News and resources

CiVic - Issue 12 - Autumn 2016


Index of accessible version

President's report

By Bill McArthur, MAV President

Similar to years past, 2016 will involve challenges for the MAV and councils with rate capping coming into effect, council elections in October, the ongoing review of the Local Government Act, and a Federal election.

However as we know, with challenges comes innovation. I’m confident that councils along with the MAV will continue to achieve significant outcomes for our communities in the year ahead.

Rate capping will come into full-swing from 1 July, with councils currently weighing up their budgetary options in order to comply with the 2.5 per cent cap. Of the 21 councils who expressed interest in seeking a higher cap, 10 councils have formally applied to the Essential Services Commission (ESC) for a variation to the cap. These councils had until 31 March to submit their applications to the ESC.

Many councils have begun a conversation with their communities about the services they provide, and options available to fit their budget within the cap including deferring projects, scaling back on some services or capital works and identifying new revenue sources.

The MAV’s focus has been on demonstrating the negative impact that cost shifting has had on council capacity to maintain services over time. Cumulative cost shifting onto local government by the State for libraries, school crossing supervisors, State Emergency Service units and a stalled indexation of planning fees leaves an annual $140 million gap for the ratepayer to cover. The majority of these services began as 50:50 funding agreements between the State and local government. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as many more services that councils provide also suffer from unbalanced funding agreements with the State. Our aim this year is to renegotiate these agreements back to a 50:50 funding split, as they were originally established.

We are also continuing our involvement in the review of the Local Government Act, after sending our initial submission to the State Government in December. Our position was articulated by considerable sector input. We will continue to communicate with member councils as the review continues, with a directions paper to be released by the State early this year.

With the Municipal Association Act to also be reviewed as a part of the Local Government Act review, we will be commencing an engagement process with members shortly regarding the structure of the MAV. This review will also address the MAV Rules, which include the processes for our biannual governing meeting, State Council. We look forward to constructive dialogue with members regarding all manners of MAV-related matters.

Our strategic plan consultations have come to an end. We have visited seven regions across Victoria, to ensure we receive a broad range of feedback and ideas from our members. Attendance at the sessions was strong and we look forward to taking members’ ideas on board to inform our 2016/17 Strategic Plan.

We will tackle the changes and challenges facing the sector head on with enthusiasm, and remain confident that we can achieve the best possible outcomes for councils and communities.

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Editor's note

By Kristi High, Editor

It has been four months since the last edition of CiVic and in that time the world has been rocked by another terrorist attack (Brussels) and more examples of hatred breeding in our community continue to appear on social and traditional media channels.

I approached Greater Shepparton Mayor Dinny Adem to write this edition’s opinion column around local government’s role in promoting harmony. Many of you would know Cr Adem and his background – a proud Muslim of Albanian heritage. He leads one of the most multicultural municipalities in Victoria, and one of the most accepting and welcoming communities.

Greater Shepparton is no doubt a leader when it comes to multicultural projects; the highly successful LEAD project, which has featured in this magazine on a few occasions, being one of them.

Cultural Diversity Week was held in March and again councils across Victoria worked hard to deliver events and activities that celebrate people from all walks of life. This year’s theme, Together we stand in harmony was captured by Knox City Council, which took part in an open day at a local mosque that has been sitting peacefully in the municipality for more than 30 years.

On the other side of the coin is the issue of security. While councils continue their work in promoting harmony and educating their communities about tolerance and acceptance, they are also taking measures to keep them safe, including their own employees.

Casey City Council initiated a project last year to address staff security, which has resulted in a new framework that will allow the organisation to be prepared in the face of a security challenge. You can read about this on page 12.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this edition of CiVic. Planning for lucky Issue 13 has already started. If you have a story idea, please email me directly –

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Opinion: An oddity of no difference

By Cr Dinny Adem, Mayor Greater Shepparton City Council

As an elected council, is it our responsibility to simply set a moral and ethical civic template that our community adheres to? Or does it extend to a duty to educate, inform and facilitate a harmonious society based on mutual respect and common values?
I believe the latter is true. It is also paramount in securing a united Australian identity where we can share respect and acceptance of common human values – irrespective of race or religion.

Greater Shepparton, like many other local government areas, has a long history of multiculturalism. And, yet, it is at the forefront in accepting new people and cultures.

I believe our willingness to accept is deeply rooted in an era when the wider community did not see different cultures as a threat to the status quo, but possibly as an oddity, if not a novelty.

Our community references the term ‘multicultural’ less as time passes. With the integration of European, Asian, Middle Eastern, Indian sub-continental and traditional Indigenous cultures, a unique culture has evolved that is not clearly identifiable as one or the other. Rather it is an identity reflective of all of these cultures, bound by democratic and human common values.

It no way detracts from any particular group but embellishes and builds on common positives to create a unique Greater Shepparton culture.

I believe councils are integral, if not seminal, in creating harmonious and accepting communities.

From pre and post WWI immigration to the larger post WWII influx and more recently Middle Eastern and African arrivals, Greater Shepparton has developed into a proud modern Australian regional city with its own unique brand of ‘multiculturalism’.

Council has always encouraged inclusion and integration through community festivals and empowerment programs, such as the LEAD initiative, but it is private philanthropic development courses such as the Fairley leadership program, along with great work by our local service clubs and the wider community itself, that deserve much of the credit.

Our local media has played a pivotal role over decades in breaking down barriers and misconceptions by portraying many different cultural groups for what they are – hardworking people who have the same hopes and dreams for their families that all Australians have.

This, along with an active interfaith network organisation, has facilitated close and genuine communication between various faiths practiced in our region.

I clearly recall the revulsion and subsequent anxiety felt by many in our Muslim community after the horrifying events of September 11, and also successive acts of senseless violence since.

Instead of distancing itself, our community was on the front foot in forming even closer ties with our Muslim citizens, organising and attending community and interfaith activities.

The trust displayed by our wider community was not a blind one, but rather one that had developed over nearly 100 years of interaction and genuine understanding of fellow Australians who had a different faith.

In 1960, Shepparton opened the first purpose-built mosque in Victoria. We now have four, with no visible resistance by the community.

It is this willingness of the Shepparton community to accept and celebrate diversity that enables us to look forward to the future with confidence.

A typical week in my life as mayor is to attend a Burundi Independence Day celebration at the local Africa house church one day, take part in Sikh rituals the following, and an Islamic celebration the next.

Interspersed is witnessing a ‘Welcome to Country’ by Indigenous Elders, a Chinese New Year celebration and cap it off with a Guinness on St Patrick’s Day.

We are Australian and we are all in this together.

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Sector Connector: Evaluating empowerment

By Verne Ivars Krastins, BSc (Hons), Fellow LGPro

If you’re a user of the IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum, you probably love it.

It’s a participation building five-step program, starting with the mundane ‘inform’, progressing through ‘consult-involve-collaborate’ and ending in the visionary ‘empower’, and is a great way to think things through. It helps define your public participation goals, what you promise those participants, and acts as a framework to slot in appropriate techniques.

This can nurture a spirit of partnership between decision masters and their publics, and even make better decisions to the extent that their intent can be modified along the way.

These are good reasons to love the Spectrum, but there are a couple of aspects I find unsettling. The first is the notion of ‘empowerment’.

To me, empowerment is a kind of handing over, in this case handing over the decision. Examples of empowerment in the Spectrum’s sense include ‘citizen juries’ and delegated decision making. Linguistically, these may be empowerment, but to what degree are the publics given power? Aren’t they really, and in practice, ways to collaborate?

