Weekly Speak CEO Column
A lobbying success story
With Acting CEO Glen Beckett
It was immensely satisfying to see the Palaszczuk Government’s announcement this week detailing its funding boost to the successful First Five Forever child literacy program run out of Queensland libraries.
During the last state election campaign, the LGAQ pushed hard for First Five Forever to get some attention from the major parties. We knew ongoing funding for a program that brought so much value to local communities was something worth fighting for. And we had a win.
In the scheme of things and amidst the usual election promises of more nurses and teachers and big “congestion busting” infrastructure projects, our push for this program to get $20 million over four years might have gone under the radar.
But the LGAQ argued in its 10-point State Election Plan that the First Five Forever had attracted more than a million participants to libraries and library-coordinated outreach programs across the state, and should be continued beyond 2018.
In a campaign that drew considerable media attention, we reminded the parties contesting the election that up to 90 percent of a child’s brain development occurs in the first five years and literary skills are a key predictor of academic potential.
We warned that poor health and social outcomes in later life are also associated with underdeveloped literacy skills.
But we said that council libraries are strategically placed to deliver early learning and family literacy services and that these facilities were answering the call to action to improve family literacy on a scale never seen before.
After all, libraries have the potential to reach 98 percent of the population, especially babies and children under five years and their families at a critical time in their development.
Councils and, more importantly, their communities are now enjoying the benefits that the continuation of this program delivers.
As an example of political lobbying, the First Five Forever campaign ticked a lot of boxes.
It involved a definite objective in that we were after a simple commitment from whoever won the election to provide $20 million over four years.
It was obviously relevant to the primary role of councils to serve their local communities and was a great example of local and state government working in partnership together to deliver vital policy outcomes.
It was backed by credible research showing the economic and community benefits of a continued commitment to the program.
It was endorsed by a non-council entity, the State Library of Queensland, as a worthy objective to pursue.
And it had obvious political cut-through. All parties would want to be associated with helping to improve kids’ reading.
The LGAQ identified these elements early and ensured First Five Forever held a prominent and sustained position in its campaign strategy going into the state election.
Another example of quiet but effective advocacy was our work with Trade and Investment Queensland to help ensure the Government understood and appreciated the role that councils play in attracting foreign investment into regional parts of the state.
We will be taking a similar approach to promoting other policy proposals on behalf of our members in the run up to next state election in October, 2020. Watch this space.
Go here to learn more about the First Five Forever program:
Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006
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