The Canberra Forum brought together a randomly selected group of constituents that was broadly representative of Canberra’s community to more deeply understand the issues that concerned them.

For some time, Alicia Payne Member for Canberra had been surveying her community to identify the topics that were important to them, but this survey did not assist her in understanding their perspective on these topics, why they were important or what sort of action they would like her to take on them. The Canberra Forum was initially tasked with identifying the topics that were important to them – focussing in on climate change, affordable housing and raising the voice of citizens in the system of government.

They then dove deeply into the topic of affordable housing and provided Alicia with a report about their vision and reflections on affordable housing which will be released imminently.  However, the benefits and outcomes of the Canberra Forum were so much greater than the report.

Participants reported that the process:

  • Improved their respect and trust in Alicia
  • Was a meaningful experience for them
  • Improved their political agency,  and
  • Could only assist in improving democracy.

“Very enjoyable, it confirmed my belief in the power of communal decision making. … I gained greater respect for the work and workload of MPs and Ministers.”


Alicia, also identified a number of benefits to her, in her role an elected representative:

  • Enabled a positive and constructive conversation with her electorate about policy issues – the big things that matter.
  • Connecting with people who don’t normally reach out to her.
  • More deeply understanding where her community can agree.
  • Demonstrating her commitment to listening and interest in deliberative democracy.
  • Building her personal profile and understanding of her role

Our trial work in Canberra and time working with Alicia, allowed us to unpack how best to use deliberative democratic practice in the context of our system of representative democracy. We trialled many different approaches, explored what worked and what didn’t and spent time with Alicia developing methods that would best assist her in our role as an elected representative. This work led to the development of the People’s House suite of methods.


“I recall Alicia’s opening statement that she hears only from interest groups who have a policy to sell, not from regular citizens who have a more balanced slate of interests and priorities – hearing more from the latter can only add maturity to our polity.”