The Spectrum seems more a tool to strengthen or improve policies, not give the public power over them. I think only elections do that.

We could call a spade a spade and acknowledge the Spectrum’s political purpose as much as we do its value as a consistent way to harness public intelligence on a topic.

The second point wonders why evaluation isn’t explicit in the model.

I’m sure most would agree that there is no process, whether for decision making or some other purpose, which will not benefit from evaluation. Just ticking engagement and consultation boxes isn’t sufficient. I’d be asking deeper questions such as:

  • Did we make better decisions, or learn how to improve decision making?
  • Was this the right model to use? Could we have done it another way?
  • Did the participating public feel empowered, and if so, who did not?

Now, I’m not suggesting we move to some other methodology. Even with its political undertones, at least 80 per cent is fantastic for the reasons we began with.

But if ever the model was reimagined, you might want to add a sixth dimension to the sequence, namely evaluation, or even keep it to five by substituting terms – evaluation for empowerment.

The concept of empowerment needn’t be lost, just made to mean what we really mean, that it’s another way to collaborate, to include the public in deliberations and make decisions together.

This wouldn’t diminish the Spectrum’s value either, quite the contrary. We would be acknowledging the practical limitations of empowerment, and add evaluation’s feedback loop in the interests of making it better.

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Indigenous roots, community focus

By Jane Lindhe

For Indigenous woman Leanne Williamson, completing a traineeship as part of the Victorian Government’s Building an Indigenous Workforce in Community Care (BAIWICC) program has given her and her five children the future she always dreamed of.

Last year Ms Williamson became the first Indigenous trainee to complete her studies and placement as a home and community care (HACC) trainee through Ballarat City Council as part of the now concluded BAIWICC program.

For the single mother of five, including one child with an intellectual disability, the traineeship with Ballarat has provided her with two invaluable experiences: working with her community at a grass-roots level,ti and giving her the peer support and education she has always craved.

“I had always wanted to do something very community-focused that could help people, and this was absolutely fantastic,” said Ms Williamson.

“I originally thought I wanted to be a nurse, like my mother, but after completing this [traineeship] I see the value in community work – keeping people healthy and in their homes,” she said.

Ballarat is one of five councils that received funding of up to $20,000 from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (administered by the Municipal Association of Victoria) as part of a one-off initiative. Other councils that received funding included Hume, Moorabool, Warrnambool and Whittlesea. The MAV also recruited an Indigenous trainee with the funds.

For Ms Williamson, who has worked in health care as a dental nurse at the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service and other health-related services from a young age, the program involved an intensive 26-week program of study at registered training organisation, BRACE, on-the-job training and mentoring from her colleagues at Ballarat City Council. Upon completion of the program, she acquired her Double Certificate 3 in Aged Care and Home and Community Care.

Ballarat Manager Community Care & Access Ann Pitt said Ms Williamson was selected from a shortlist of four Indigenous trainee applicants. Ms Pitt worked closely with the council’s diversity officer, the Koori Engagement Group and Elders from the Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-Operative (BADAC) to select individuals who were suitable for the program.

“What really stands out in Leanne is her passion for community care. This was something she has strongly believed in from the beginning,” Ms Pitt said.

“She has been an asset to Ballarat City Council, not only from an employment perspective, but from a cultural one.

“An additional benefit is that she is a very approachable, endearing person who was absorbed into our team quickly.

“They feel that they can ask Leanne questions about Indigenous issues and she is always willing to help. It is an additional benefit that we have really valued.”

As part of the traineeship, Ms Williamson studied for two days a week and buddied with a community care worker for three days a week. As part of her training, Ms Williamson also completed a 30-hour aged care residential placement and is currently working part-time with Ballarat City Council as a Community Care Worker.

“The 26-week traineeship was almost like the longest audition ever,” Ms Pitt said. “But in saying that, it was a short enough time for Leanne to always have the end goal in sight. I would recommend this time frame.”

While the funding administered by the MAV was a one-off grant, Ms Pitt hopes more funding will become available for similar programs in the future. In the meantime, Ballarat will continue its relationship with BADAC. Ms Williamson has secured an ongoing part-time role in community care.

“I am very proud of my job. I am proud of what I’ve achieved and the job I do,” Ms Williamson said. “I also worked closely with Elders in the area, which was a highlight for me. It has been just fantastic.”

The HACC program is jointly funded by the Commonwealth and Victorian governments.

Increasing Aboriginal employment in councils is supported by the MAV’s Victorian Local Government Aboriginal Employment Framework.

The framework is based on three key elements - respect, relationships and opportunities. For more information please contact MAV Aboriginal Employment Adviser Lidia Thorpe via

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Darebin’s shopping spree on crime

An innovative partnership between Darebin City Council, Victoria Police and one of Victoria’s largest shopping precincts, Northland Shopping Centre, has led to a significant reduction in crime and improved profitability.

Theft, repair bills for vandalism, crime and anti-social problems affect all shopping centres, and cost the national economy a billion dollars each year in extra policing.

At Northland Shopping Centre in East Preston, issues like these account for more than one-third of the total number of crimes committed in the area, diverting police resources and reducing profits for business owners.

A council survey of the community showed many respondents did not always feel safe to shop there, and concerns about the volume and complexity of these issues were growing.

A meeting between key stakeholders including council, local police, centre management and security – the first in 50 years since the centre opened – saw the formation of the Northland Precinct Action Group.

Darebin Community Safety Officer Patrick Buchanan said the first step for the new group was to identify issues and agree on shared goals.

“It was crucial that we collectively recognised that issues occurring at the centre were symptomatic of a broader array of complex social issues in the surrounding community,” Mr Buchanan said.

“To devise a better strategy to address these problems, we reflected on traditional approaches to identify what was working and what wasn’t.”

“Very quickly we agreed that if we continued to operate in silos we would never be successful.”

A shared vision to make Northland Shopping Centre a safe, welcoming centre with strong positive connection to the local community was created.

“Before the stakeholder partnership there was little communication between the centre’s management, council and police, and in some instances, the priorities and processes were at odds with one another,” Mr Buchanan said.

“Around 70 per cent of participants rated their working relationship with other stakeholders as ‘very poor’ to ‘neutral’, or could not say.

“Within a year of the partnership forming, 90 per cent rated their working relationship with other stakeholders as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.”

Northland Shopping Centre Marketing Manager Natasha O’Brien-Limmer said community relations are an integral part of the success of the partnership.

“Enriching community experiences is at the core of our business values,” Ms O’Brien-Limmer said.

“Through ongoing collaboration and communication, we are seeing a much more engaged community and an improved perception of the centre and its immediate surrounds.”

The collaboration and pooling of resources and, most importantly, the commitment and goodwill of all those involved, has made the biggest difference, according to Darebin Police Inspector Adrian Dalzotto.

“Community safety and crime prevention is everybody’s business; NPAG is just one example of what can be achieved when police, councils, businesses and the community pull together and unite with a common goal,” he said.

Mr Buchanan echoed this point saying the partnership has reaffirmed that working collaboratively is the best way to address underlying social factors that influence crime and community safety.

“As the partnership enters its third year, the group remains committed to generating a long-term change to reduce crime and improve safety and build a more healthy and connected community.

“It also highlights the important role that councils can perform as facilitators to improve safety and prevent crime.”

A 27-point action plan focused on community building activities, improved surveillance and strategies to reduce vandalism. Together they achieved:

  • 55% reduction in theft
  • 18% reduction of assaults
  • 11% reduction in burglaries
  • $70,000 average annual saving in property loss for major retailers.

