The following information has been prepared to assist residents and organisations who wish to present a petition to Council.
Any letter signed by more than 12 persons falls within the definition of a joint-letter. There are times when a large number of people have signed the letter believing that they are presenting a petition.
It is important that individuals who record their details on a petition are fully aware of the following:
In complying with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 (Vic), Council advises that personal information provided as part of the petition will only be used for the primary purpose for which it was provided – that is, to consider the petition.
As part of Council’s operations, any document incorporated into a Council agenda must be made publically available, including any petitions which are tabled.
“A petition is defined as a formal written application, typed or printed without erasure, signed by at least 12 people, whose names and physical addresses also appear and on which each page of the petition bears the wording of the whole petition.”
"A joint letter is a letter signed by not less than 12 persons of separate addresses, that attempts to influence the Council's decision-making or actions."
An example of the introductory wording and format (including table) of a petition may include:
To the Mayor and Councillors of the City of Whitehorse
We the undersigned, being residents and ratepayers of the City of Whitehorse, request the Council to ……… (insert details here of what you want Council to do)
NOTE: Each page of the petition must have exact same introductory wording and format.
Clause 54 of Council’s Governance Rules, specifically provides that:
- 54.3 Every petition or joint letter presented to Council must be in writing (other than pencil), typing or printing, contain the request of the petitioners or signatories and must be signed by at least 12 people.
- 54.4 Every petition or joint letter must be signed by the persons whose names are appended to it by their names or marks, and, except in cases of incapacity or sickness, by no one less and the address of every petitioner or signatory must be clearly stated.
- 54.5 Any signature appearing on a page which does not bear the text of the whole of the petition or request may not be considered by Council.
- 54.6 Every page of a petition or joint letter must be a single page or paper and not be posted, stapled, pinned or otherwise affixed or attached to any piece of paper other than another page of the petition or joint letter.
- 54.7 If a petition or joint letter relates to an operational matter, Council must refer it to the Chief Executive Officer for consideration.
- 54.8 Council may admit and consider a petition which is not fully compliant subject to a resolution of Council to allow such consideration.
- 54.9 Council may consider electronic petitions similar to the procedure applying to State Government.
A petition should not relate to a matter beyond the powers of the Council and must not be defamatory, indecent, abusive or objectionable in language or substance.
Also importantly, unless Council determines to consider it as an item of urgent business, no motion (other than a motion to receive the same) maybe made on any petition or joint letter until the next Council meeting after that at which it has been presented.
How Does Council Handle Petitions?
- Any Councillor may lay a petition before Council and request that the petition be received. The petition is then received by resolution and referred to the appropriate officer for action and/or report to a future meeting of Council.
- The Council may, however, determine by resolution of those present that the matter contained in the petition is urgent and should be dealt with at the meeting at which it is presented (i) Where a petition is received through the mail, the Corporate Information Officer will determine whether the document is a petition and ensure that if it is, the petition is listed on the agenda for the next Council meeting, under the agenda item “No. 7 Petitions”.
- Signatures on petitions are checked for validity and duplication of names prior to the petition being presented.
- Every petition, whether presented via the Council Meeting or received in the mail, will be acknowledged as soon as possibly a reply to the persons lodging the petition, or the first named person on the petition if no indication is given as to who initiated the petition. The acknowledgement will include the name of the officer handling the matter and his/her telephone number. The appropriate officer will, at the conclusion of the investigation, advise the outcome of the investigation, advise the outcome of the petition to the same person who received the acknowledgement letter.
What Does Council Do When It Receives a Joint Letter?
- A letter of objection received through the mail is dealt with in the same manner as any other item of correspondence and referred direct to the appropriate officer for action and/or report.
- Where appropriate, a summary of the letter (or objection) is included in the Officer’s Report to the relevant meeting.
- The first named signature of the letter shall be the person who will receive a response from Council on behalf of the other persons named in the letter.