This coming August marks the quasquicentennial of your Association, the LGAQ.
So what better time to celebrate you, our member councils, and your achievements over the last 125 years as you have worked together, united, in the pursuit of a better deal for your local communities. With that in mind, the theme for this year’s Annual Conference in Mackay in October – the 125th such AGM - will be ‘Together’.
A lot was happening in 1896 when the LGAQ was first formed. Hugh Nelson was the Premier of Queensland and Charles Cochrane- Baillie, 2nd Baron of Lamington was our Governor.
The first-ever modern Summer Olympics were held in Athens, Greece. And, importantly the first-ever Royal Commission of Inquiry - constituted by 21 experts – was held into Queensland councils.
The Inquiry reported back to the Parliament within months, recommending a single unified system for local authorities, effectively bringing the then 34 municipalities and 114 divisions (local roads and works boards) together into one system. It was in response to the Royal Commission and its findings that a group of like-minded local authorities got together in South Brisbane in August of that year to form the Local Authorities Association of Queensland, which is now known as the LGAQ.
Its purpose was to protect the interests of local government. It was constituted a body corporate under the then Local Government Act. Now, I could take you further through the history of the LGAQ, or delve into a treatise of the economies of scope and scale that existed in local government at the time, but lucky for you, I won’t. At least not today.
I did, however, do my scholarly bit and thought about what to me was difficult to reconcile the dichotomy between the rabid individualism of the time in our sector - local government was a voluntary thing back then - and the collectivism the formation of the Association demonstrated. You really need to look beyond the usual political or economic lens we often view things through to understand what drove our founders to create the LGAQ back in 1896, and consider the human element.
The freedom/liberty kick may have been going on since at least the French Revolution, but the human race has always needed to belong to something bigger than ourselves. For the insomniacs among you, a good text that delves into this is Rethinking Individualism and Collectivism: Evaluation of theoretical assumptions and meta-analyses, by Oyserman, Coon, and Kemmelmeier.
As the authors write: “…the body of evidence does make clear the need to include relationality and desire for closeness to other as components of self-concept, well-being, and intergroup relations, whether considering these as part of a single psychology or multiple psychologies”. It makes sense that councils, like all nature of other bodies, need to be mutually reinforced, while still holding their individual community identity dear to their hearts.
Importantly, the light bulb moment for me was the idea that you gain more from collectivism or than you give away in identity. And that has been the case for Queensland councils for 125 years.
It paid to stick together way back then, and it still does today.