News and resources

CiVic - Issue 11 - Summer 2015


Index of accessible version

President's report

By Bill McArthur, MAV President

Welcome to the Summer edition of CiVic Magazine. It’s been a busy few months at the MAV and in local government, with a range of important announcements for the sector, and reviews taking place before the year’s end.

This month the Local Government Amendment (Fair Go Rates) Bill was passed in Victorian Parliament without amendment.

The Minister is required to set the cap in December after consultation with the Essential Services Commission (ESC) and take into account the State Treasury CPI forecast due to be provided by the year’s end.

We know there will be a number of councils, particularly in rural Victoria, that will find rate capping very difficult. It will have a significant impact on their communities unless the State Government provides them with additional funding, or the process of making a case to the ESC to go above the cap becomes a realistic option for councils.

The consequences of the implementation of a rate capping model will be discussed at length at the next meeting of our Rate Capping Taskforce in early 2016. We will closely monitor the impact of rate capping and we encourage councils to be open and honest with communities regarding the consequences that rate capping will have on the level and quality of services.

We distributed our annual media rates package which gave sector-wide insight into local government rates for 2015/16. It was pleasing to see the average rate increase was 3.8 per cent, a reduction since last year (4.2 per cent), and the lowest in 10 years.

The data helps to position councils’ budget constraints in the media, and most importantly, in context. We received widespread media coverage across print, radio and broadcast mediums. Councils have clearly worked hard this year to keep rates affordable, while still providing and maintaining more than 100 community services. Councils statewide have faced external funding pressures including the $139 million indexation freeze to the Federal Financial Assistance Grants, but have still managed to find the right balance between rate increases and services offered.

We recently held a number of roundtable conversations to collate sector input to inform our response to the State Government’s review of the Local Government Act by December. The review will be far-reaching and comprehensive – not just further revisions to the current legislation. Many aspects of the Act are on the table for changes, with a focus on longer term council planning and financial processes, which will also assist the government’s introduction of its rate capping policy.

We will consult widely with our members and the government in developing a submission to ensure the revised Act recognises the independence of local government. We encourage councils to get involved in the first round of consultations, with submissions due on 18 December.

We would be expecting a move back to a more enabling Act that recognises the independence of local government, and is in line with the Bracks’ government’s policy to embed local government as an independent sector of government in the Australian Constitution.

We look forward to working with the State Government and its advisory committee to ensure a positive outcome is achieved for the sector.

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Editor's note

By Kristi High, Editor.

What a great year for council success stories it has been.

Like any other year, councils have stepped up to the challenges that present from their communities, from industry, and from the other levels of government!

CiVic is a great way to remind us all that local government in Victoria continues to deliver innovative projects inspired by the amazing work of councillors and officers.

The awards season finished off with a number of councils publicly acknowledged for their work.

The recent Premier’s Sustainability Awards saw Darebin and Moira stand out.

MAV Technology handed out a bunch of accolades at its annual conference, including the elusive Exemplar Award, which was presented for the first time.

You can read more about the winners and their projects in this edition of CiVic, and on the app.

As we count down to the end of the year, and look to pressing the re-set button and plan for 2016, I would like to thank all of the advertisers who continue to support this magazine so we can bring these great stories to life. Thank you also to the councils for sharing their good news, and especially the officers that help pull the stories together. Finally, I would like to thank my team of salespeople and talented graphic designers.

Good luck with your new year’s resolutions. Mine is to update my 4-year old headshot in this publication, for the second year in a row – we’ll see how it goes.

To end the year, I would like to share this song by Casey Bennetto from the MAV Technology Conference about the Innovation Fellowship, which added some Hollywood-style pizzaz to the awards night.

Look what they’ve done in Wellington - they changed the way they wrote;
their CMT went paper-free and funnelled through OneNote.
And look at what Port Phillip’s got - you’d best believe the hype -
They beat the blues of interviews by stepping up on Skype.

Corangamite have done alright in watching works and weeds;
They’ve made the app that helps them map a record of their needs.
Then beat the drum for Manningham, who wandered high and free,
and charted muds and draining floods in glorious 3D.

Behold the brains of Golden Plains, more versatile than mine,
constructing pools of mapping tools to get the shire online.
And see that throng in ‘G’ Geelong, well, you can join the club!
They commandeer the volunteer through quite the clever hub.

So, you can see, each nominee is worthy of this prize.
They didn’t wait to innovate - they dreamed of bluer skies.
I said all six should be our picks, and ev’ryone should win.
An innovative notion, but they threw it in the bin:

They said “Glory isn’t glory if you spread it out too thin”.

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Opinion: Public libraries: a modern community revolution

By Elise Harper, Social Impact Communications Professional.

“The locality devoid of an institution for the promulgation of knowledge must be regarded as still in a state of barbarism,” Collingwood Observer, 1 May 1865.

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to spend time browsing through thousands of dusty and dog-eared books, listening to talks by authors and academics and generally soaking up the bookish vibe at the 2015 Clunes Booktown Festival. In between rustling through crates of novels to find my spoils, I sat in on a talk by Dr Anne Beggs-Sunter from Federation University entitled Civic Spaces in Our Community.

As this history lecturer with a keen interest in Ballarat spoke about the area’s past, she kept on coming back to the core community hub: The Mechanics' Institute.

The right to be educated

Mechanics’ Institutes began in Scotland in the early 1800s as a radical movement incorporating the ideals of self-help, adult education and hard work. In the 1800s in the UK, the word ‘mechanic’ was a more general term meaning tradesman, craftsman, artisan, working man: the working class.

The institutes held lessons to improve the skills and knowledge of the working class. Mechanics’ Institutes were detested by the ruling classes, whose privileged position was threatened by the spread of knowledge. They not only feared that the masses might rise up and try to take over, but that their right to cheap labour would be compromised.

Nevertheless, the movement to progress and educate the labouring classes had unstoppable momentum, and 600-700 institutes were established during the 1800s in the UK.

A new, egalitarian Australia

When the new, free European settlers came to Victoria they brought with them reforming ideas about the new colony. Aristocracy was to be left behind in the old country and replaced by enthusiasm for moral and social elevation; a more egalitarian, democratic and intellectual existence.

Only six years after the first Institute in the UK, Hobart established the first Australian Mechanics' Institute in 1827, followed by Sydney in 1833, Newcastle in 1835, Melbourne and Adelaide in 1839, Launceston in 1842, Brisbane in 1849 and Perth in 1851.

