Petitioning for Change
Updated: Nov 9, 2021
Organising a petition to submit to the City of Boroondara can be an effective way for council to hear from the community, as well as facilitate local change.
A petition is a collection of signatures supporting a formal request for a particular cause made to a regulatory body or authority. There are a number of guidelines to create a petition for the City of Boroondara. The petition must be; typed or written legibly in ink, relate to matters in council’s control or can be advocated by council to other levels of government, include name, address and signature of all signatories, and outline the request and expected action. Council offers a petition template or alternative resources like change.org provide online petitions to be completely accessed and signed online. Final petitions can then be submitted to council via email, mail, fax, or in person.
This year, as of October 2021, 17 petitions have been presented at council meetings. Ranging from heritage protection to safer public spaces, most petitions were initiated from local concerns or observations.
Riversdale local, Kirsten Paulsen petitioned for “safer opportunities for pedestrians crossing in Auburn Road, specifically the intersection of Auburn Road and Bowler/Urquhart Street” after realising she “wasn’t the only person who felt safety could be improved here”. Glenferrie local, Emily Lile petitioned for “safer pedestrian crossings at the intersection of Glenferrie Road and Oxley/Manningtree Road” due to safety concerns for her children, who attend the nearby Glenferrie Primary School. Emily was inspired by hearing about another local petition and starting one online through change.org “made the process quite easy”.
Spreading the word is the most important element to ensure a high number of signatures. Emily notes that a “QR code makes it really easy now [that] everyone knows how to use one”, being the same technology used for Service Victoria’s COVID check-ins. For Kirsten’s petition, she displayed posters around the Auburn Road and Bowler/Urquhart Street area with QR codes that linked to the change.org petition as well as having “500 flyers printed and personally dropped ... into mailboxes in the area”.
Simon Gannon on the other hand had his petition to ‘Save Rocket Park’ picked up by major state news networks, spreading the word outside of the local area. The ‘Save Rocket Park’ petition from February 2021, called for council to keep the historical rocket located at Central Gardens after a playground upgrade called for its removal. After a huge campaign, reaching out to news outlets and local representatives, the petition was presented to council in March with over 11,000 signatures. By June, council announced the rocket would remain.
If a petition is submitted to council with fewer than 20 signatures, the most appropriate council officer then considers the issue raised and a written response is sent to the petition organiser. If a petition is submitted with over 20 signatures, the contact details of the appropriate council officer is provided to the petition organiser, the petition is presented at a council meeting, any actions taken are included in the quarterly report to council, and a letter from the Mayor or responsible council director is provided to the organiser. Emily’s petition, which reached 117 signatures and was presented to council in July 2021, has been referred to the Director Places & Spaces. Emily feels she “achieved my goal of getting it reviewed”.
A report was done into safer crossing at Auburn Road in 2013, with no change made, but “due to the age of the report, I thought it was worthwhile to pick this up with Susan Biggar [Riversdale Ward Councillor] when she was elected” explains Kristen. In February 2021, her petition was submitted with 220 signatures, and in June council submitted a proposal for a refuge island, at the location of concern, to the Department of Transport. No matter how small the issue or if it has been considered in the past, Kristen expressed that petitions “could bring the voice of the community to the attention of council... to make change”.