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Security and local government

By Casey City Council

In recent times security has become more of an issue and is of growing concern, both in local and international arenas. Events both locally and overseas consistently highlight the need for a better and more flexible approach to how we, in government, manage the dynamic and constantly evolving security environment.

Easy access to the internet and better and more accessible communication technologies has enabled disaffected individuals and groups to broaden their reach like never before. They can now influence and teach susceptible youth and individuals across the globe from virtually any location. Threats to security are now commonplace and we here in Australia are no longer immune to such threats. This is highlighted by the recent incidents that have occurred within the City of Casey and other municipalities across Victoria and, more broadly, across Australia.

While it can be argued that Australia is at low risk of experiencing a significant incident, for a variety of political, socioeconomic and other reasons, we are in harm’s way. For us here in Australia, governments and symbols of government have become and remain a target of choice for lone actors and small groups of like-minded individuals influenced to take action by others, driven by their own agendas or with a perceived grievance against government.

As a result of our evolving security environment and based on information from intelligence and enforcement agencies at the time, the Federal Government raised the National Terror Threat Level to ‘high’ in late 2014. This indicated that a terror attack could be likely and was designed to communicate an assessed risk of terrorist threat to Australia, and helps to guide preparation and planning to minimise the risk. Based on this advice, the CEO of the Municipal Association of Victoria advised all local governments to use the opportunity to review their emergency preparedness.

Casey City Council leveraged this opportunity and initiated a project to address the issue of staff security across the organisation. The Executive Management Group commissioned a Workplace Security Review that identified a lack of documented policy and procedure as a significant gap in the way council managed staff security. The review provided a number of recommendations as to how council could increase awareness of security risk and begin to develop policy, procedure and strategy to mitigate or eliminate security risk. A Steering Committee including senior staff members was established to oversee the actioning of the recommendations included in the review. A Security Project Officer was recruited in March 2015 to complete the project.

Initial assessment

As part of the initial review the Security Project Officer found that, aside from some enforcement and community-based positions, there was a relatively low level of security awareness amongst staff. In areas where there was some awareness, it was not generally considered to be a high priority with the feeling that “security is someone else’s responsibility.”

Unfortunately the security environment has changed with the threat posed by extremist groups and general violence towards council staff becoming not only more common and likely to occur, but the incidents themselves are more likely to escalate into a more severe level of physically threatening and violent behaviour.

Security has become everyone’s responsibility and needs to become an integral part of everyday business activity and process. The aim of the security project is to produce a documented security framework that provides a clear and consistent approach to staff security across the City of Casey. The security framework is designed to increase awareness of security risk and develop proportional and appropriate strategy, policy and procedure to manage the constantly evolving security environment.

A new security framework

Casey City Council is required by the Occupational Health & Safety Act 2004 to provide a safe working environment for all employees with workplace security just one element of this responsibility.

Progress has been swift with the security framework designed to develop policy and procedure related to staff security across council. The initial phase included extensive stakeholder involvement and consultation with 137 staff members across all teams and departments and five external resources including other local councils and Victoria Police. This process resulted in the successful development and implementation of a security framework incorporating an overarching policy and related guideline documents.

The Security Project Officer developed a process to increase security awareness by developing regular updates and security tips on the intranet and in the staff e-newsletter. This included security tips related to public transport, when in public or isolated spaces, when arriving and leaving the workplace and when in transit between council sites.

While the security framework provides a broad based organisation-wide policy for staff security, the varied activities undertaken and services provided by council required further development of specific team and department procedures related to their assessed level of risk. The Security Project Officer organised and facilitated 29 workshops with 185 attendees. Each department was asked to identify security risks specific to their department and to develop and document appropriate updated processes and procedures for those identified risks.

After 12 months, the security framework and internal processes have been successfully developed and implemented across the organisation. Internal policy documentation is now included in staff induction and registered with council’s internal risk management program.

Moving forward

On 26 November 2015, the Federal Government updated the alert process to the National Terrorism Threat Advisory System, a new five-level system. In December 2015, the Federal Government also issued an advisory stating that the factors leading to the heightened threat level have persisted and, in many cases, worsened with symbols of government remaining targets of choice.

With the development and implementation of the security framework and more embedded policies and procedures, Casey City Council is better placed to face the challenges that will come as the security environment evolves into the future.

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Technology: New toolkit for open data

The Open Council Data Toolkit has been developed for use by all Victorian councils wishing to embark upon or enhance their open data journey.

Government data is a valuable public resource that can be a powerful tool to support the goals and values of the community. Government organisations around the world are rapidly adopting open data policies as they recognise the potential benefits that can be realised at all levels of government. Local government data is of particular value, as it includes local infrastructure and amenities.

Even at this early stage, Victorian councils who are currently publishing open data sets have observed internal efficiency gains, increased community engagement, and strengthened relationships with data stakeholders such as coders, entrepreneurs and universities.

In late 2014, MAV Technology brought together Melbourne, Greater Geelong, Ballarat, Whittlesea city councils and Corangamite Shire Council to discuss how they might share their knowledge and experience in open data publishing with other councils. The group discussed a preferred publishing platform, policy for open data publishing and a number of data sets as potential ‘starters’ for all councils.

At the MAV Technology Forum held in December 2014, all councils were encouraged to publish data sets for trees, waste collection and accessible buildings. Within six months, the number of councils publishing open data had doubled and the amount of data published had significantly increased. In addition to this, many councils report that they are on the cusp of publishing open data.

In April 2015, MAV Technology partnered with Code for Australia, Socrata, and Ballarat, Greater Geelong and Melbourne city councils to run three six-week Open Data Fellowship programs across the councils to:

  • Identify challenges to put forward at GovHack 2015
  • Develop strong community understanding on councils’ work
  • Support and accelerate councils’ open data journey.

The new Open Council Data Toolkit was formally introduced to MAV Technology members at the MAV Technology Forum in Nagambie on Friday 4 March 2016. It is available for use by all local government data stakeholders now at

  • Victoria boasts more councils publishing open data than any other state in the nation.
  • Victorian councils that publish open data sets have observed internal efficiency gains, increased community engagement, and strengthened relationships with data stakeholders.
  • The map included on the Open Council Data Toolkit website is updated hourly, allowing councils to see how their efforts compare to other Australian LGAs.

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Advocacy on the right track

Funding for a second rail line to improve train services through one of Australia’s fastest growing municipalities, the City of Melton, is one of the Victorian projects that is part of a national campaign for outer growth areas.

The Fund Our Future campaign was launched nationally in February, seeking the establishment of a national infrastructure fund for outer growth areas like Melton, Werribee and South Morang. Nationally, suburbs like these are already home to five million Australians, but are expected to reach 7.5 million in the next 15 years.

The campaign is based on independent research that shows a backlog for rail, road and health infrastructure in outer growth areas around Australia that it is expected to increase to around $73 billion by 2031.

The breakdown of that figure for outer Melbourne suburbs is $22 billion and seven fast-growing interface councils have joined the Fund Our Future campaign.

Casey, Cardinia, Hume, Melton, Whittlesea, Wyndham and Mitchell have each identified a strategic priority project that could be funded if a national infrastructure fund for outer growth areas were a reality.

Melton’s hopes for a rail link upgrade have been given a boost with Infrastructure Australia adding it to its priority list. It was one of more than 90 infrastructure solutions put forward by the independent body.