Institute libraries and classes were set up and eagerly attended. The openings of new institutes were grand community events. The institutes were a central part of community life, and quickly became much bigger than their humble beginnings. Men and women from the emerging middle class attended classes, lectures (including lectures from the likes of Mark Twain), museum and art exhibitions, dances and borrowed from the growing book collections. By the 1890s there were a total of 2,147 Mechanics' Institutes in Australia.

A branding challenge

Mechanics' Institutes were the first adult education schools, libraries and public halls in Australia and sometimes called ‘poor man’s universities’ or ‘workingman’s colleges’.

As time went on, many of the original buildings were reinvented time and time again: as schools, community halls, museums and back to community halls. But many of the institutes took the natural path to becoming public libraries and still stand today.

Given their birth as a great equalising tool and a place of true social progression, libraries were tipped to be a central part of our community. A place to meet, learn, create, read, research and engage. A place separate to a university, where everyone in the community had equal rights and the means to pursue learning and community connection.

Libraries have, however, had to contend with changing technologies, changing social structures and habits, and ever-decreasing government funding. This has resulted in their slip away from the centre of the community, an identity crisis and a branding challenge.

A new revolution

From where I stand, the revolution isn’t over.

Now, most libraries offer free Wi-Fi, free use of computers for job searching, research and connecting to loved-ones outside of your city or town, a huge selection of books and e-books, DVDs, children’s programs, adult and children’s reading groups, guided study groups for high school students, visiting author talks, spaces to meet and even 3D printers in some.

Libraries are still a great equalising tool, offering areas of even lowest socio-economic status, a place to learn, improve and connect.

Establishing the place of libraries in current society is a branding challenge. Libraries need to modernise their message but at their core they are still as those first Mechanics' Institutes: a powerful self-improvement revolution.

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Sector Connector: Nuancing the lingo

By Verne Ivars Krastins, BSC (Hons), Fellow LGPro.

The English language isn’t a single thing each English speaking nation has its own rendition with unique accents, spellings, terms and grammars. I’m sure that’s true of any international language.

It’s surprisingly easy for a new variation to grow. All it takes is a relatively isolated self-sufficient population with a lingua franca, and its next generation will speak with new words and expressions and an emerging accent.

That’s how Australian English started. The 750 convicts who arrived in 1778 were not all English speakers, especially those from Ireland, Wales and Scotland. With English the colonial lingua franca, an Australian variation evolved drawing on these Celtic tongues, spiced with local Aboriginal words to describe what the English language could not.

Fast forward to the 21st century and English is a global language, with more people speaking it as a second or other language than those speaking as mother tongue, about 1.2 billion in total (Wikipedia 2015).

You might expect language barriers to become a lesser issue for our migration services as increasing numbers in the world speak English. Except here we speak Australian English.

After a series of training sessions with over 30 others, I became a volunteer English language tutor with AMES Australia in Dandenong last year. More than half the group were themselves migrants or first generation and spoke a migrant language – a head start for English tutoring I thought.

Many fellow tutors were matched with low literacy students from non-English speaking countries, which is what I expected and was preparing for the challenge. But mine turned out unique in the mix - a couple from South America, one with Level 3 English (which is quite good) and both with university degrees.

It was clear from day one that they had well-honed learning strategies and more English than I expected, rendering my “this is a cup” level lesson plans redundant.

And so started a journey into Australian English. As I found, those originating from a culture different from Australian, even if they have a functional level of English language, find aspects of Australian ways strange or baffling.

So, we don’t just do grammar and pronunciation – vocabulary lessons are often about slang, expressions, humour and words in correct context. Sometimes it’s down to distinguishing Australian, British and North American English, other times it’s more about norms of relationship and behaviour than words.

There’s a novella in these and forthcoming tutoring experiences I’m sure. Each session is a lesson for me, and a reminder that language is like a functioning paradox – it connects and separates us at the same time, even at the most nuanced level.

But what goes around comes around. With each generation, thanks partly to migration by the generation before, our lingo will keep absorbing, adapting and evolving. I wonder what Australian English will sound like in 2115?

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Engagement the key to empowering Pacific women

By Jane Lindhe.

‘She probably did something to deserve it’ is the common response to the reporting of family violence in the Solomon Islands. With devastatingly high levels of family and sexual violence, Maribyrnong City Council recently visited Honiara City Council to provide examples of how to empower women in leadership roles and to, in-turn, help to prevent family violence in the Solomon Islands.

Through the Funding Leadership Opportunities for Women (FLOW) Project – a fund set up by the Netherlands Government – and Pacific partners, Maribyrnong was selected to work with Honiara City Council in the area of gender equality and violence against women. Whittlesea City Council was also selected by the program to carry out similar work with Bougainville in Papua New Guinea.

“We saw value in approaching this project because we do so much work in this area and we wanted to share our experience,” Maribyrnong Acting Director Community Wellbeing Lynley Dumble said. “It was also obviously valuable for us to be involved in this because this is an issue affecting so many people.”

In June, Ms Dumble and Project Officer Gender Equity in Sport Luke Ablett spent a week in Honiara working with council on gender equity issues, which followed council’s first visit in 2014. Three staff from Honiara City Council and Guadalcanal Provincial Government also spent a week working with Maribyrnong in October 2014.

“Family violence and gender equity has been a key area of focus for Maribyrnong for about a decade,” Ms Dumble said.

“The statistics on the prevalence of family violence and sexual violence in the Solomon Islands is unclear, with many incidences going unreported and others not formalised, however anecdotal evidence suggests most women experience some type of violence during their lives.”

The introduction of the Solomon Islands Family Violence Act last year has increased awareness of the issues surrounding violence against women.

“It’s a very slow process – with family violence almost accepted in the community – but the Act has changed some of the thinking around the issues,” Ms Dumble said.

A key focus for Maribyrnong in working with Honiara has been the engagement of women in local government, sporting clubs and businesses. Currently there are no women councillors on the Honiara Council with voting rights.

Mr Ablett said reaching women through sport is a powerful way to encourage the equality of women.

“While more women are playing sport in the Solomon Islands, they are rarely thought of when it comes to the organising or building of sporting clubs,” the former Sydney Football Club player said.

“Involving women in decision-making processes plays a big part in overcoming gender inequality.

