Communities can face a number of barriers that make engagement with government inaccessible or unappealing, particularly young people and the disadvantaged.

Incorrect assumptions about how people best participate in engagement can create significant barriers to engagement, such as:

  • apathy towards  government or a particular issue (attitudinal)
  • a previous negative experience of engagement
  • consultation fatigue.

Other biopsychosocial factors that could deter individuals from engaging include:

lack of confidencelanguage barriers
lack of moneyage barriers
lack of knowledge of rightslack of social support
mental or physical health issuestime constraints
lack of literacy or numeracy skillslack of transport
physical or intellectual disabilityhomelessness or without a stable physical location
issues related to gender, sexuality, or racecaring responsibilities and /or work commitments

Making your process inclusive

Consider the following factors:

  • What day and time works best for your targeted audience?

  • Provide as many options as possible for people to get involved.
  • Include innovative engagement methods as this will help participants find the one that suits them best e.g. a small group conversation over coffee, online conversations via social media tools, etc.
  • Go to people instead of asking them to come to you. Be it Twitter or a shopping centre, if they are comfortable, the quality of what’s provided is likely to be better.
  • Ensure there are multiple engagement platforms available for participation.

English is not everyone’s first language.

  • Do you need some assistance with translating your communication materials?
  • Do you need to provide interpreters at your event(s)?

For further information, visit the Translate website.

  • Make the environment you are engaging in as accessible and comfortable as possible.
  • Think about how people will get to the venue and the transport arrangements available, particularly in regional areas
  • Make sure the venue is as welcoming as possible. Provide refreshments where possible, particularly if your event is during a mealtime.

Choose venues that are as accessible as possible no matter what the individuals’ needs are:

  • Are there transport links available for people with a disability?
  • Are there accessible ramps for wheelchairs or families with prams?
  • Are there accessible toilets available at the venue?

Use facilitation tools that are engaging and welcoming. Traditional Town Hall style meetings don’t fall into this category because they:

  • could be confronting.
  • promote negativity and combative debate.
  • could be highly exclusive, as most people don’t feel comfortable stating their views to a large combative audience.
  • don’t get the best outcomes for the engagement process.
  • tend to undermine considered and balanced discussion and divide people in a defensive way.
  • are not conducive to building trusting relationships or effective engagement processes.

People leave Town Hall Meetings feeling unfulfilled, most often not heard and negative.

Reflect on whether there are any cultural challenges in your proposed engagement methodology.

  • Ask the community where and how they would like to be engaged to ensure that the process works for them.
  • Research the demographics of the affected communities and tailor your engagement strategy accordingly.
  • Consider if you need an interpreter or translated communications materials.
  • Talk to your local council to develop a profile of the communities you will be engaging.

Multicultural Affairs provides summary information on the age, cultural, language and religious backgrounds of each Council area based on the most recent Census data.

Think about the diversity of age and learning styles by using a range of visual, tactile and verbal communication tools to ensure they are accessible for different cohorts.

  • Write your communication materials at the appropriate level of literacy and numeracy for your audience. If you are engaging children or young people, write and speak in a language that is easy to understand for that age group.
  • Test your communication materials with a focus group if you need to.

An Inclusive Engagement PDF fact sheet (PDF, 98KB) is available for download.

These Guidelines for portraying people with a disability (PDF, 114KB) will help you with inclusive language for people with a disability.

See also the Engaging hard-to-reach groups and individuals page to learn more about how to make your engagement process inclusive.