The City of Melton currently has only one rail line, serviced by a low passenger capacity V/Line diesel train. This existing single track serves Ballarat train services, also catering Bacchus Marsh, Ararat and Maryborough communities. Over the last five years, patronage on this service has increased by 18.5 per cent.

Council is seeking funding to be allocated for the duplication of the Ballarat rail line between Sunshine and Melton that includes a metropolitan standard rail service with increased frequency and reduced travel times.

Melton City Council CEO Kel Tori said council had undertaken significant work over the past three years with feasibility studies and other analysis in partnership with the Australian Government, Public Transport Victoria and the Metropolitan Planning Authority in regards to the Ballarat rail line.

“In December 2012, the PTV Network Development Plan – Metropolitan Rail identified the duplication, and ultimately electrification, of the Ballarat line, along with additional train stations at Caroline Springs and Toolern – the next metropolitan activity centre for our municipality,” Mr Tori said.

While duplication is expected to allow for 20-minute services in both directions, electrification will double this frequency and allow trains to run during peak times every 10 minutes. It will also enable the addition of even more new train stations, as proposed in Plan Melbourne 2014.

Mr Tori said there were a number of benefits for duplicating the rail line for Melton and its surrounding communities including provision of better access to education, employment, training and leisure destinations.

“Right now, most Melton residents travel by car, which is causing congestion on major arterials and local roads. The duplication of the rail line will reduce traffic volumes and associated road accidents, noise and disruption,” he said.

“The duplication will also reduce the number of passengers driving to Sunbury to access metropolitan services and release capacity via Regional Rail Link tracks for additional services from regional centres.”

Fund Our Future was initiated by the National Growth Areas Alliance (NGAA) because residents in the fast-growing suburbs on the outskirts of Australia’s capital cities are disadvantaged, with poor infrastructure a common thread.

“Too often residents are forced to travel up to two hours each way just to get to their job – burdening them with high fuel costs, stress from sitting in traffic and time away from family and friends,” said the Chair of the NGAA Mayor Glenn Docherty (Playford City Council, Adelaide).

“If a significant investment is not made, we risk dividing cities along social and economic lines: those in the inner city who have good access to transport, jobs and health facilities – and those in the fast-growing outer suburbs who do not.”

The City of Melton is one of the fastest growing municipalities in Australia with 42 babies being born in the municipality per week.

“Like most other growth areas across Australia, council is experiencing some real challenges in regards to providing timely infrastructure to meet the rapidly growing community,” Mr Tori said.

“Being a member of the NGAA provides a collective forum and voice representing more than 20 of Australia’s fastest growing municipalities.”

Fund Our Future calls on each participating council’s community to send a message through the campaign’s website that will be passed on to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

“Getting these issues on the agenda at a Federal level is one of the key benefits of being part of the NGAA, in particular the Fund Our Future campaign, and our community is already responding,” Mr Tori said.

The duplication of the Ballarat rail line between Melton and Sunshine is expected to cost $700 million, which jumps to $1.1 billion when electrification is included.

For more information visit / or visit

The duplication of the Ballarat rail line is important to many outlying communities to have better access to the Melbourne CBD.

While Melton City Council has named it a priority project as part of its involvement with the Fund Our Future campaign to secure Federal funding, it is also working with a group of councils that will benefit from the project receiving funding from the State.

Six councils dotted along the Ballarat line have commenced planning for a joint campaign to advocate to the Victorian Government for rail funding to duplicate the rail line from Melton to Sunshine.

Ararat, Ballarat, Brimbank, Moorabool and Pyrenees have joined Melton City Council in developing a strategy to bring the importance of duplicating the line to the attention of the Victorian Premier, ministers and local members of parliament.

Stay tuned for more about this campaign in the June edition of CiVic.

Infrastructure priorities

Victorian local government’s seven National Growth Areas Alliance members and their Fund Our Future campaign priority projects:

  • Melton City Council: Duplicate Ballarat Rail Line.
  • Casey City Council: Duplicate Thompsons Road (beyond the $20m funded by State Government), upgrade the intersection with Western Port Highway, extend and duplicate Thompsons Road from Berwick-Cranbourne Road to Cardinia Road.
  • Cardinia Shire Council: Complete Thompsons Road by fixing the bottleneck at Thompsons Road/Western Port Highway intersection.
  • Hume City Council: Duplicate sections of Craigieburn Road, Somerton Road, Mickleham Road and Sunbury Road.
  • Whittlesea City Council: Construction of the O’Herns Road/Hume Freeway interchange, extension of Edgars Road, and duplication of Epping and Bridge Inn roads.
  • Wyndham City Council: Various road infrastructure projects for Laverton North and Werribee South.
  • Mitchell Shire Council: Wallan Hume Freeway Southern Ramps and Watson Street upgrade.

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Sharing history, connecting generations

Yarra City Council has launched a ground-breaking new resource to enable schools to teach the area’s rich Aboriginal history.

Connecting with the Aboriginal History of Yarra: A Teacher’s Resource was released in March to mark Close the Gap day and is one of the most comprehensive resources for educators produced by a Victorian council.

It was developed with support from the Wurundjeri Council, local Elders and teachers, after the council identified a gap in resources for teachers wanting to teach local Aboriginal history. The resource can be used with children in grades three to 10 and it aligns with Australian/Victorian cross curriculum standards.

Yarra City Council hopes that the resource will help both teachers and students in the area engage with and develop a deeper understanding of local Aboriginal peoples, histories, cultures and places.

Mayor Roberto Colanzi said the impetus for developing this resource came from extensive consultation with the local community in 2014.

“In the development of council’s Aboriginal Partnerships Plan 2015-2018, community members said they would like to see a stronger focus on schools teaching local Aboriginal history, as opposed to general and national Aboriginal histories,” he said.

“For the Yarra area, this includes recognising the Wurundjeri as the true sovereigns, caretakers and custodians of the land now known as Yarra, as well as the important civil rights movement that was born in Fitzroy, involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from many nations.”

Connecting with the Aboriginal History of Yarra: A Teacher’s Resource includes activities, excursions and links to over 100 web pages, including videos, songs and book excerpts. The resource includes classroom-based activities and excursions to historical sites in Yarra and beyond.

Wurundjeri Council congratulated council on the development of the new teachers’ resource.

Connecting with the Aboriginal history of Yarra is long overdue, and testament to Yarra Council’s ongoing commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” it said.

“Hopefully the leadership they have shown will encourage other local governments to take up the challenge of educating and working with schools in their local areas to educate white Australia on its true black history.”

Melbourne Girls’ College’s Principal Karen Money has championed the resource, helping council promote it among other school principals.

“This teacher’s resource is an excellent support to many aspects of the Victorian curriculum. It is a privilege to learn so much about the rich Indigenous history on our doorstep,” she said.

Download a copy of the Aboriginal History Teachers’ Resource from the Wurundjeri History of Yarra website at

What’s in the resource?

Connecting with the Aboriginal History of Yarra: A Teacher’s Resource includes information on the:

  • Diversity of Aboriginal peoples in Australia and the Wurundjeri as the traditional owners of Yarra
  • Wurundjeri creation story, the Wurundjeri connection to country and place, and Wurundjeri life prior to European settlement
  • First contacts between the Wurundjeri people and Europeans, including significant events such as the signing of the Batman Treaty and significant Wurundjeri figures
  • Colonial presence and how this impacted on the Wurundjeri people
  • Experiences of Aboriginal people in their campaigns for rights and citizenship
  • Stolen Generations – who they are, what happened to them, how they were affected, what the impacts on families and communities across Australia were then and now.

