The Kensington Association – “taking stock”
From time to time any organisation needs to undertake some kind of appraisal of its operations, even to the extent of reflecting on the reason for its existence.
As current chairperson of the Kensington Association (KA) coming to the end of my term “in office”, I reflect on the demise of our sister organisation, the Flemington Association. I’m also reflecting (more personally than organisationally) on the operation and purpose of the KA.
I know the City of Melbourne (CoM) “needs” us (and other such associations) because we are an important (but not the only) conduit between the elected council and the community.
The CoM needs to consult – and to be seen to consult – with the community. Given that, I ask, how effectively does KA “represent” the community of Kensington?
Interestingly, connections and communication with the CoM have been significantly enhanced (following COVID) by the funding of “neighbourhood partners” (currently Melanie Del Monaco for Kensington), and the establishment of the online Kensington Portal.
Melanie is employed by the CoM, and her task is to support the development of community-led initiatives and help build stronger connections between local community and CoM, ensuring information flows in both directions.
Given those “enhancements”, I ask, has the role of KA shifted? We know there is a difference between “online” or “digital” communication channels and “in person” communication; this also applies to communication between KA and the community.
There’s a big question relevant to KA and to other community organisations, and that is: to what extent is it reasonable (sensible, strategic) for governments to rely on volunteers to keep communities vibrant and connected?
The answer is, of course, they can’t go too far, so the question becomes, where do they “draw the line” between paying someone to do a job and expecting (relying on) volunteers?
The most recent edition of Flem-Ken News (FKN) highlighted the contribution of volunteers following National Volunteer Week in May.
Clearly volunteers are widely admired and recognised, and occasionally there are real community heroes who battle on with minimal recognition and keep their organisation or service ticking over. But I’m not one of those, and the Flemington Association (FA) couldn’t find one.
Given the FA demise an obvious question is, did (or has) Moonee Valley become too complacent about the capacity and resilience of their volunteer community? Was there a level of support that was lacking?
The KA is not “on its last legs”, but we are questioning what we do well, what we can do better, where we need support, and what are our skill deficits?
Here are some more specific questions we are asking …
Do we need to change our constitution? How often should we have “general meetings” as opposed to “executive meetings”? Should meetings be online or in person? Given most of our active members are “older”, how can we involve “younger” people? How can we improve connection with CoM and with the Kensington community? How can we better support renters as opposed to property-owners? How can we be proactive as opposed to reactive?
We are not dependent on any one person, but we are dependent on the quality of our community connections, which ultimately correlates with the level of community involvement. How fortunate we are to have North West City News, together with the FKN, to help with those connections!
Over the next two months prior to our AGM on September 4, we will be more closely confronting these questions, and welcome any community input. •