News and resources

CiVic - Issue 14 - Spring 2016


Index of accessible version

President’s report

By Bill McArthur, MAV President.

With the four-year council term coming to an end, the next few months will be a busy and momentous time for the sector.

At the last council elections in 2012, nearly half of all elected representatives were new to council, so we should expect to see some fresh faces in the council chambers across Victoria again this year following the election.

Over the last four years there have been many challenges faced by the sector, and many achievements that councillors can be proud of influencing and playing an important role in.

Challenges have included changes in government at both the State and Federal level, the introduction of rate capping, cuts to financial assistance grants indexation, the burden of cost shifting and additional responsibilities being imposed on the sector, and the superannuation shortfall to name a few.

Reflecting on our successes, I realise there have been many that I’m proud of. Without naming them all, some of the highlights include securing a $3.6 billion boost to Roads to Recovery funding nationally; achieving a return of 50:50 funding for maternal and child health services; working together to stop State funding cuts for public libraries and Federal funding cuts to the national 15 hours kindergarten program; a revised and strengthened Victorian State-Local Government Agreement; launching Australia’s first local government funding vehicle; and securing a long-overdue review of planning fees. A united front across the sector has been paramount in turning each of these obstacles into wins for our communities.

The review of the Local Government Act continues and our review taskforce met recently to discuss the State Government’s directions paper, and work through key concerns to inform our submission. Concerns include proposed changes to the franchise; minimum two-year mayoral terms and increased mayoral powers; the proposed integrated planning system; and the prospect of a slender Act with prescription contained in regulations that are not subject to the level of scrutiny applicable to legislation. Members will have the opportunity to provide feedback on our draft submission before it is provided to the Government.

With the 2015/16 financial year coming to an end recently, we developed an infographic to help inform members of the MAV’s achievements over the last 12 months. Our advocacy helped unlock more than $300 million in member services including $133 million for maternal and child health services, $14.4 million for kindergarten infrastructure and $4.6 million for the municipal emergency resourcing program. Other achievements included rate capping resources, our Stand for Council campaign, 13 cost-saving tenders through MAV Procurement, and 132 MAV conferences and training events attended by 8,220 council staff and councillors. Please see page 24 of CiVic to view the snapshot.

In drawing to a close this term of council, I’d like to personally thank all of our members for your continued support, feedback and honesty about how we can serve and represent you. This insight is invaluable and is readily sought, accepted and acted upon.

Best wishes to you all, whatever the future may hold.

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Editor’s note

By Kristi High, Editor.

Caretaker period is almost upon us and I would like to thank all of our featured councils and contributors for their hard work to push our deadline forward in order to publish and deliver the Spring edition in time.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the mayors and councillors who have contributed to CiVic during their term on council, for making their time available and sharing their thoughts and opinions.

For those standing for council again I wish you the best of luck during your re-election campaign.

Those of you who have decided not to stand for re-election, the Victorian local government sector thanks you for your contribution and I wish you every success in the future.

This edition really is a mixed bag of great stories and proactive work our councils are doing in a whole range of spaces, many of which feature the state’s youngest demographics.

Our cover story about Brimbank’s 1000 Cows art project in preparation for renowned artist John Kelly’s installation is a fantastic, unique, project to engage children with art and we wait in anticipation for Man lifting cow to arrive in Sunshine this month.

Bayside has enlisted a large group of kids to help design this year’s playground upgrades, and Yarra is tackling youth unemployment by developing young entrepreneurs.

We feature Glenelg’s Fix Our Roads advocacy campaign to lobby federal and state governments for much needed funding to repair major arterials leading to the port. At the time of going to print, council was waiting on a Federal Government funding announcement and we certainly watch this space with great interest and hope.

The slippery slope to the end of the year has started and in no time December will be upon us with the last edition of CiVic for 2016. If you have a story idea, please drop me a line.

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Opinion: Encouraging integrity, accountability and transparency in local government

By David Wolf, Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate, Chief Municipal Inspector.

Bullying is rife in local government and in extreme cases it has led to the dismissal of the entire council, such as Wangaratta and more recently, Geelong.

The Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate plays a critical role in ensuring Victoria’s 79 local councils achieve best practice and transparency in governance. Starting in 2009 as an independent administrative office of the state, the inspectorate is the dedicated integrity agency for local government in Victoria and is responsible for investigating possible offences under the Local Government Act 1989.

Having recently returned to the role as Chief Municipal Inspector, I am focused on improving our accessibility and responsiveness to the local government sector and supporting my staff to assist councils in complying with the Act. I will ensure we have the right capacity to discharge our primary function of investigating possible breaches or offences including those by councillors, councillor candidates and voters through the general council election period.

With preparations for the October 2016 elections ramping up, it’s worthwhile highlighting the work my office is conducting for the key issues facing councils as they enter the caretaker period, and for current and prospective councillors as they seek public office.

For the integrity of council elections, it is important that access to council resources or information is fair and equitable so that all candidates receive the same opportunities for election. To help councils, councillors, candidates and the community, councils are now required to have an election period policy setting out how council business will be conducted during the election period. My office has recently completed a review of all Victorian councils’ policies to ensure they meet the requirements and provide good guidance for the municipality.