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Resilient Melbourne: beating the heat

By Jane Lindhe

For many Australians, summer is enjoyed outside in the sun with friends and family. However, for vulnerable members of the community, such as the elderly, the harsh heat of Australia’s summer can lead to severe illness and even death if not managed well.

Recently released statistics show a heatwave in January 2014 contributed to the deaths of 167 Victorians. It’s a figure that Hobsons Bay City Council would like to see dramatically reduced.

The council’s Heat Health Response Plan aims to work with other community groups and the police force to ensure the most vulnerable members of its community are protected as the temperatures soar.

The Hobsons Bay plan supports many of the key goals of Resilient Melbourne, which analyses the resilience of the Melbourne City Council municipality and 31 other local government areas.

Most notably, it reflects the need to build a stronger society where individuals and community organisations feel empowered to monitor their own health needs and the wellbeing of others.

Hobsons Bay City Council Chief Executive Officer Chris Eddy said combining the expertise of local and State governments, as well as community services and volunteers, has been crucial to the plan’s success.

“Over the years the revised heatwave planning has become embedded into the Council’s operations and the way we communicate about these events,” Mr Eddy said.

“The plan is now embedded in council’s culture.”

In 2008 Hobsons Bay City Council was one of 13 councils that piloted the development and implementation of a Heatwave Response Plan (now the Heat Health Response Plan). The plan – funded by the Department of Human Services – targeted two vulnerable demographics: the socially isolated, frail and elderly, and visitors to Williamstown and Altona beaches.

Partnerships were formed with the Australian Red Cross, Life Saving Victoria, local radio station STEREO 974 and local volunteers. It was subsequently implemented three times throughout its piloted year.

Revising the plan

Mr Eddy said the successful development and execution of the pilot program in 2008-09, as well as positive feedback from the DHS and its partners, prompted the council to continue using the plan, albeit with some revisions.

The main changes involved identifying other vulnerable groups, such as young children, breastfeeding mothers, pregnant women, people with disabilities, different cultural groups and low income families, and catering to their needs.

Other key changes to the piloted plan include sending a community heatwave information sheet to all households at the start of summer, discussing the issues with wider community networks, refining the emergency response activation, linking the plan with council’s Emergency Recovery Plan and a proposal to extend library operating hours during heatwaves.

Making contact

In 2010 Hobsons Bay City Council partnered with Gateway Community Services and Victoria Police to create the Hobsons Bay Community Register. The register was formed in response to community feedback the Council received during the development of its Ageing Well Strategy 2007-2017, where it was recognised that some residents can feel isolated from the community.

The secure, confidential community register – funded by the Office of Senior Victorians – is a voluntary list of community members who can nominate to be contacted by Gateway Community Services to check on their wellbeing and offer them ‘peace of mind’ throughout the year.

“The aim of the register is to enhance feelings of security and confidence, and council and the partner agencies encouraged residents over 50 years of age and people with a disability to register,” Mr Eddy said.

With support from Gateway volunteers, residents receive a monthly phone call to check on their health and wellbeing and provide some social contact. If the call goes unanswered, a nominated contact person can then be notified. During the summer season the contact is more frequent.

Mr Eddy said the heatwave plan and its supporting call register is a good example of community services, the council and volunteers working together to ensure vulnerable members of the community are looked after.

“It provides them with a sense of connection, not only to the community but to the people around them who provide services,” he said.

“It also gives the community a sense of security – a factor that is sometimes underrated.”

Making a plan that works

What Hobsons Bay learned through the development of its Heatwave Plan:

    Working with the Red Cross and Gateway aligned with the objectives of all organisations to reach vulnerable members of the community
    Have deadlines for the activation of key parts of the strategy and stick to them
    A willingness from all senior managers and middle management is important
    Hobsons Bay has pre and post seasonal briefings every year to test the responsiveness of the plan
    Hobsons Bay uses a number of measures to educate the community well ahead of the heatwave season, such as labelled water bottles to Meals on Wheels recipients, etc.

Resilient Melbourne Strategy to launch in May

The strategy for Resilient Melbourne will launch in May. The collaboration across all levels of government, business and community will include a range of connected projects to addresss Melbourne’s unprecedented level of change that is putting pressure on the city’s economic, social, environmental and administrative systems. The strategy is being drafted by the Resilient Melbourne core team based within Melbourne City Council with the support from strategy partner AECOM Australia and supported by 100 Resilient Cities. It is supported and reviewed by senior leaders in metropolitan Melbourne’s 32 councils.

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Old school housing

Nillumbik Shire Council has purchased a former high school site as part of a strategy to manage future housing needs for its ageing community.

Housing developments are few and far between in Nillumbik so when the Department of Education offered to sell the former Hurstbridge High School site, council saw an opportunity to help residents find accessible housing options, downsize or buy their first home.

Nillumbik Mayor Bronnie Hattam said the Liveable Nillumbik project would provide options to meet the housing needs of its community.

“Residents have told council they want to stay in the area they love, whether that be downsizing or buying their first property so they can stay close to family, friends and places they know,” Cr Hattam said.

The location of the old school site made the purchase attractive with its close proximity to public transport, services, open space, shops and facilities.

“We know that people who are living with a disability and their carers are often unable to find accessible housing close to all services, which is why the accessibility aspects of this project are very important,” Cr Hattam said.

Nillumbik used information from the State Government’s Victoria in Future 2014 report to develop a housing strategy to 2031 that was built on sound evidence.

After years of negotiations and planning, the land was purchased and the Liveable Nillumbik housing project began with community consultation that resulted in 68 submissions.

In mid 2015, a reference group was established, comprising 13 people including a councillor, a Positive Ageing Advisory Group member, a representative to ensure disability access requirements were met, and other members of the community.

Council received good news in January 2016 with the Minister for Planning The Hon Richard Wynne approving a rezoning application that will allow the site to be developed.

“Before any development could take place, the planning zone needed to be changed from Public Use Zone to Township Zone,” Cr Hattam said.

“This has been approved and now the Liveable Nillumbik land has the same zone as the rest of the Hurstbridge town.”

Part of the zoning process included approving a Development Plan Overlay (DPO), which will allow council to go one step further than traditional planning controls.

“We will be able to enforce strict criteria requesting that developers explain how they will address the accessibility, diversity, affordability, environmental and neighbourhood character aspects of the development,” Cr Hattam said.

“It is vital for the success of the project that any development takes into account the beautiful and natural surroundings, local environment and open spaces.”

As a slow growth location with an estimated population of 64,000 living in close-knit communities, managing future needs will be challenging.

Currently around nine per cent of Nillumbik’s population is aged 65 years or more but in the next 20 years this age group is forecast to account for almost a quarter of the population.

Couples without dependents and lone person households are also expected to increase to 32 per cent and 19 per cent respectively during 2021-2031.

Planning and building approvals for Liveable Nillumbik project are expected to take four years.

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Open mosque day

Knox City Council was among many councils that took part in this year’s Cultural Diversity Week, joining its local Filipino and Muslim communities in events that included an open day at a local mosque.

Recognising changing community profiles is an increasingly important part of local government and meeting future needs, and Cultural Diversity Week is a great event on the annual calendar towards achieving this.

Knox Mayor Tony Holland was among 150 visitors to attend the mosque open day at Lysterfield in Melbourne’s outer east.

