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In August 2022, Yarra City Council updated its governance rules following an extensive review and community consultation process.

The updated rules improve transparency in Council decision-making and ensure that council meeting processes are clear and fair for the benefit of both the community and Councillors.

We undertook an extensive review of our governance rules in early 2022 as part of our ongoing commitment to ensuring our decision-making processes are best-practice and contemporary.

The review aimed to ensure our governance rules provide clear guidance on decision-making processes and community participation in council meetings, while importantly maintaining the need for robust councillor debate.

It included the input of Yarra’s Municipal Monitor and Councillors, as well as benchmarking against other metropolitan councils.

The proposed rule changes were released for community feedback in June-July 2022, with 70 items of feedback received.

The updated rules include:

  • Provisions to allow extra time for people requiring additional assistance to speak at council meetings (e.g. people needing the support of a translator)
  • Introducing a process for the receipt of electronic petitions.
  • Clearer language and definitions.
  • Flexibility to enable members of the public to address Council meetings in a way tailored to the specific matter being considered, while ensuring there is a right to be heard on all matters before a decision is made.
  • Removal of provisions which had limited the ability for all Councillors to speak during a debate.
  • Amendments to the speaking times for Councillors and members of the public, to ensure consistency and the efficient running of council meetings, while still providing space for robust questioning and debate.
  • The replacement of the previously complex Points of Order process.

The updated governance rules also make permanent the previously temporary provisions enabling the conduct of electronic Council meetings (which became necessary during the pandemic).

The updated governance rules were adopted by Yarra City Council on Tuesday 23 August 2022. The rules are available to view on our Council Meetings webpage.

About our governance rules

All councils are required to have governance rules in place which set the rules for Council meetings, as well as a number of other governance matters. Yarra City Council’s governance rules were first adopted in August 2020.

Those rules have been in place for all Council meetings since, including online meetings. Online meetings became a necessity during the pandemic and were only made possible through a temporary emergency change to State Government legislation.

Why we needed to change

In August 2022, the emergency provision that allows for online meetings will expire, and all councils must change their governance rules to allow for electronic participation in meetings on a permanent basis.

This required change presented a good opportunity to conduct a wider examination of the operation of Council meetings and a review of governance rules to ensure they support best-practice in community-focussed governance.

A Municipal Monitor was appointed in late 2021 to oversee and guide good governance at Yarra and supported the process of reviewing the governance rules.

How were the changes developed?

The changes were developed by Councillors and senior Council staff with the support and guidance of Yarra’s Municipal Monitor.

A benchmarking exercise was conducted as part of this proposal to compare Yarra’s governance rules against those of neighbouring councils, to allow Yarra Council and the community to consider best- practice.