On Preston Leader, Melbourne by Julia Irwin

ADDRESSING disadvantage was a priority for Dare- bin’s first citizens’ jury when it delivered its verdict on how to spend $2 million from the city’s budget.

Darebin is believed to be the first council in Victoria to introduce participatory budgeting, which gives resi- dents decision-making power over how capital- works money is spent in their neighbourhoods over the next two years.

As part of its recommen- dations, the 31-member jury proposed allocating $865,000 towards establishing a new neighbourhood house in the Preston East area, $300,000 for exercise equipment in Darebin parks, and $300,000 towards multipurpose sports courts.

Juror Tim Carrigg, from Fairfield, said members were keen to contribute in a way that addressed disad- vantage in Darebin, a city in which one in four residents lived at, or below, the pov- erty line.

“We decided to allocate the biggest proportion of funding to a facility in Pres- ton East, because this is one of Darebin’s lower socio- economic areas and there is a demonstrated need,” Mr Carrigg said.

“A neighbourhood house would provide access to all groups, services people in the area, and provides value for money.”

The jury also proposed spending $100,000 on a pop- up piazza kit for use at com- munity events, $100,000 to $400,000 to make All Nations Park’s hilltop more user- friendly, $30,000 towards up- grading KP Hardiman Reserve in Reservoir, and $30,000 for a bike path to Croxton School, in Thorn- bury.

Jury member Julie Cal- vert, from Fairfield, said she hoped the council would use the participatory budgeting model again.

“It’s a really valuable way the council can demonstrate commitment to commun- ity,” Ms Calvert said.

Darebin Mayor Gaetano Greco said involving resi- dents in decision making would help the council re- spond to community needs.

“Some of the best ideas come from the community that we serve,” Cr Greco said.

The council will vote on the recommendations at a meeting on September 15.