“To deliver a wide, and changing, range of services in the most efficient way, we need to be out in the community and learning about the different groups which we serve,” Cr Holland said.

“It was a great success, providing an opportunity for the Muslim and non-Muslim communities to talk and learn from each other.”

The Islamic Society of Melbourne Eastern Region’s mosque at Lysterfield opened in 1986.

“Then, it (the mosque) was quite isolated, but suburbia has now caught up,” Cr Holland said.

“While the Australian Muslim community is among the smaller faith groups in the City of Knox – representing about 1,800 people at the 2011 Census – they’re adding to the rich diversity of our municipality and that of Melbourne’s south-east.

“What I found fascinating was that this is a community that is planning for the future of their members and the wider community.

“The Islamic Society of Melbourne Eastern Region’s retirement home opened in 1994 and is open to all faiths and cultures. In fact, one-third of the residents are from non-Muslim backgrounds, including a large number of Hindu people.”

Knox is a diverse area with 155,000 people from 130 countries, and 20 per cent from non-English speaking backgrounds.

“Our objective is to strengthen engagement with people from multicultural backgrounds, to celebrate multiculturalism and create opportunities that build and support social cohesion,” Cr Holland said.

“We’re here to provide services and advocate on their behalf so that other levels of government understand what’s needed in these communities.”

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Wellbeing study tour

Darebin Cr Bo Li’s background in health policy has driven an interest in non-medical issues that determine a community’s social wellbeing and, more importantly, how local government can address these.

As the winner of last year’s MAV McArthur Local Government Fellowship Award, Cr Li travelled to England, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and Singapore to gather insight into how councils in these countries are addressing social determinants, and find best practice examples to bring home to Victorian local government.

Cr Li explains social determinants as all things non-medical that impact on social wellbeing such as housing, education, employment status and environment.

“Councils play an important role in addressing social determinants, especially with provision of services,” he said.

“For example, a library is no longer just about borrowing books. It can be a meeting place for a mother’s group, provider of sensitive information such as drugs and alcohol and sexual health for teenagers, and a facility used by senior citizens to stay connected.

“A neighbourhood house is an important community asset on so many fronts. It is where residents can learn new skills, make new friends and join an interest group.

“Even our parks are multi-purpose and look at a whole-of-person approach where there may be exercise equipment and opportunities to socialise.

“All of these services and facilities provide longer term benefits for the community.”
During his whirlwind six-week study tour, Cr Li found bottom-up and top-down approaches could both work.

“In England, information comes from the bottom up,” he said.

“Councils can access aggregated population data at a local level and use it to plan and target at-risk groups.

“There are different approaches to overall policy that can all work depending on political systems.”

Last year, Singapore approved two bold strategies to increase physical activity and promote healthy food habits.

These five-year strategies set realistic targets and have both prevention and intervention approaches. They also actively seek to collaborate with other government agencies, departments and private and commercial sector partners.

One thing Cr Li did find consistent among all countries was their political will.

“Sweden and Denmark have been recognising social determinants since the 1990s, and implemented their policies and programs accordingly; as a result those countries have a high life expectancy and great life satisfaction,” he said.

“Large countries like Australia would benefit from more tailored programs.

“Local government needs to work in collaboration with the Australian and state governments to focus on preventative measures.

“For instance, we recognise obesity as an issue but how are we addressing it at a grass roots level?

“The federal and state governments may set dietary guidelines but how can councils implement them and encourage healthy eating?”

Cr Li said the MAV McArthur Fellowship was instrumental in allowing him to undertake further research in the area of social determinants.

“I couldn’t do it without the fellowship,” he said.

“It has allowed me to look at what is happening overseas and transfer it to what is happening in the local Victorian context and look for opportunities.”

Cr Li’s report will soon be available on the MAV website.

Recommendations for local government

Examples of global best practice in addressing social determinants of health at local government levels:

  1. Recognise and embed a health in all policies approach in policy and program development.
  2. Adopt a long-term political commitment towards reducing inequalities in communities.
  3. Meaningful, up-to-date and localised data is a powerful tool for service planning and delivery of targeted interventions.
  4. Collaboration is the key. This will enhance staff knowledge and understanding of the social determinants of health and improve intra and inter agency communication, leading to sustainable outcomes for the community.
  5. Be ambitious and prepare to lead.

Source: The Role of Local Government in Addressing Social Determinants of Health, MAV McArthur Local Government Fellowship Award, 2015 Report, Cr Bo Li, Darebin City Council.

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In brief

The art of love

Love may not be lost with six local artists engaged to transform Melbourne’s iconic locks into everlasting artworks including a harmonic bell, large scale necklace and sculptural works.

Melbourne City Council partnered with Craft Victoria to select a diverse range of artists, including a photographer, jeweller and sculptor, from more than 30 expressions of interest. A husband and wife team has also been selected to create limited edition mementos of the love locks to accompany the exhibition catalogue.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said the selection of artists was a major milestone in the Love Locks Project, which would create a meaningful and lasting legacy for romantic Melburnians.

“When dealing with the same phenomenon, many cities around the world simply cut the locks off and threw them away,” said the Lord Mayor.

“But this is Melbourne, and we wanted to honour the love that these locks represented to thousands of people.”

Melbourne City Council removed 20,000 locks from the Evan Walker Bridge (formerly known as Southbank Pedestrian Bridge) last year due to safety concerns.

The final art pieces will be exhibited and auctioned at a special event at the Melbourne Town Hall in August 2016.

Hume to advise State

Hume City Council Mayor Helen Patsikatheodorou is among a group of 12 Victorian mayors who will contribute to the 2016 Local Government Mayoral Advisory Panel.

The panel is designed to discuss issues that affect local councils and directly advises Victoria’s Minister for Local Government Natalie Hutchins.

Cr Patsikatheodorou will use her role on the panel to pursue the interests of local government.

“The State Government is in the midst of a review into the Local Government Act 1989. It has also recently introduced new laws that govern the behaviour of all councillors,” Cr Patsikatheodorou said.

“I am grateful to have the opportunity to offer my counsel at a time of great change for the local government sector.”

The 2016 Local Government Mayoral Advisory Panel will meet tri-monthly until October.

Builders and developers info

Stonnington City Council has released a new publication to guide builders and developers undertaking projects in the municipality.

The guide has been designed to help deal with confusion around a range of state legislation and local government laws.

The Builders and Developers Information Pack has been produced in response to the community impact of unprecedented development activity in Stonnington.

It provides information about council permits, asset protection and out-of-hours works among other things.

The pack also outlines what builders and developers need to know to ensure that their work is hassle-free and meets council and community expectations.

Con-free gaming

Whittlesea City Council Mayor Stevan Kozmevski has called on the State Government to only allow ‘con-free gaming machines’, or those free of addiction causing software.

Whittlesea has joined the Alliance for Gambling Reform along with partners including the Municipal Association of Victoria, Salvation Army and the Public Health Association of Australia.

Cr Kozmevski said every year the community loses more than $100 million through the pokies.

“As a council, we are appalled at these figures. No responsible government authority should think such losses are acceptable,” he said.

“Gambling causes a range of mental, social, emotional and physical health problems such as family breakdowns, family violence and financial hardship,” said Cr Kozmevski.

“I am calling on the State Government to act now and deliver meaningful gaming reform because the financial and social cost to our community is so high.”

Boost for Avoca Wine Festival

Pyrenees Shire Council’s Unearthed Festival received a $15,000 State Government grant as part of the Stronger Regional Communities Plan.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier Colin Brooks said the grant will significantly boost the shire’s tourism and employment opportunities.

