What is a consultation?
Consultations are arranged by the Commission to help us understand different views about, and experiences of, the law by talking and listening to people. This information, along with written submissions and research is used to write our reports and develop recommendations.
For group consultations, we invite people who have similar interests or who have raised similar issues about a reference the Commission is working on.
At consultation meetings we raise issues for discussion and take notes of views expressed. We hold consultation meetings at our offices in Melbourne, as well as in suburban, rural and regional locations.
What happens at a consultation?
At a consultation participants can expand on issues that they have raised in a written submission, or simply discuss issues instead of making a written submission. We usually provide some written material in advance, including a list of questions to discuss, but it is mainly an opportunity for participants to make their views and opinions on the subject known to us. Meetings are not highly structured and discussion is often wide-ranging.
The meeting convenor, who may be the Commission Chairperson, CEO or a Team Leader, will start the meeting by:
- introducing the people attending
- outlining the purpose of the consultation
- explaining that we will be taking notes to help with report writing
- checking whether participants are happy for comments made at the meeting to be attributed to them in our report.
We often give a brief presentation on the issues we would like to cover before opening the floor to discussion.
What are consultation notes?
We take notes of consultations to help us accurately record participants’ views and opinions. These notes are a summary of issues raised at a meeting. They are NOT a comprehensive transcript of proceedings.
The notes may be written or typed at the time of the meeting or prepared after the meeting from an audio recording. If an audio recording is made we destroy the recording after we have completed the consultation notes. We do not produce transcripts of the recordings.
We send a draft copy of the notes to participants to check for accuracy. The draft may be sent to individual participants or, for a larger meeting, may be sent to the convenor or organiser of the meeting for further distribution at their discretion. Participants have seven days to provide their comments on the draft notes and if no comments have been received within this time, the notes are deemed to be an accurate record. Comments received will be reviewed by the Commission and the notes amended as appropriate. We keep only the final version of the consultation notes, and send a copy to participants.
How are consultation notes used?
We use consultation notes to assist us in writing our reports and to remind us of the views and opinions expressed by participants.
Consultations are intended to explore, develop and exchange ideas through discussion. To test consultation questions and reform options, we encourage participants to engage in full and frank discussion. We do not make the notes available publicly or to anyone who was not at the meeting. However, we may be required to provide access to some or all of the notes if a member of the public makes a request under Freedom of Information legislation. Any such request will be determined in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic), which has provisions designed to protect personal information and information given in confidence. Further information can be found at http://www.foi.vic.gov.au.
While we do not publish consultation notes we are committed to openness and transparency in our processes and therefore seek to provide as much detail as possible about who we have consulted with.
In our final reports we list the consultation meetings we have undertaken and identify participants in one of the following ways:
- listing participants by name
- listing only the organisation that a participant is representing
- using a single general description of the participants
- listing the consultation as confidential with no details of participants.
We may also refer to the views and opinions expressed in consultation meetings in the text of our reports, and will generally attribute these to participants with the same level of identification as we have used in the consultation participant list.
Participants are asked to decide at the consultation meeting what level of identification they prefer. This information can also be provided to us in response to the draft consultation notes when these are distributed. Our practice is to list participants names unless we receive a specific request to provide a greater degree of confidentiality.