Cowper Residents Find A Voice through kitchen conversations

Sharing views around the kitchen table. Photo: supplied.


WHILE the mass media focuses on national and state issues such as climate change and COVID-19 responses, a dedicated group of people have been listening to the everyday concerns of Cowper voters.

The Voices 4 Cowper steering committee have been holding ‘kitchen table conversations’ in Bellingen, Coffs Harbour, Dorrigo, Urunga, Port Macquarie and Valla Beach for the past eighteen months.

Voices 4 Cowper aims to establish a meaningful connection between the people of Cowper and local politicians and aspiring politicians so that the wishes of Cowper residents are clearly understood by those making decisions for them.

The model has had success in the Federal electorates of Indi (Victoria) and Warringah (New South Wales) in persuading voters to elect candidates who represent the wishes of the electorates.

Kitchen table conversations are a means by which opinions are gathered, and provide a safe, respectful environment to express their views.

The conversations are designed to provide an insight to the wide range of opinions in the community, so participants listen to each other, rather than argue or debate.

Each conversation includes the host, a facilitator and a scribe and four to six community members.

The conversations last for approximately one and a half hours and are responses to a set of questions asked by the facilitator, who also ensures that all views are heard equally.

Participants are asked about what they like about where they live and what is important to them.

The conversations then move to discussions about how they can connect with and be heard by their local member and what is important to them locally and nationally.

Gillian Anderson, the convenor of Voices 4 Cowper in Bellingen said, “We aim to get a balance of gender and age so that we obtain a diversity of views.”

She added that the steering committee was trying to access as many levels of the community as possible.

This includes the voices of young people and Indigenous community members.

Voices 4 Cowper intend to collate their responses into a report which will be available by the middle of May to the community, politicians and other interested parties.

For more information and to become involved, go to


By Andrew VIVIAN

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