The case of CSG projects in Northern Rivers having their licenses cancelled by the NSW Government in 2015, and the case of the Inner Eastern section of the East West Link major road project in Melbourne being cancelled in 2014 by the Victorian Government after construction had commenced, are both exceptional examples of major turnarounds in public policy positions by State Governments in Australia in relation to major projects. In both of these cases, the role of local communities and local governments in influencing the change in position was paramount.

In a time when it is well accepted that public participation is theoretical best practice for public policy decision-making, it is too often not undertaken or ‘tokenistic’ – not enabling the public influence over the most critical aspects of the policies. These case studies are both examples where local communities demanded influence over the most substantive aspect of the governments’ decisions – the option of saying no to major projects that would have massive impacts on their communities. In both cases Local Governments played important roles in advocating for their communities and helping to bring about the outcome they desired.

As the level of government closest to the people, local governments hold massive potential to help to realise many of the ideals of best practice public participation in Government decision-making, and yet their ability to do so is often limited by a number of factors. In these case studies local governments were able to play an instrumental role in advocating for their communities’ rights; how were they able to achieve this? And yet these achievements came at great effort and great cost to local people, what limited local governments from playing their role as local representatives even more effectively? 

Advisors: Prof Karen Hussey, Dr Karen McNamara, Dr Katherine Daniell


Project members

Sarah De Vries


PhD candidate