Ever wondered how true to life the ABC TV series Grass Roots was? Who are those people talking about potholes in your local paper? What are the burning local issues that your next state or federal election candidate is spruiking at council meetings?

Every two, three or four weeks, local councils meet across Australia in variously decorated council chambers to decide on everything from where traffic lights should go to developments in your neighbourhood. They are open to the public and unless there is some controversial items on the agenda, often the public gallery is a little on the thin side apart from dedicated council watchers and the reporter from the local paper.

I had only attended one meeting of my local council before being elected to serve on it, and wished I had gone to an awful lot more. Over the last few years, I often encourage people to come along to see how the whole thing works and their feedback is usually that it was utterly fascinating, at least for the first hour or so.

Local councillors are generally paid a pittance and do their council work around family and work commitments. Councils aren’t covered by mainstream papers, unless something goes terribly awry, so the more people going along and being part of the process, the better local democracy will function.

The terrible floods have highlighted the valuable knowledge and expertise that councils have about their regions. Those tired looking mayors and councillors that you have seen on the news are in every neighbourhood. So go along and get to know them!

The details: Check the website of your local council for sitting times. Sessions are freely open to the public.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey