Last week, it was my honour and privilege to speak at the launch of the City of Sydney's draft Social Sustainability Policy, "A City for All."
This draft is the culmination of months of consultation and now opens the policy up to feedback from all members of the community. This opportunity reflects one of the key pillars of the policy - Engaged City - with its emphasis on transparent decision-making, public participation and civic skills. It was this pillar that I focused my remarks on.
Civic participation is not just a meaningful end in itself, it strengthens many of the other principles and priorities expressed in the plan. If Sydney is to be an inclusive, equal, resilient and vibrant city, if it is to be a place where everyone has the chance to fulfil their potential, it is going to be democratic participation that creates and defends all these goals.
Without participation, a city, a society, becomes brittle. Decision-makers become too far removed from the affects of their decisions, the feedback loop is slowed, distorted, lost. Without our participation decisions risk becoming opaque, narrow and self-serving.
So it becomes a key role for progressive government to foster and support this participation, and create numerous and diverse pathways for numerous and diverse people to participate in their decision-making and in the cultural and civic life of the city. Other policies may be the interest of just a single government, gone when the government itself changes, but increase civic participation through concrete initiatives and investment and you can change the system and the culture that produces those policies, making the city more responsive, resilient and culturally rich. That's a change that can last a lifetime.
The Lord Mayor herself seemed to agree with the sentiment:
So, speaking of civic participation, if you care about the future of Sydney now's your chance to have your say! You can join the conversation using the hasthag #Sydney4All, email your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment via www.sydneyyoursay.com.au, which is also where you can find the draft policy.