists’ forum which is set up to facilitate connections, and applying for a grant is also a great excuse to make those connections with Council staff.
It is also worth noting that when contacting Councillors directly, in some Councils the Councillors may send you directly back to Officers, especially if they haven’t already engaged at the Officer level.
How to contact your Councillors?
Firstly, keep in mind that local councillors are elected officials, and so anyone can contact and speak to them about issues that are important to them and the community.
Start by doing some research on your councillors. Look through their biographies and what their particular agenda is, and find ways to connect with that.
When deciding which councillors to contact, being bipartisan is your best bet. Even though some councillors might align more or less with your own political views, the arts is for everyone and you should be able to easily create a dialogue, regardless of their political leanings. It’s also worth paying attention to which ward your project is in (if your area has wards) - the particular Councillor for each ward will have a special interest in that area.
Send an email to your councillor and requesting a meeting, including some details about you and why you want to meet.
Go into your meeting with a clear intention. Be able to speak about what your practice/work is, and how you/your work contributes to the culture of the community.
“I want to encourage you to think about X, Y, and Z.” - you’re probably not there to get commitments to action in your first meeting, but you are giving councillors new information to think about.
If you’re lobbying for something, request to make a presentation to council. This is for very specific agendas, and an opportunity to make a case to all councillors. Presentations should be direct, clear and sharp - sometimes you might only get three minutes!
Follow up your meeting with an email stating for what asked for and what next steps and actions are. CC other people into that email, such as other Councillors.
It is also worth noting that most Councils have specific community engagement websites - at Moreland City Council for instance, it is https://conversations.moreland.vic.gov.au/ - but most Councils have them and this is a good way of engaging with a range of different topics and conversations.
Building relationships with your local councillors is a huge investment, and having an ongoing connection and communications will make it easier to have your voice heard. Keep in mind that there are lots of opportunities to stay connected, other than talking about issues:
Invitations: Invite councillors to your events! Speaking and appearance opportunities are good for them, and allows them an opportunity to speak about their values and be in the face of voters. It’s also a great opportunity for you to show them your work and its value first hand!
Celebrations: if you, your organisation, or your sector have good news to share, let your local councillors know. As well as keeping them informed it helps to reinforce their idea of the good work you are doing.
Thank You: if you appreciate the work your council is doing (maybe they held a fantastic event, or passed an impactful motion), let them know!
Remember your councillors are there to help - they care about the communities they live in! Do keep in mind though that often Councillors will have a job/career outside of their Council duties, and they only get a small stipend. Workloads and commitments can be huge.
Ways to advocate for the arts
As mentioned above, if your Council doesn’t have an arts and culture policy/strategy, tell them they need one.
Ask the Council to do an economic impact study of the arts and creative sector in their area (it easier to lobby when they have the data, which they often don’t collect).
Advocate from different perspectives – access and inclusion, health, culture, economic, participation, reputation, etc.
Be vocal to Councillors or the Council CEO about the needs and challenges in the arts. Other sectors get what they need because have the ear of Council and they lobby hard. For instance, if the Council charges too much for venue hire, tell the Council directly!
Every Council legally must put their budget out for community viewing (this usually happens any time between March - June) and this is when budget submissions from the public can be made. This is an opportunity to give feedback and suggestions on how Council allocates its money, and there is also potential for projects to be funded at this stage, particularly if you already have a relationship with the Councillors and Council Officers.
INFORMATION WE COLLECT FROM YOU
In the course of your visits to our website or use of our products and services, we may obtain the following information about you: name, company name, email address, telephone number, credit card details, billing address, geographic location, IP address, survey responses, support queries, blog comments and social media handles (together ‘Personal Data’).
Our services are not directed to persons under 18 and we do not knowingly collect Personal Data from anyone under 18. If we become aware that a child under 18 has provided us with Personal Data, we will delete that information as quickly as possible. If you are the parent or guardian of a child and you believe they have provided us with Personal Data without your consent, then please contact us.
You can review, correct, update or delete your Personal Data by either logging into your account and making the changes yourself or contacting us directly to do so.
HOW WE USE YOUR INFORMATION
Personally Identifiable Information: We use the information we collect to deliver our services to you, including: communicating with you, providing technical support, notifying you of updates and offers, sharing useful content, measuring customer satisfaction, diagnosing problems and providing you with a personalised website experience.
Marketing communications are only sent to you if you have requested or subscribed to them. You can opt out of our marketing communications at any time by unsubscribing or emailing us and your request will be actioned immediately.
Non-Personally Identifiable Information: We also use the information we collect in aggregated and anonymized forms to improve our services, including: administering our website, producing reports and analytics, advertising our products and services, identifying user demands and assisting in meeting customer needs generally.
Any information you choose to make publicly available, such as blog comments and testimonials on our website, will be available for others to see. If you subsequently remove this information, copies may remain viewable in cached and archived pages on other websites or if others have copied or saved the information.
STORAGE AND SECURITY OF YOUR INFORMATION
We will use all reasonable means to protect the confidentiality of your Personal Data while in our possession or control. All information we receive from you is stored and protected on our secure servers from unauthorized use or access. Credit card information is encrypted before transmission and is not stored by us on our servers.
To enable us to deliver our services, we may transfer information that we collect about you, including Personal Data, across borders for storage and processing in countries other than Australia. If your Personal Data is transferred and processed outside Australia, it will only be transferred to countries that have adequate privacy protections.
We retain your personal information for as long as needed to provide services to you and as otherwise necessary to comply with our legal obligations, resolve disputes and enforce our agreements.
In the event there is a breach of our security and your Personal Data is compromised, we will promptly notify you in compliance with the applicable law.
COOKIES AND PIXELS
SHARING YOUR INFORMATION WITH THIRD PARTIES
We do not and will not sell or deal in Personal Data or any customer information.
DISCLOSURE OF YOUR INFORMATION
We may from time to time need to disclose certain information, which may include your Personal Data, to comply with a legal requirement, such as a law, regulation, court order, subpoena, warrant, in the course of a legal proceeding or in response to a law enforcement agency request. Also, we may use your Personal Data to protect the rights, property or safety of https://tna.org.au/, our customers or third parties.
If there is a change of control in one of our businesses (whether by merger, sale, transfer of assets or otherwise) customer information, which may include your Personal Data, could be transferred to a purchaser under a confidentiality agreement. We would only disclose your Personal Data in good faith and where required by any of the above circumstances.
LINKS TO OTHER WEBSITES
Welcome to our website. If you continue to browse and use this website you are agreeing to comply with and be bound by the following disclaimer.
The information contained in this website is for general information purposes only and is provided by Theatre Network Australia (TNA). While we endeavour to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the website or the information, products, services, or related graphics contained on the website for any purpose.
Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk. You need to make your own enquiries to determine if the information or products are appropriate for your intended use. In no event will we be liable for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from loss of data or profits arising out of, or in connection with, the use of this website. Through this website you may be able to link to other websites which are not under the control of TNA. We have no control over the nature, content and availability of those websites. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorse the views expressed within them. Every effort is made to keep the website up and running smoothly. However, TNA takes no responsibility for, and will not be liable for, the website being temporarily unavailable due to technical issues beyond our control.