The empowering potential of community organising in Australia: A regional city case study

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Building liveable cities that are just and sustainable depends heavily on the transformative potential of empowered communities. Community organising is one empowerment strategy that is resurging in many countries. Broadly speaking, it refers to the coordinated efforts of residents to collectively empower themselves to advance their socio-cultural, political, economic and environmental needs and interests. The articulation of a body of community organising theory and practice emerged from the US civil rights movement in the 1960s, especially through the work of Saul Alinksy. However, community organising has attracted limited and belated interest in Australia, most notably through the Sydney Alliance project in recent years. This case study contributes to the embryonic Australian scholarship in this field. It examines the possibilities and challenges of community organising experienced by a grassroots community building organisation based in disadvantaged neighbourhoods of the regional city of Albury-Wodonga. Interview and autoethnographic data from participants is analysed to convey the lived experience and wider implications of the under-development of community organising in Australia. The paper finds that while government and NGO support for community organising in the US and the UK, for example, have been pivotal features of prominent democratisation and community renewal initiatives, there is no similarly systematic approach to community organising across Australia as yet. This case study suggests that the neglect of community organising in Australia is sapping the appetite and capacity of many residents who wish to help build socially and ecologically just cities, independently or collaboratively with government and non-government agencies. On the other hand, the Albury-Wodonga experience indicates the significant impact that modest public investment in community organising can produce. It is contended that public investment in relevant education, skills, resources and partnerships warrants closer consideration as a possible pathway to more community-driven liveable cities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication12th Liveable cities conference proceedings
Place of PublicationNerang, Qld
PublisherAssociation for Sustainability in Business Inc.
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781922232748
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sept 2019
EventLiveable Cities Conference: 2020 and Beyond - Leadership in healthy and connected global communities and regions - Adelaide Convention Centre, Adelaide, Australia
Duration: 12 Aug 201913 Aug 2019
Conference number: 12th (proceedings)


ConferenceLiveable Cities Conference
Internet address


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