Forty people will represent the residents of the Shire on the Hepburn Together Community Panel. The 40 representatives were selected from almost 200 expressions of interest.

Mayor, Cr Lesley Hewitt, said Council was impressed by the enthusiasm and interest from people to join the panel to help to guide the direction of the ten-year Community Vision and four-year Council Plan.

“This demonstrates, once again, that our community has a strong desire to get involved and help to inform Council decision making,” said Mayor Hewitt. “We understand that other shires, including much larger ones, have not had such interest. We really appreciate the effort that people have made, and we thank all 193 people who applied to join the panel.”

Under the newly adopted Community Engagement Policy, Council has committed to using best practise deliberative engagement strategies, including a community panels, for key projects.

“The Hepburn Together Community Panel is, to the best of our ability, a true reflection of the Shire’s population,” said Mayor Hewitt. “We selected panel members randomly based on age groups, ward, gender and key demographics such as those who are parents, have English as a second language, identify as LGBTQIA+, live with a disability, and more. This means we will hear from a group of people who directly reflect the make up of our community and who have a diversity of views. This will help us to produce a Community Vision and Council Plan that reflects community sentiment,” she said.

The panel has a mix of representatives, some recruited by letters to a random sample in the Shire, some by text and email (12) and some self-nominated applicants (16). This was very clearly the community’s preference in the first phase of engagement for the project.

Panel members will participate in three facilitated sessions in April. Feedback from the panel and the results from the community survey on local priorities will inform the Community Vision and Council Plan, which are required under the new Local Government Act (2020).