“The wine industry is the biggest employer in the Pyrenees Shire and promoting the quality wines of the region will contribute to long-term economic growth,” Mr Brooks said.

The Unearthed Festival will be held over the Anzac Day weekend. It includes the Avoca Wine Festival, the Artists Award Gala and the Avoca Riverside Market and the Bonfire Bash

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V8 Supercars WD-40 Phillip Island SuperSprint

Date: 15–17 April 2016

Venue: Back Beach Road, Phillip Island

Description: Start your engines. The Island will come alive with the rumble of V8 horsepower at high speed. Get amongst the action at one of the country’s most scenic racetracks and enjoy all the other great activities that Phillip Island has to offer.

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Bright Fun Run

Date: 24 April 2016

Venue: Pioneer Park Recreation Reserve, Cobden Street, Bright

Description: Warm up and step out for this now annual fundraiser for the Parents and Friends Committee of Bright P-12 College. Serious runners can do up to a half marathon, or for a more leisurely stroll, take on the 3km walk.

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10th Anniversary Clunes Booktown Festival – ‘Journeys through time and place’

Date: 30 April–1 May 2016

Venue: Fraser Street, Clunes

Description: Bookworms unite. As a member of the International Organisation of Booktowns, Clunes is a mecca for avid readers with more than 70 book traders. This year’s special guests include Australian luminaries Anna Bligh and Stan Grant with 40 authors speaking, nine entertainment acts and various kids activities plus an exhibition in the old Wesley Bluestone focused on the theme. Get your head out of that book and come check it out.

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Eastern Suburbs Oxfam Walk Against Want

Date: 1 May 2016

Venue: St John Ambulance Hall, Elgar Park, Box Hill North

Description: The 50th Annual Walk Against Want gets underway at 9am and you can walk, jog or cycle your way along the beautiful Koonung Trail. All to support poor communities around the world – join in and take steps against poverty. Refreshments and sausage sizzle provided.

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Inaugural Melbourne Tea Festival

Date: 29 May 2016

Venue: Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, 1 Convention Centre Place, South Wharf

Description: One lump or two? No matter how you like yours, the first Melbourne Tea Festival is for you. Following the success of the Sydney-based event, the Melbourne festival will showcase and celebrate specialty tea with a market, educational workshops and tastings. Save your finest china for this one.

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Alexandra Open Group Exhibition

Date: 29 April–13 June

Venue: Rustic Simplicity @ The Shear ‘N’ Sheds, 74 Grant Street, Alexandra

Description: Calling all artistes. This is an open group exhibition of mixed and various media by local and Victorian artists. Expressions of interest sought by

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Woodend Winter Arts Festival

Date: 10–13 June 2016

Venue: Various locations around Woodend

Description: Warm those winter blues with some art and culture. Now in its 12th year, this annual event showcases a host of local and international artists, musicians and poets. The 2016 program is yet to be released so stay tuned for announcements.

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Mayors share recruitment stories

By Clare McCartin

Not since the amalgamations in 1994 has the Victorian local government sector experienced such a high turnover of CEOs, and there is a level of trepidation that mayors and councillors often have when making the decision to appoint a new leader.
And it’s little wonder why.

From an organisational perspective, the appointment of a new CEO is one job that a council is 100 per cent responsible for, so it is critical that council and the mayor manage this process effectively to make an appropriate appointment.

Any councillor who has governed an organisation led by an inadequate leader knows firsthand the agony and the cost a poor selection can create. They will do everything in their power to ensure they don’t repeat the experience.

However, the simple fact is all CEO appointments contain two risks.

The first risk is appointing the wrong person. The second risk, and a common one, is rejecting the right person. This risk is greatest in the early stages of recruiting when sub-committees and consultants reject candidates because of biases and beliefs that may have nothing to do with performance.

This is where an enhanced collaboration and a commitment to look beyond the resume is critical.

Five mayors from across Victoria who have all appointed a new CEO within the past 12 months recently shared their experience to find out what they would do differently, what they found worked, what lessons they learnt and advice they would pass on to their peers.

Process satisfaction

Three of the mayors reported satisfaction with their existing hiring process. One of the dissatisfied mayors said there wasn’t anything that could have been done differently regarding the process, but linked the lack of quality candidates to some councillors having poor reputations in the market-place, which deterred good candidates.

Another dissatisfied mayor emphasised the need to get councillors to commit to the original brief or ‘you might have councillors arguing over the original brief when they were down to the last two candidates’.

A potential improvement was increasing the level of education provided to councillors on the importance of the briefing workshop so that they don’t argue at the later stage of the process.

Attracting quality candidates

Eighty per cent of the mayors interviewed said the candidates who applied for the CEO role listed career advancement as one of the key reasons they were interested in the job.

In each case, this represented an opportunity to step up to a leading metropolitan or major regional council from either a rural/interface CEO role or a director level metro role.

All respondents reported that the size, diversity and dynamic nature of their municipality and the ability to make a key difference to the community were key attractions from their shortlisted group.

Only two respondents said candidates were motivated to apply due to the strong reputation of the council as a well-functioning group.

Public vs private

In 80 per cent of cases, none of the private sector applicants were shortlisted for the CEO role. It was deemed too risky to appoint a ‘newbie’ who was untested.

There was a low-risk appetite from the consultants involved and the mayors, who said they had a preference for ‘at least some local government experience’.

This low-risk appetite is understandable. Local government is certainly a unique sector, in fact no one would ever develop a commercial business with the diversity and complexity of service offerings that local government is involved in.

Add to that the advocacy requirements of the role and the need to navigate political sensitivities at all levels of government and it’s clear that the CEO role is incredibly dynamic and challenging.

Compare this to commercial candidates who often manage their organisations with one main success factor in mind, the financial performance of the organisation, and it becomes clear why these candidates are seen by councillors as ‘untested’ or ‘risky’.

Having said that, both consultants and council groups should be encouraged to proactively tap into talent pools within sectors that share similarities to local government such as healthcare, education and other levels of government.

Key competencies

Innovation, preparedness to take calculated risks, strategic vision, ability to lead change and think outside the square, especially to find alternative revenue streams in a rate capped environment, were overarching themes for what the mayors were looking for.

Furthermore, financial management, communication and interpersonal and relationship development skills were also mentioned by the majority of the respondents.

The next most common theme identified by three of the five mayors was finding an ‘all-rounder’ or a ‘Jack of all trades’ with experience that will prepare them for the diversity of services council offers.

Quality and quantity

All five mayors reported satisfaction with the quantity of applications, with most averaging 70 candidates.

On the other hand, the question of quality elicited a different response. Only two of the five mayors reported satisfaction with the quality of their applicants, despite all five being very satisfied with the final appointee.

Most councillors thought they would have received applicants with a higher calibre and, in particular, seasoned metropolitan CEOs applying for the role.

I suspect this is, in part, due to the fact that the sector has experienced a high level of CEO change across metropolitan Melbourne in the past two to three years and from a timing perspective many category one and two CEOs are just not ready to move.

Assessing cultural fit

All five mayors reported using interview questions to assess fit, focussing not only on what they’ve done, but how they’ve achieved it. Three of the five councils appointed either an internal applicant or a returning council executive so the person was a known ‘fit’.

One council invited the top two candidates to a councillor dinner, which they reported as being an invaluable last step in clearly differentiating the candidate they felt was most closely aligned to their cultural fit.