“A good example of this is the change rooms, which were so run-down they were basically unusable.

“So, instead of changing in the facility, the women would change behind some trees on the oval and form a guard around each other to protect themselves.”

A male architect was engaged to draw up a design for new change rooms, however no women were involved in the process. The result was a male-specific change room with open showers and little privacy – the opposite of what women want in a change room.

Mr Ablett took the plans to some of the women Honiaran players and asked them what they needed from the facility.

“Partitions or doors between showers, separate cubicles and those kind of things were really simple, practical requests they needed,” he said.

“When we took the plans to the designer, he didn’t mind incorporating those things – they just never thought of asking women what they actually needed.”

Ms Dumble said working with Honiara has taught council that family violence and gender inequality are international issues that do not discriminate.

“We may have bigger budgets, more sophisticated technology and better services here, however many of the challenges we face in Australia about changing community attitudes and addressing gender inequality are not dissimilar from the Solomon Islands,” she said.

“But when you strip everything back, there is still a lot of inequality when it comes to women.

“That is something we all have an interest in working together to improve.”

While funding of the $5.2 million four-year program is due to end this year, Ms Dumble said council hopes to provide assistance from a distance with the Honiarians it met during the visits.

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Raising the flag for Aboriginal people

Editor’s note: On Thursday 8 October, I enjoyed a long conversation with Cr Don Chambers about his work with Aboriginal communities in Indigo. It was then, with great shock and sadness that just a few days later, we learned that Cr Chambers passed away on Sunday 11 October in Rome. CiVic is proud to publish Cr Chambers’ last interview, about an issue he fought long and hard for, and was passionate until the end flying the Aboriginal flag alongside the Australian and state flags. On receiving the news of his sudden death, Indigo lowered its new flags to half-mast as a sign of respect to their long-serving councillor.

The Aboriginal flag is flying high at Indigo Shire Council as a show of respect that is expected to help connect with local tribes.

Indigo became the 73rd Victorian council to permanently fly the Aboriginal flag alongside the state and national flags outside its Beechworth shire office on 23 September 2015.

The milestone event was marked by a ceremony attended by shire dignitaries, community, staff and Indigenous elders from far and wide. Together, they acknowledged the contribution Aboriginal people have made to Indigo’s history and culture.

The flag raising is part of Indigo’s bigger picture to engage with local Aboriginal tribes, which was started by the groups working together to protect sacred sites and increase employment opportunities for Aboriginal people.

Cr Don Chambers has been striving for better relationships with Aboriginal groups since being re-elected in 2012, but the issue has been on the former mayor’s (1999-2001) mind for 60 years.

“I was fishing with a group of my father’s friends when I was about six-years-old, and a group of Aboriginal men came around our campfire,” he said. “I was in awe of them.”

“The next morning I got my new tomahawk out and was about to cut a sapling.

“One of the Aboriginal men asked what I was doing and when I told him he said, ‘If you want to try out your new tomahawk, do it on that dead wood over there, living trees are part of our heritage’.”\

The event sparked Cr Chambers’ interest in Aboriginal culture and this story has stuck with him, as have the stories his grandfather shared about Mt Pilot National Park in Chiltern being a place of peace.

“Flying the Aboriginal flag is important for Aboriginal groups to have trust and confidence that council has their interests at heart,” Cr Chambers said

One of those interests is the preservation of Aboriginal Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) rock paintings at Mt Pilot.

Council recently coordinated a meeting between the five local Aboriginal tribes in partnership with Parks Victoria to discuss the rock paintings at the Yeddonba Aboriginal Heritage Site.

“It is important to be sensitive and understanding of the first people, and also for the first people to be pragmatic and work with us and walk with us side-by-side so that together we can promote what happened many thousand years ago,” Cr Chambers said.

“It was pleasing that three out of the five groups attended the meeting and recommendations have been put forward about how we can protect the paintings.

“Parks Victoria has tentatively agreed to put up shade cloth to protect the paintings, and mirroring the artwork on facing rocks by engaging new artists is being discussed,” Cr Chambers said.

Council is now working with Parks Victoria and Indigenous groups to utilise the historic Chiltern Goods Shed as the starting point for guided tours of Chiltern National Park led by Aboriginal people.

“This will be an important project to increase Aboriginal employment in our region, as well as protecting the national park,” Cr Chambers said.

The flag raising ceremony has been a significant step in safeguarding Indigo’s Indigenous heritage, which was done through guidance from the MAV’s Aboriginal Employment Project Adviser Lidia Thorpe.

“We seem to know a lot about European history, which is only a few hundred years old, whereas Aboriginal heritage is many thousands of years old,” Cr Chambers said.

“Thanks to Lidia, we received guidance about the need to connect with local Aboriginal people and organisations, which assisted with our research that was undertaken by my son Simon.

“We have started a journey to gather information about our Indigenous heritage in partnership with various Indigenous groups, which is part of the rich fabric of Indigo Shire.”

Ms Thorpe worked with Indigo Shire Council as it developed its flag raising policy over the past 12 months.

“Flying the Aboriginal flag is a way to acknowledge Aboriginal people not just in the municipality but in this country,” she said.

“It is a way to show respect and to connect Aboriginal people to council.”

Ms Thorpe offers guidance to councils on effective ways to engage Aboriginal people.

Indigo Shire Council will also fly the Torres Strait Island flag during Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC Week celebrations.

Hepburn Shire Council raised the Aboriginal flag during NAIDOC Week and will fly the flag permanently after a new pole was erected at the Daylesford Town Hall.

Vale Cr Don Chambers

Indigo Shire Councillor Don Chambers passed away in Rome on Sunday 11 October.

As the news was received the following Monday morning, Indigo councillors and staff were in shock and mourning.

Mayor Bernard Gaffney said Don was highly regarded by his fellow councillors and all the staff.

“We knew him as a fighter for what he believed was best for the community,” Cr Gaffney said.

“Don was a fierce proponent for his Rutherglen community but he always had an eye for the bigger picture and where Indigo Shire fitted in the scheme of things. His death leaves a void in council deliberations that will be impossible to fill.”

Cr Chambers, 78, was a fourth-term councillor, being first elected to council in 1997. He was mayor in 1999 and 2000. He was a member of many boards and committees, including Keep Australia Beautiful Victoria Board and the MAV.

