Background Research and statistics on safety and injury in Australia are readily available as they are routinely collected and collated by government authorities, academics and other professionals; however obtaining local perception data proves more challenging. Perception data paints a vital picture of safety in a community, as people’s perceptions drive their actions. Cardinia Shire Council is working towards designation as an International Safe Community, and understanding community perceptions is critical in establishing the strategic direction to improving safety and reducing injury.
Methods A comprehensive consultation process was created, focussing on inclusion of the most commonly hard to reach groups such as kindergarten children, non-English speaking residents, gay, lesbian and transgender people, disengaged youth and farmers. Deviating from traditional consultation methods, a range of creative activities were developed including youth debates, storytelling and colouring-in, photo-language, visual art sessions and world cafes, each aimed at increasing participation and generating deeper thoughts and feelings.
Results By altering normal processes, and providing creative alternative methods aimed at the most hard to reach, a far greater number of the population were engaged, representative of the full diversity within the community. Information gathered was then used in conjunction with existing research and data to develop a set of priority areas which will help to create a safer community.
Conclusions Standard consultation activities aren’t always suitable for every occasion. Hard to reach groups within the community need a fresh and creative approach in order to add value to any community engagement process. Local Government must place value on genuine consultation with all sectors of the community, and be open to adjusting normal consultation processes.
- Local Government