New neighbourhood pages helping drive community action

New neighbourhood pages helping drive community action
David Schout

Online “neighbourhood portals” for Kensington, North Melbourne and West Melbourne introduced in late 2022 have helped better connect communities, the City of Melbourne has said.

According to the council, new partnerships, place-based community-led actions and resident groups have formed as a result, with examples including the Kensington fresh food market and a North Melbourne resident-led group.

The separate portals, making up three of 10 online hubs that cover each suburb across the municipality, are dedicated spaces to keep up to date with the local area and have a say on its future.

This includes details of upcoming events, construction activity and general news and information.

They were introduced as part of the council’s Neighbourhood Model in 2022 that sought to better understand and work with different communities.

At the February 20 Future Melbourne Committee meeting, councillors backed a motion for a “pulse check” on the Neighbourhood Model, which sought to “measure changes in community perceptions” since the last consultation in 2022.

The council’s health, wellbeing and belonging portfolio chair Cr Dr Olivia Ball said the pulse check represented the “next stage in the evolution of our Neighbourhood Model”.

“We already, of course, have the neighbourhood portals, which are online places where we have two-way interaction between the community and the council,” Cr Dr Ball said.

“And we have this knowledge bank where we are building up that information and drawing conclusions from it, partly with AI.”

“This innovation of what we're calling a pulse check is to retest the validity of the models that we're using so far and to fill the gaps where we know that certain groups in the community are underrepresented, such as young people defined as under the age of 30, local businesses and the full gamut of multicultural communities, to make sure we are hearing their voices in proportion to their presence in the community.”

A report presented to councillors at the meeting stated that the CBD, Carlton, and Docklands pages were the most visited portals, with “high levels of engagement for events and activities posted by community members”.

It conceded that more could be done for engagement in other areas: “While some community members are aware of the portals, there is more work to be done to raise awareness.”

The report revealed that Kensington in particular was a leader in terms of community initiatives.

Eighteen grants of up to $2000 (through the “Connected Neighbourhoods Small Grants” program) had been provided within the suburb, far more than any other (North Melbourne, Carlton and the CBD were the next-highest with six each).

“Kensington has an active community that has been able to mobilise and identify opportunities to utilise small grants,” it stated.

It described the Kensington Fresh Food Market as an example of a partnership that had been “created and enabled through the Neighbourhood Model”.

 

It also noted that a new North Melbourne resident-led group had been formed: “Through a series of visits and meetings with officers and councillors, the relationship between community members and the City of Melbourne has been strengthened”.

 

The council said this was an example of a new group emerging which was “changing the way the City of Melbourne works with community stakeholders”.

As part of the Neighbourhood Model, the council has employed a “partner” for each neighbourhood, who acts as the main point-of-contact on specific issues within the area.

It is hoped that, long-term, the initiative will allow the community to better connect with the council by helping share its ideas for the future.

The City of Melbourne has previously acknowledged that there were vast differences in different suburbs within the municipality (for example, between Kensington and Southbank) and said the “place-based” neighbourhood approach would ensure it could understand and respond to unique communities.

Findings from the pulse check will come back to councillors by June 30.

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