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Melbourne plants itself as leader in urban forestry

Melbourne City Council’s world-leading Urban Forest Strategy reached a significant milestone recently when the final Urban Forest Precinct Plan was completed.

The level of evidence-based detail and sophistication council has used to develop the precinct plans is unique, and leads the way in urban forest planning.

Chair of Melbourne’s Environment Portfolio Cr Arron Wood said trees were a defining part of Melbourne.

“These plans represent the culmination of five years of research, scientific analysis and partnership with over 900 community members,” Cr Wood said.

Melbourne’s precinct plans will be used to guide the growth and management of more than 77,000 trees that make up the municipality’s urban forest.

Over the past four years, Melbourne has planted 12,000 new trees, and plans to plant over 3,000 trees each year for the next decade.

“If we can double our canopy cover, we can cool the city’s summertime temperatures by four degrees Celsius,” Cr Wood said.

“Council is making real progress towards the target of increasing our canopy cover from 22 per cent to 40 per cent by 2040,” Cr Wood said.

In 2009, 40 per cent of the municipality’s significant trees were declining or dying due to the impact of the millennium drought and water restrictions.

The Urban Forest Strategy was implemented in 2012 to protect and diversify Melbourne’s urban forest.

The 10-year precinct planting plans will guide the implementation of the Urban Forest Strategy’s key targets in local neighbourhoods.

The planting timetable prioritises areas with insufficient canopy cover, temperature hot spots, and areas where the community has identified opportunities for greening.

Cr Wood said some precincts would see more genus and species change than others as the precinct plans are rolled out over the next 10 years.

“Trees are a major factor in Melbourne’s liveability,” he said.

“The dominance of different species in each precinct shows how planting preferences have changed throughout our city’s history.”

Technology helping to save trees

A website with a public interactive map of more than 77,000 trees that make up Melbourne’s urban forecast was developed as part of Melbourne City Council’s Urban Forest Strategy.

The map includes a colour range to indicate tree lifetime expectance, or health, to show which trees in the city are at greater risk.

Each tree has its own email address connected to an asset ID number on the map, allowing members of the public to connect with information about the tree.

Since launching in May 2013, council has received more than 2,500 emails that are responded to by members of the urban forest team.

Another successful action from the strategy includes the 10-step ‘How to Grow an Urban Forest’ guide, which is available to all councils.

“If every urban council in Australia created and implemented an urban forest strategy, it would be possible to achieve 20 per cent more urban green space nationally,” Cr Wood said.

Tree facts

The most valuable tree in the City of Melbourne is a Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla) in Fawkner Park that dates back to at least 1888 and has an estimated value of almost $1.7 million. (This includes environmental value of $216,682 and an amenity value of $1,323,063).

Melbourne City Council’s tree planting budget for 2015/16 is $1.45 million.

The most common tree genus is Eucalyptus followed by Ulmus (elms), and not Plane tree as commonly thought.

Parkville is thought to be one of Melbourne’s greener areas, however, it has the fourth lowest canopy cover of any precinct at 19.4 per cent, only higher than Southbank, Docklands and Fishermans Bend.

Kensington is expected to have the highest canopy cover in 2040, largely due to more tree planting opportunities in new developments.

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Technology: Awards recognise innovative councils

The MAV Technology Awards for Excellence were announced in August at the MAV Technology Conference, recognising the outstanding efforts in the use of technology that improve service delivery and efficiency to local government organisations and communities.

In an impressive field of nominees, this year’s big winners were Boroondara City Council and Corangamite Shire Council.

Boroondara won the Team Achievement Award for its Mobility Plus project, which extends the reach of council’s Home and Community Care (HACC) service management software (Goldcare) into the field.

Corangamite Shire Council won the MAV Technology Innovation Fellowship for its Roadside Weed Mapping And Works Tracking App. This new app uses cloud and mobile technology to identify, track, assess and treat weeds across the shire and could easily be adapted for use by other councils.

The year’s highest accolade went to a group of councils - Greater Geelong, Melbourne and Ballarat.

The group received the first ever MAV Technology Exemplar Award, as well as the Collaboration of the Year Award, by working together to derive more valuable outcomes from the annual international open data event, GovHack.

The GovHack event draws together civic-minded people from inside and outside government over a single weekend each July to use government data to analyse, mashup and develop tools and applications to benefit communities.

To win the Exemplar Award, the councils partnered with Code for Australia to run a six-week open data fellowship program. The fellows assigned to each council identified high-value challenges to put forward at GovHack 2015, developed strong community understanding of the councils’ work, and supported and accelerated the councils’ open data journeys. The program significantly contributed to the number and quality of data sets published by the three councils leading in to the GovHack event.

The GovHack event was a great success, and the councils who participated are now building on some of the ideas and prototypes that came out of the weekend-long competition.

MAV Technology Executive Officer Lisa Bennetto said the Exemplar Award winning project showed how councils can collaborate to help each other make the most of emerging technology opportunities.

“Open data is enabling innovation in governments around the world,” she said.

“It’s great to see Victorian councils embracing new opportunities that will contribute to creating a more cost effective, efficient and responsive local government.

“Councils collect and maintain a lot of non-private information that can be used to provide useful services for communities if it is made available to the public in a useful format.

“For example, data that describes the location and features of council-run facilities and services such as parks, public toilets, bike paths, garbage collection, libraries, kindergartens and dog-walking areas can be used by people outside of government to create useful apps and services.

“It can help community members understand the breadth of services that councils provide, and also offers a new way for councils to engage with communities, businesses and innovation networks.

“The number of Victorian councils publishing open data has increased dramatically over the past 12 months.”

Victoria now has more councils publishing open data than any other state in the country.

Early in 2016, MAV Technology will distribute an Open Data Toolkit to all member councils to make it easier for councils to get involved.

“The more data that is made open, the more benefits will flow to councils,” Ms Bennetto said.

For a full list of awards, go to the CiVic app.

Keep an eye out for the Call for Entries for the 2016 MAV Technology Awards for Excellence in the March edition of CiVic, and on the MAV and MAV Technology websites.

The awards are a great way to showcase and acknowledge the great work being done by councils to improve efficiency and productivity in a challenging financial environment.

The recipient of the MAV Technology Innovation Fellowship receives $10,000 from MAV Technology to assist the development of an innovative project that can potentially be shared with other councils.

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Australia’s first charter for inclusive communications

Darebin City Council has developed Australia’s first charter that explains how it will communicate and promote equitable and inclusive services, events and initiatives.