Bring in the experts

Interestingly, Melbourne City Council adopted a sub-committee structure and followed the recommendations of the Local Government (Improved Governance) Bill and appointed a paid independent skilled Chair.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle reported that the Chair brought with her a ‘wealth of experience and a strong understanding of the processes of government’.

Lord Mayor Doyle found putting this structure in place to be a ‘very powerful lever and the independent perspective was enormously valuable’.

Psychometric assessment

Decades of research in organisational psychology consistently demonstrates that psychometric assessment is the most predictive screening tool at our disposal to predict success in the workplace. It is substantially more predictive than the best structured interview.

Eighty per cent of the councils interviewed used psychometric assessment as part of their process. Of the 80 per cent, half used psychometric assessment with the final two candidates and half used the assessments on all of the shortlisted candidates.

So at what stage are you using this incredible weapon? Is it with the final one to two candidates only? If so, you may fall into the invisible risk category, perhaps you have rejected the right person whose aptitudes and personality profile may have navigated your council to new heights.

Going beyond the CV

It is imperative councils engage with experts who can provide a feel for ‘fit’ beyond what is perceived from a paper-based resume and key selection responses.

Consultants should be able to present digital footage of the top 10 candidates so that councillors can get a powerful sense of their style, presentation, communication skills and attitude and interest in your council.

For a CEO selection to be thorough and consistent, the assessment should be based on four criteria:

  • The candidate’s interest: is the role fundamentally in the best interest of the candidate? Does he/she want the work and all that goes with it enough to make the personal sacrifices demanded by the job? Do they believe in the role of local government and believe in the role of councillors as democratically elected representatives or will they become frustrated by some of the challenges associated with this?

  • The candidate’s competence: does the candidate have the critical skills needed to excel in the job? For example, can this person set the strategic direction, manage the diversity of financial and operational challenges, engage the broad and plentiful stakeholders, and manage the political challenges both within local government and within other tiers of government? Do they have the emotional intelligence to read situations accurately and adjust to changing conditions?

  • The candidate’s commitment to stay: will the candidate commit to remaining in the organisation long enough to contribute lasting value? If a relocation is required, will family members and significant others support the move?

  • The candidate’s key weaknesses: does the candidate have a fatal flaw that could undo the value he or she would otherwise bring to the job? For example does he or she have a management style that would be perceived negatively or a fixed opinion about the boundary between the CEO and the council that could lead to difficulty or a pattern of behaviour that is unacceptable in a CEO?

Mayoral feedback

  • Invest a considerable amount of time in the early stage of the process perfecting the brief you take to market.

  • Ensure everyone is committed to the brief before going to market.

  • Don’t rush it, if you don’t have enough high calibre candidates, go back out to the market. It can be a cumbersome process, but necessary.

  • If possible, engage with experts or third parties who aren’t connected to internal politics.

  • Investigate the many tools out there available to you to ensure you are getting the full picture and seeing beyond the CV.

  • Manage a tight process, establish the dates at the start of the process and stick to them (be clear and straight with the process).

  • It’s such a sensitive process and all the politics behind the scenes need to be put aside so you’re getting the very best person for the job, not a candidate that is being pushed by a particular faction of council.

The identity of the mayors has been concealed to allow a candid discussion to take place.

Clare McCartin is the Victorian General Manager of Davidson Executive. She has worked in executive recruitment with some of the state’s top CEO and senior managers in government, health and not-for-profit sectors for more than a decade.

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Pop up play in Whittlesea

Whittlesea City Council is bringing family playtime and information directly to the community with pop-up playgroups at shopping centres.

The council has been running a successful pop-up playgroup program at a local shopping centre for the past two years.

The sessions offer parents a chance to drop in and learn more about what’s on offer in their local community for their children.

Early Year’s Partnerships Coordinator Kim Barker said the program was popular with an average of 60 families dropping in to the weekly two-hour sessions.

“We’ve found the pop-up playgroups a successful way to help the community access important information for the health and wellbeing of their young children,” she said.

Council’s playgroup and Maternal and Child Health team work together with Yarra Plenty Regional Library, Plenty Valley Community Health and Healthy Together Whittlesea to put together the events.

During the sessions, parents and their children enjoy playtime activities like building blocks, play-doh or reading.

Council staff attend the sessions to provide information and answer questions and there are also static displays.

“Families can find out about how to access playgroups, library story time, kindergarten enrolment and Maternal and Child Health Key Age and Stage visits,” Ms Barker said.

“By bringing the information and activities to the community it enables families who might otherwise miss out to have access to the services. “We are able to connect with them and we’ve found many choose to sign up or re-engage with programs.”

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Five minutes with … Cr Bronnie Hattam, Mayor Nillumbik Shire Council

Nillumbik Mayor Bronnie Hattam has a long and proud family history living in the Shire. She spoke to CiVic about her priorities for her mayoral year, her environmental passions and why she continues to love calling Nillumbik home.

You have a particular focus on the environment, what do you see as the greatest environmental challenges for Nillumbik and surrounds?

Climate change is impacting us all and I think it is an important issue to tackle at a local level. We’ve just endorsed our Climate Change Action Plan. Nillumbik also has one of the most intact Green Wedges and I would like to see that continue to be protected. Around 90 per cent of our municipality is rural but because we are not classed as a rural shire, we do not receive rural funding – this is a challenge in itself. I am also on the Yarra River Protection Ministerial Advisory Committee reporting to Planning Minister Richard Wynne because I think it’s important that we protect our waterways.

Why did you run for council and what is the one thing you most want to achieve?

I left and came back to council after a four-year break. I returned because I wanted to finish some of the things that I started in my first term. A number of masterplans and community and local environment issues are top of my agenda.

What’s been your priority in your mayoral year?

I’m trying hard to do all of those things I first set out to do. I want to ensure our masterplans are acted upon and that we stay within the rate cap. I aim to continue to deliver the services that the community would like us to achieve.

You are a member of the Nillumbik Mudbrick Association, tell us a bit about this and why you chose to build your home this way?

I come from a very old Eltham family who have always built their homes with mudbrick. It is a very ‘green’ way of building and I just love the aesthetics of it.

What makes the area so special to you?

My mother came to Eltham during the Second World War so my family have been here for a very long time. It’s a very special area because it’s so green yet so close to the city. My husband is able to work in the city and can access the train. There is an array of trails and linear reserves that make this place a very beautiful place to live. I lived in the city for a while when I was young and had two children there but wanted to move here to raise them. I craved the space and lifestyle I had here.

You have three children, what have been the greatest challenges and strengths about raising them in Nillumbik?

There is so much space here for them to roam. I wanted them to learn to climb trees and plant things and enjoy the bush. They were able to do all of that here growing up. The biggest challenge has probably been as they’ve grown to be teenagers. Besides the train, public transport in Nillumbik makes it somewhat difficult for them to get around. I find myself having to be a taxi constantly.

In this, a Federal Election year, what do you see as being some of Nillumbik’s priorities for lobbying?

Nillumbik has 17 sporting ovals. That is a lot of ovals to maintain and we also have a rising number of women in sport. I’d like to see us lobby for funding in these areas so that we can provide the amenity for the community to continue to enjoy using these facilities. I’d also like to see some help with environmental education at places like Edenvale Farm.

At the end of a long week, what is your favourite spot in Nillumbik for some peace and quiet?

Besides just being in my home, it’s so nice to just go down to the river and sit under a tree. I take the dog walking and I love to just watch the water flow and see a duck or two and look for a platypus. I’ve never seen one but I know they are there so I will keep looking!