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Community Governance in Rural Victoria: Rethinking Grassroots Democracy?

Rural Society
Volume 16 Issue 3 (2006)

Abstract: The development of local community associations in small rural towns in Victoria has engendered a sense of local self-governing that can be described as a shift from government to governance. This 'more flexible' approach extends beyond government, and the place of its agencies, to a greater sharing of power between the state, the market and civil society via new network and partnership structures. The question arises whether community networks and partnerships bring with them a new sense of democracy as well. The paper begins with a discussion of governance, its relationship to two democratic frameworks - liberal minimalism (or representative governance) and associationalism - and the implications for democracy in community governance. Focusing on three internal factors (accountability of the leadership, inclusiveness and the scope of responsibility), and two external factors (relationships to the state and types of relationships with other groups), the paper then explores the ways that community governance has been adopted in rural Victoria using in-depth interviews and a survey of community groups in 35 small rural towns. The ensuing discussion argues that while these community associations may be involved in forms of associational democracy, there is still some doubt about the inclusiveness of their membership and the extent to which their advocacy represents all sections of their communities. The paper then concludes by suggesting that representative and associational forms of democracy need not be seen as opposites but as a more enhanced form of local governance.

To cite this article: O'Toole, Kevin. Community Governance in Rural Victoria: Rethinking Grassroots Democracy? [online]. Rural Society, Vol. 16, No. 3, 2006: 303-319. Availability: <;dn=354882977796842;res=IELHSS> ISSN: 1037-1656. [cited 06 Oct 15].

Personal Author: O'Toole, Kevin; Source: Rural Society, Vol. 16, No. 3, 2006: 303-319 Document Type: Journal Article ISSN: 1037-1656 Subject: Local government; Community development; Rural development; Community organization; Municipal services; Municipal government; Local government--Citizen participation; Peer Reviewed: Yes Affiliation: (1) Associate Professor, School of International and Political Studies, Warrnambool Campus, Deakin University

Database: Humanities & Social Sciences Collection