The Inclusive Communications Charter spells out how Darebin will communicate with its community in a way that is respectful towards cultural background, religion, sexuality, age, socioeconomic or disability status, and English language proficiency.

The charter responds to council research that identified individuals and groups in the community that have less access to information about services, are more likely to suffer financial hardship, and have reduced health and wellbeing.

Communication and Marketing Manager Tiffany White said to help address this issue, Darebin committed to ensuring that everyone in the community has equitable access to information and an equal chance to participate in community life.

“A series of surveys found that effective and successful communication with residents is a key driver to overall satisfaction with the council’s performance,” Ms White said.

“It’s also at the heart of good customer service and effective and meaningful consultation processes.

“Developing the Inclusive Communication Charter reaffirms our commitment, and ensures we communicate all council services and activities in an inclusive and accessible way.”

Darebin’s Equity and Diversity Coordinator Mandy Bathgate said in just a short time the charter has already helped to address important issues and is creating positive change in the community.

“As a result of the charter implementation, council now works more closely with community leaders from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds through strengthened dialogue,” she said.

“For instance, we established a memorandum of understanding with the Islamic Society of Victoria, the only agreement of this nature in Victoria.

“A joint partnership was established with Darebin’s Interfaith Council and we recently ran a series of seminars exploring the impact of family violence for women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, both of which are important areas of work for council and the community.”

Darebin’s Communication and Marketing Department involved all areas of council to develop the Inclusive Communications Charter. The team also consulted externally to research and understand local demographics, accessibility requirements and through several focus groups, understood how different stakeholder groups prefer to communicate with council.

Diverse Communication Advisor Tharshini Sivarajah, who led the development of the Charter, said the focus groups delivered some interesting learnings.

“Translating materials can be costly and problematic when it comes to accuracy,” she said.

“We also learned it’s not always the most effective way to reach people. Participants expressed a preference for more face-to-face communications.”

Darebin has made a number of changes to internal and external policies to implement the charter across its operations, and it was formally endorsed by the executive team in early 2015.

A copy of the charter was provided to all staff to embed it into Darebin’s culture.

Presentations to internal stakeholders took place in February 2015 and it was further promoted through the council’s internal communication channels.

Special diversity training sessions helped staff to understand and utilise the charter. The training is now part of the council’s professional development framework.

A review of council’s image library was undertaken and a photo shoot was commissioned to take inclusive photographs representative of the diverse community. These images now appear in all of the Darebin’s communication and marketing activities. To ensure the council’s image library continues to feature inclusive representations of local people, image consent forms were translated into the top eight languages.

Externally, the charter was promoted through Darebin’s website and presented to various stakeholders including local and ethnic media outlets.

“Even though the charter is relatively new, the implementation has been very successful, it is well utilised and it now guides best practice communications across the organisation,” Communication and Marketing Manager Tiffany White said.

“A review of the charter will be undertaken bi-annually to ensure continuous improvement, which will involve an audit of communications to measure performance.”

Research findings

During the research phase, Darebin discovered:

  • Reduced participation rates in organised sport among culturally and linguistically diverse communities (CALD).
  • Elderly people are less likely to access information online.
  • CALD communities are less likely to contact customer service for support by telephone (7.8 per cent of people in Darebin do not speak English).
  • Communications by mail excluded homeless and other displaced individuals.
  • People with a disability need extra assistance to access services and programs.
  • Indigenous populations are less likely to use some health services like childhood immunisations.
  • Asylum seekers and refugees have lower awareness of council services.
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people score lower on a range of areas of health and wellbeing including mental health, suicide, general health, alcohol and other drug use.

Success so far

  • Ethnic media attendance at press briefings improved and the volume of news items in these outlets increased by 50 per cent.
  • More than 500 pieces of marketing collateral created since February conform to accessibility and disability guidelines.
  • More than 25 community consultations have run in accordance with the Charter.
  • A multilingual communication toolkit and guideline package for staff was updated.
  • Darebin’s new website was developed in consultation with bilingual customer service staff. The multilingual section was revised to include more visual content and translated answers to frequently asked questions.
  • Video content for new residents promotes services in the top eight languages. It’s promoted through social media and local real estate agents.
  • A marketing checklist was revised to capture preferred methods of communication.
  • Darebin’s Writing Style Guide was revised to use more inclusive language.
  • Initiated a trial of new website that reads content aloud for people with disabilities and CALD audiences.

View Darebin’s video about equity and inclusion.

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One in two outdoor workers miss out on sun protection

SunSmart is warning that workplaces could be neglecting their duty of care, as new data shows one in two outdoor workers are not protected from the sun’s harmful UV radiation.

Cancer Council’s National Sun Survey shows 2.5 million Australians spend half or more of their working time outdoors, yet only half of those outdoor workers say their employer has a sun protection policy in place.

With 200 melanomas and 34,000 other skin cancers directly attributed to workplace exposure throughout Australia each year, Cancer Council Victoria’s Director of Prevention Craig Sinclair said the figures are concerning.

“Victorian work health and safety legislation requires employers to provide safe working environments, but based on this latest data, employers are dropping the ball when it comes to UV protection,” Mr Sinclair said.

“Anyone with outdoor workers should have a policy in place that outlines UV risks and the steps management will take to reduce these risks for workers. These steps can include offering UV training to workers, scheduling outdoor tasks to the early morning or late afternoon when UV is less intense, modifying reflective surfaces and supplying protective equipment and clothing.”

Cancer Council data shows that when it comes to Australian outdoor workers, 1 in 3 are provided with portable shade; 2 in 5 are provided with hats; and 1 in 2 have access to sunscreen.

“For outdoor workers, these sun protection measures should be a tool of the trade, and as important as shoes or high visibility clothing,” Mr Sinclair said.

“Unless employers act now to protect their workers, we can expect to see a continuing increase in workplace-related skin cancer cases and an increasing number of workplace compensation claims.”

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Upcoming MCH nurses flock to Whittlesea

Whittlesea City Council has found a way to meet the demand for MCH nurses through a graduate program that is attracting more quality applicants than it can take.

Council’s Maternal Child Health Graduate Program is fast making the organisation an ‘employer of choice’ for nurses looking to specialise in the field.

In 2014/15 Whittlesea offered 10 placements, with four students preparing to move in to paid employment with council in 2016.

