There has been much (electronic) ink spilled and much opinion shared about what is happening in and around the church grounds and some misunderstanding of what steps are being taken or not being taken with regards to addressing security concerns at St John’s and for the Court.
St John’s is part of the wider Anglican Church, particularly this Diocese of Islands and Inlets – which means we have processes to follow, and cannot make decisions that will irrevocably alter the nature of the church and its environs without following those processes. The Land upon which we are situated is owned in trust by the Bishop on behalf of the Diocese so that finally the decision comes to them (usually, though not always, delegated to the Finance Committee and Diocesan Council, and having to pass through their hands in any case).
A decision that affects the wider community of the church and the neighbourhood also has to go through a meeting of both the Court Society and the Parishioners. Fortunately both are the same body, as membership in St John's (usually taken to mean attendance and/or connection through our mailing list) is membership of the Court Society.
We are awaiting a ruling as to whether such a meeting can be legally binding if it takes place via electronic means rather than a physical gathering.
Since particular concerns were raised by residents, the Parish Council has addressed them at every meeting and at extra meetings in between our regular meetings. Here's where we are so far:
All of this has been done with advice from two different CPTED consultants, one who works for VicPD and trains the other CPTED consultant officers from the reserve constables, one who has consulted worldwide on these issues.
We have also been recommended work to do that connects us to local community groups and we are considering commissioning a full CPTED consultation which will work to both ameliorate criminal and anti-social behaviour, and to make our grounds better and more usable to the community of the church and court.
All of this has been done so far.
We have also had two security consultations, made up of court and church representatives, who came out with many different possibilities and recommendations and an incremental approach that allowed us to make changes to the garden areas that we could assess as they were implemented. The idea of a fence is only one of those ideas, and is at the end of the process, not the beginning. The reasons for this are that though a fence seems like a simple solution, there are concerns about the efficacy of such an endeavour, the danger of creating an ‘anonymous zone’ which will increase rather than decrease nuisance, and that the consequences of building a fence could be far reaching and damaging to our work beyond our own community. Such a change to the identity of our community cannot be undertaken lightly, nor can we do so without the endorsement of our landlords, the Diocese.
I hope we will continue to consult with those who do have a broader picture, and PC will be discussing the offer of Steve Woolrich, from ReThink Urban, CPTED consultants, to undertake a full process of community engagement in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile work is being done already on the garden and grounds and I am very grateful to Andrew Gates and Graeme Brown who have been so diligent in researching and acting on the requests of PC along with the Property Group of St John’s.
If we did get to the point of needing a Parish meeting:
This is just the bare bones of the process, and a glimpse at the work that has been done by many people in addressing this situation. As with so much of the work that goes on in our church community - pastoral, liturgical, administrative - so much is unseen and we generally only see the end product rather than all the effort that has brought it about. Please recognise that the whole community is concerned that these needs for all of our community are addressed thoughtfully, effectively, compassionately.
We will keep the community informed of progress and changes to be made as they occur. We recognise that feelings are strong where the well-being of the community is concerned, and those of us in leadership do care, we are acting, and we are working towards what we hope will be an equitable, secure, sustainable, and gracious end to this process.