Coordinator Maternal & Child Health Karen Mainwaring said a further four students will complete their course at the end of next year and are expected to be employed by council also.

“The graduate program is proving very successful with more applicants than available places, and a high number transitioning into paid employment once they have completed their course,” Ms Mainwaring said.

The graduate students are registered nurses and midwives studying a Masters degree or Graduate Diploma in Maternal & Child Health.

“To specialise in this area, nurses typically have 10 plus years’ experience working in hospitals or other health related roles,” Ms Mainwaring said.

“Many students have actively approached council for a placement in the hope that it will lead to paid work once their course at La Trobe or RMIT is complete.”

The students see council as a great alternative to working in a hospital environment, mostly because of the flexibility it offers and the hands-on role in the community.

Graduate MCH nurse Jennifer Watt said the application process for the graduate program re-confirmed her feelings that council would be a great place to work.

“I approached council for a place in the graduate program and was instantly made to feel welcome and comfortable,” she said.

“During my placement, I have had the opportunity to see the views of different nurses and how they practice, develop additional skills, and hone in on some of my special interests.”

One of Ms Watt’s focus areas is Enhanced Maternal & Child Health.

“I was a little apprehensive at first about the enhanced program, which I wanted to learn more about,” she said.

“Council was very accommodating in allowing me to extend this part of my placement.

“In addition, I was able to participate in extra training with 2-3 year olds.”

Ms Watt said working for council was a great alternative to hospital employment.

“I now have a young child of my own so being able to do casual work and just not having to deal with shift work has been great in terms of spending more time with the family,” she said.

“Council also provides great follow-up with its clients, which is very different to hospitals and an element of the job that I really like.”

Ms Mainwaring said that many of the students share Ms Watt's view on working closely with families over a number of years.

“Nurses want to work here and make a contribution to the community,” she said.

“We also have a local area hospital that we work closely with to meet the needs of local families.”

The students are made to feel part of Whittlesea’s MCH team from the start, and the support doesn’t stop once the placement is finished.

“Our role goes beyond offering them a placement,” Ms Mainwaring said.

“They are made to feel welcome, and are invited to attend our MCH team meetings.

“We provide mentoring and training, and support them throughout their placement and career with us.”

This approach by Whittlesea City Council has paid off.

“The program offers a great pathway to full or part-time employment – we know who potential staff are long before they come and work with us – what their strengths are and where they need further support or training.

“This relationship means that we can best match the nurse to our service needs.

“From a workforce planning perspective, the program is a cost saving to the organisation as we can ensure the potential employee is already well trained and across our MCH service before they get started.”

Whittlesea also takes graduates that have done a student placement elsewhere, offering support through their first year of practice as an MCH nurse.

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Building Melbourne’s resilience

Metropolitan councils across Melbourne are working together as part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities challenge to improve the resilience of the world’s most liveable city.

Local government has long been at the forefront of community strengthening and emergency response, and the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) challenge is helping to make cities around the world withstand today’s physical, social and economic pressures.

Chief Resilience Officer at Melbourne City Council Toby Kent is leading the Resilient Melbourne project, and said Australia’s fastest growing city was unlike many other cities in the 100RC network.

“Melbourne is different in that it has no single city council or agency that is responsible for most metropolitan services,” he said.

“It is also unusual in being governed by both state and local government with 32 municipalities within it.”

The first phase of the project, the Preliminary Resilience Assessment, is now complete. This phase identified five resilience focus areas affected by a range of shocks such as flood, fire and heatwaves, and stresses like increasing social inequality and family violence.

Mr Kent is working with CEOs from Maribyrnong, Port Phillip, Hobsons Bay, Banyule and Whittlesea, who are each leading a focus area working group to pull together the other councils and determine the goals and actions that will comprise the Melbourne Resilience Strategy.

The Victorian Government and businesses will also play an important role to help understand Melbourne’s resilience challenges and work together to identify priorities and projects that will build the city’s resilience.

“Resilience challenges can’t be dealt with comprehensively by a single agency, and they don’t stop at municipal boundaries,” Mr Kent said.

“This project is a significant opportunity for local government to work differently and more effectively on common challenges.”

Councils, State and Federal governments, along with community and business organisations attended the Urban Resilience Melbourne conference recently, which was hosted by the Municipal Association of Victoria.

The conference included presentations from leading international and Australian professionals in the practice of urban resilience, and featured outstanding case studies.

Stay tuned for more on the Resilient Melbourne project in edition 12 of Civic, due out in March 2016.

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Dementia sufferers turn to art

A unique program that links art and dementia is proving popular at Bayside, with council recruiting local volunteers to take small groups of people on guided exhibition tours at the Bayside Gallery.

Bayside City Council works in partnership with local organisations providing services for people living with dementia, such as residential care facilities.

The program, called Connections Art and Dementia, is now in its third year and is based on a similar program developed by the National Gallery of Australia.

Gallery Supervisor Julie Skate said the program had been adapted slightly to meet the needs of partner services, and succeed in a gallery smaller in size to that of the National Gallery of Australia.

“During the tour, volunteers encourage conversation between the group so it is a social outing that is fun,” she said.

“Most of their role is around validating what the participants have to say.”

Groups of four people with dementia visit the Bayside Gallery each week for four consecutive weeks at a time.

Volunteers go through an interview process and do not require any formal training in art.

“We usually look for people who have an interest in art, but we provide a brief about each exhibition to the volunteers so no formal training is necessary,” she said.

The most important personal attribute council looks for in volunteers for this program is to just be a genuinely nice person.

“We really need people who can show empathy, and patience is very important,” Ms Skate said.

“Volunteers must also be able to converse through statements rather than asking questions, which may confuse our participants, and be able to recognise and practice the important skill of silence.”

Adriane Boag from the National Gallery of Australia undertakes volunteer training on behalf of Bayside City Council.

“Adriane knows the program intimately, and runs sessions around empathy and exercises that allow the volunteers to experience similar sensations to the participants living with dementia,” Ms Skate said.

The volunteers also take part in planning, which includes a brief of the exhibition by gallery staff who also engage them by debriefing at the end of each session.

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In brief

Daisy app connects more women to support services

New features of the Daisy app are connecting more women to vital information and services.

Rural and regional councils can also now draw on the Daisy app in their work to prevent violence against women, along with others working with women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Daisy has been downloaded more than 2,000 times since it launched in March, and is an easy, intuitive and safe way for women experiencing family violence to find a wide range of specialist services from legal support and financial through to housing providers.

Additional special features of Daisy were launched in September. Among them is a ‘Get Help’ function that allows users to quickly call 000 and a ‘Quick Exit’ button to leave screens containing service information.

Australian of the Year and domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty praised the app for helping to raise awareness of women’s rights and options and connecting even more women to services.

“Family and friends can also use Daisy to gather information to support a loved-one’s decision-making,” Ms Batty said.

Daisy is free to download from Google Play for Android phones and the App Store for iPhones.

Find out more at:

Congratulations Darebin and Moira

Two Victorian councils were rewarded for their sustainability efforts at this year’s Premier’s Sustainability Awards.

Darebin City Council won the Environmental Justice award for a project that is making solar panels accessible to low-income residents.

The Solar Saver program is the first of its kind in Australia, enabling households to install solar PV systems and pay them off through council rates, interest free over 10 years.

The program aims to reduce greenhouse emissions at the point of demand, and to support those residents most vulnerable to climate change impacts and increasing energy costs.

The Government category award went to Moira Shire Council and its partner Goulburn Valley Waste and Resource Recovery Group for a project titled Overcoming Barriers to Effective Household Kerbside Garden and Food Organics Recovery.

At 41 per cent, organic waste is the single largest type of waste in the household garbage bins throughout the Goulburn Valley and it is the biggest generator of methane in landfill.

In response to this, and despite the challenges of food organics collections contamination rates, Goulburn Valley Waste and Resource Recovery Group and its six councils worked together for over six years to develop a business case to introduce household food and garden collections across the region.

Moira Shire Council was the first to introduce the service. As a result, garbage reduced by over 40 per cent and the project successfully demonstrated that under one per cent of contamination is achievable with careful planning and a comprehensive education and engagement program to win community support.

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Awkward Christmas Portraits at Melbourne Central

Date: Now–20 December

Venue: Melbourne Central, 211 Latrobe Street, Melbourne

Description: Looking to add a little humour to your Christmas photo album? A visit to Melbourne Central’s Awkward Christmas Portraits is a sure-fire way to add some laughter to your mantel piece. Traditional Santa photos will be replaced with Christmas Awkward Portraits.

Pose with hilarious props, daggy Christmas jumpers and old-fashioned backdrops.

Need more?


Virtual Real

Date: 10–26 January 2016

Venue: Scienceworks, 2 Booker Street, Spotswood

Description: Can you explore this world and other worlds with just a smartphone in a cardboard box? The simple stereoscopic mask combines two images into one for a 3D effect, while a motion sensor in the device detects and adjusts the image according your head movements. Suitable for ages eight years and up. Activity takes approximately 15 minutes.

Need more?

Weekend live music at Ezard @ Levantine Hill

Date: 10–31 January 2016

Venue: Ezard @ Levantine Hill, 882 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream

Description: Enjoy a showcase of local talent from the deck, on a blanket with a gourmet picnic hamper and a bottle of wine from the cellar door, after dining at Signature Restaurant, or graze over the all day dining menu. There will be jazz, unplugged soul, acoustic blues and a host of musical stylings to ease you through the beautiful sun drenched afternoons.

Need more?


Wine Blending Experience

Date: 22–29 February 2016

Venue: Brown Brothers, 239 Milawa-Bobinawarrah Road, Milawa

Description: Ever wondered how a wine blend is created? Discover some of Brown Brothers’ classic wine varietals like shiraz, merlot or cabernet, which have been extracted straight from the wine barrel by their winemakers. Taste the diverse flavours and experiment with different combinations to create your own unique blend of wine. Then bottle and label a unique creation to take home.

Need more?

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Why Local Government Matters

The Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government (ACELG) has released Australia’s first and most comprehensive national study into community attitudes to local government. Lead researcher and ACELG Director Associate Professor Roberta Ryan highlights some key aspects about this major piece of social research for CiVic and demonstrates how and why communities value the activities and role of local government.

By Professor Roberta Ryan, Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government.

The view of local government as being confined to roads, rates and rubbish is long gone, in both practice and in terms of what communities expect. Australians want local government to be responsible for a diversity of activities in their local community, with planning for the future being among the most important.

In 2014-15 we asked over 2,000 Australians a variety of questions about Why Local Government Matters. We asked about the place where they live; We wanted to know what makes people feel good about where they live; What makes this place/ your place‘tick’ and feel like home.

The research also investigated through a range of questions about the role of government; How do people want their services delivered? How do people want to be involved in government? What do people think about local government?

Key findings

Australians prefer their governments local

One of the most startling findings of ACELG’s research is that about 75 per cent of Australians surveyed think local government is best to make decisions about their local areas. This is compared with 26 per cent for State Government and just two percent for the Federal Government.

Australians highly value governments that are ‘close’ to the community and they want local government to be responsible for a diversity of activities with, interestingly, planning for the future being amongst the most important.

Local government may not be recognised in Australia’s Constitution but we fail to acknowledge its place in our federation at our peril. Australia’s Federation debate, triggered last year by the release of the issues paper, A Federation for our Future, is focused largely on the roles and responsibilities of the Commonwealth, the states and territories. We’ll be badly out of step with the community if we do not broaden the debate to more fully encompass local government.

Australians are hugely connected to their ‘castle’

The other finding that is critical for planners of our cities is that Australians are hugely connected to ‘place’.

An astounding 88 per cent of Australians strongly or moderately agree they feel at home in the place where they live. There are similarly high levels of agreement when asking whether they feel connected to friends and neighbours (75 per cent), and whether the place where they live has the qualities they value (78 per cent); landscapes that make them feel good (77 per cent); and makes them feel good about themselves (76 per cent).

Local government matters because of its role as a ‘place-shaper’ and because of its importance in meeting the needs that most drive people’s attachment to, and satisfaction with, the area in which they live.

This strongly plays into the amalgamation debate, which is currently playing out in NSW and elsewhere.

Public versus Private

Australians overwhelmingly (93 per cent) want the government, rather than the private sector, to provide services to the community. And they want more than just basic services from government. Over half (61 per cent) disagree that governments should focus on providing only basic services compared with 18 per cent that agree.

And contrary to many pundits, Australians think government provides value for money. We found that 45 per cent of respondents disagree that the private sector delivers the best-value services. Only 26 per cent agree that the private sector delivers the best value.

There is enormous support for government to deliver services for a healthier and fairer society, and for the proposition that decisions about services should not be made just on value for money.

More tax – for more services

In one of our most surprising findings, the majority of people agree that taxes should pay for more than basic services and many say they are prepared to pay more taxes to receive a broader range of services.

This is particularly so when the tax is ‘hypothecated’ – this is bureaucratic jargon for ring-fencing revenue to one spending stream, such as roads, health services or education.

Twenty-seven per cent of respondents moderately agree with the ‘more taxes’ proposition, while a further 16 per cent of respondents strongly agree; about a quarter of respondents (23 per cent) strongly disagree.

Where to from here?

There is enormous support for government to deliver services for a healthier and fairer society, and for the proposition that decisions about services should not be made just on value for money. According to our research, Australians overwhelmingly (93 per cent) want to be involved with government in making decisions about what services are delivered in their local area.

We think Why Local Government Matters will be an important resource and reference for Australian local government and other tiers of government, organisations and agencies that work closely with councils. The results will also be invaluable for broader debates about reform of the sector, the role of local government in the federation, and immediate local-level issues such as service delivery, community participation in council decision-making, financial sustainability, and the wellbeing of local government areas.

Specific resources about these and other important contemporary local government themes will be developed from the research and presented to Australian local government in the coming months. Feedback on the research can be emailed to

Why Local Government Matters can be downloaded from the ACELG website.

The Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government is Australia’s premier university-based research and consultancy centre for local government. Based at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), ACELG is a partnership between the UTS: Centre for Local Government, Local Government Managers Australia and the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia, and is recognised as an independent source of research and policy advice by federal, state, territory and local governments.

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Footpath to experience

An innovative partnership between Brimbank and RMIT University is providing practical experience for engineering students while saving council money.

In 2015, two groups of 10 students from RMIT’s Bachelor of Engineering (Civil and Infrastructure) course have taken part in the placement program, mapping and analysing the condition of Brimbank’s 1600km of footpaths.

Brimbank Asset Services Manager Dominic Di Martino said the six-week placement teaches students about the complete cycle of asset management.

“The placement is a five-step project,” he said.

“Students are inducted into council like any new employee, and are provided with an email, identification card and pass codes.

“Then they are provided with project specific training such as the software program, asset management principles and anything specific to the project.

“We take the students through field survey training where we walk the footpath together and show them how to record data.

“They learn how to model the data for asset valuation, condition rating and prioritising future work, and the final stage is the report about their area.”

Students are selected to take part in the program based on criteria set by Brimbank. This includes selecting local students first that fit the criteria based on their academic record and how they participated in a group interview.

“The placement provides valuable industry experience as they work with council while gaining credit towards their studies,” Mr Di Martino said.

“At the completion of the five-step project, the students are in a good position to sit in an interview and talk intelligently about asset management because they have been involved in a full 360 degree project, not just an isolated task.”

Brimbank Chair of Administrators John Watson said the students gain practical experience working alongside experienced staff and using world-class industry systems, while assuring that Brimbank gains a reliable picture of the state of our footpaths.

Brimbank Council’s Footpath Survey is undertaken every three years and the information collected is used to prepare future maintenance and capital works programs.

Future groups will take part in a road reserve audit including road signs, parking signs, safety barriers, park benches and trees.

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Five minutes with … Cr Jennifer Anderson, Macedon Ranges Shire Council

Cr Jennifer Anderson was elected to the Macedon Ranges Shire Council in November 2012, and completed 12 months as mayor in November 2015. The Woodend GP caught up with CiVic Editor Kristi High for five minutes to talk about what’s going on at council, and in the region where they both live.

What motivated you to stand for council in 2012?

I had attended some council meetings and wanted to be involved in the direction planning decisions were taking, ensuring they had excellent community input, were long-term and strategic, and would recognise the Macedon Ranges as a unique place for residents, business owners and visitors to enjoy, worthy of increased protection.

What are some of the hot topics council is dealing with at the moment?

One of the challenges we face as a council is managing the desire for housing while protecting our unique environment, and acknowledging the high bushfire risks in our area. We have been doing a lot of policy work to provide direction and vision for our townships, while carefully balancing future development to ensure our unique township characteristics are retained, we are not putting more people at increased risk of bushfires, and the Macedon Ranges remains the beautiful place that it is.

What were some of your initial goals when you became a councillor?

There were three main goals: To improve communication both within council, and between council and the community; consider our natural environment in every decision we make; lead the way with innovations that reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and encourage local business, shopping and locally grown produce; focus on the impact of policies, infrastructure and future development on health.

What were some of the challenges you faced in your year as mayor?

Many people think that being mayor gives you more power than when you are simply a councillor. This is an unrealistic pressure, as you still remain one of nine who make the decisions.

The time commitment to attend mayoral meetings and work on statements as the spokesperson of council has been made easier by supportive colleagues, family and friends.

The biggest challenge is conveying a council decision to the public when you did not necessarily vote for it yourself personally.

Hanging Rock is an iconic landmark for the region, and loved by residents and visitors alike. As a member of the Hanging Rock Development Advisory Committee, what are some of the issues the committee is addressing?

The committee itself does not make decisions about Hanging Rock, but provides council with their insight into the various contrasting needs of the different user groups of the reserve. This includes events, sporting clubs, tourism, the State Government and the Friends of Hanging Rock.

The committee has also provided comment on the shelter design proposal for the East Paddock, and will comment on the Environmental Management Plan, which has recently been drafted.

Do your constituents ever take the chance to discuss shire issues during a GP appointment, and how do you deal with this?

When I decided to run for council I relocated my general practice back to Melbourne, to avoid this potential conflict of issues. While I had been practicing in the local area, I had seen people directly affected by the work council performed and knew that I preferred to keep these two roles on an individual level separate.

Can you share with us a few of the best spots to visit in the Macedon Ranges?

I don’t have a favorite, but can easily say that whenever I travel outside of the shire, coming back here always feels like the best place to be to me.

There is something for almost everyone who enjoys relaxing here in the Macedon Ranges including cycling, walking, wineries, sampling local produce, cafes, markets, bed and breakfasts, and cooking schools—the list is endless.

Still in Victoria, where do you like to holiday or day trip?

I don’t tend to go on holidays much in Victoria, and for most of my day trips I go cycling or hiking within the region.