After our review, we were very pleased to find that the majority of councils were already following requirements and some were going beyond their obligations by including the policy document in candidate information packs to ensure candidates understood their responsibilities early in the election process. We also noted many councils resolved to not schedule public events where sitting councillors could be perceived to have an election advantage.

Another vital responsibility resting on the shoulders of serving councillors is the provision of leadership for good governance of the municipal district which is underpinned by how councillors engage with each other and their community. A recent amendment to the Local Government Act 1989 required councils to adopt a revised Councillor Code of Conduct policy and councillors were required to make a declaration to abide by the Code.

I have a particular interest in this element as the Code of Conduct establishes expectations of how councils and councillors will interact and set the standards for the municipality. In support of this initiative, my office has recently completed a review of all councils’ actions to adopt a revised Code of Conduct policy and the declaration of councillors to abide by the code. Our review revealed variations in process and administrative actions of councils which we will assist councils and Local Government Victoria to resolve.

Over the coming months my office, working with the Victorian Electoral Commission and returning officers, will focus on specific election issues including compliance audits of candidate eligibility and campaign donations. We look forward to supporting a fair and democratic election process and the ongoing work with councils to encourage higher standards of integrity, accountability and transparency in local government.

For further information on the Inspectorate or any issues raised above, please visit our website or phone the Inspectorate on 1800 469 359.

What does the Local Government Inspectorate do?

The Inspectorate has a statewide responsibility covering 79 local councils in Victoria. During the election period, the Inspectorate focuses on monitoring the conduct of councils and candidates and investigating electoral complaints, playing an important role in upholding fair and democratic elections across the state. The Inspectorate received more than 500 complaints from councillors, candidates and the public throughout the 2012 council elections and made recommendations to councils following those elections.

The Inspectorate investigates matters related to council operations including criminal or corruption offences under the Act involving councillors, senior council officers or any person subject to the conflict of interest provisions. In connection with matters under examination by the Inspectorate, we may require or compel a person to produce any document, give all reasonable assistance or appear before the Inspectorate for examination under oath.

Compliance audits undertaken by the Inspectorate assess individual councils’ performance against the legislative requirements of the Act, and targeted audits address systemic issues or trends of non-compliance. The Inspectorate uses sector information, complaints data and council governance schedules to formulate and deliver a specialist audit program that encourages higher standards of integrity, accountability and transparency in local government.

Where appropriate, the Inspectorate may prosecute offences in the courts or, where the circumstances relate to serious misconduct or gross misconduct by a councillor, initiate a councillor conduct panel or VCAT proceeding to make a finding.

In line with its commitment to educate and inform, the Inspectorate produces reports and makes recommendations to assist the sector and promote voluntary compliance with the Act.

The Inspectorate does not investigate complaints relating to councils ’ decisions or democratic processes unless there is an allegation of corruption or a breach of the Act.

CASE STUDY: Election period policy review

In 2012, the Inspectorate received numerous complaints during the election period relating to council resources or council positions being used for the purposes of campaigning. Many of these complaints arose from misunderstanding what was permissible or a perception of unfairness.

Amendments to the Local Government Act 1989 were made in November 2015 with the inclusion of section 93B into the Act, which required all councils to adopt an election period policy by 31 March 2016.

In support of the election period policy amendment and in preparation for the upcoming election, the Inspectorate conducted a review of each council’s policy in April 2016.

Section 93A of the Act currently carries provisions to prohibit the making of major policy decisions during the election period, however the new legislative amendments carried in section 93B requires councils to:

  • prevent inappropriate decisions and misuse of resources
  • limit public consultation and council events
  • ensure equitable access to council information to all candidates.

Election period policies must be displayed on council websites, be available for public inspection at council offices or service centres and must be given to all councillors.

The Inspectorate found 78 councils had adopted an election period policy by 31 March 2016 with the remaining council adopting its policy at its 12 April meeting which, although it did not meet the legislative timeframe, remains a valid policy. Only three councils did not have their caretaker policies available on their websites by 31 March and have now done so.

The review demonstrated that the majority of councils had developed and adopted an appropriate policy to address the election period. The Inspectorate provided councils with a review summary and list of recommendations to enable councils to ensure legislative requirements are strictly met.

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Sector Connector: Where in the world are you?

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

Reading blogs, web surfing and the to and fro of social media is in the tapestry of life. Mine at least; researching a subject, backgrounding a new project or just seeing what nuggets of fact or fiction I may discover. Often, I’m surfing local government websites, especially ours in Victoria.

I like to know where the website owner is located. It helps interpret what I view and read. As one with a few years in Victorian local government, I instinctively know where YOU are. But the further my browser reaches across the globe, the less likely I have any idea.
As research for this article, I spent an hour or so surfing 50 of Victoria’s 79 council websites. The objective was to find out how many passed the ‘Where Are You’ test, WAY for short.

The methodology was simple: rate the landing page as a ‘1’ if location is clear in state, national and global context, and if the result is nil, click on ‘About Us’ or ‘Contact Us’ and see if that helps.

The results: 90 per cent of landing pages gave NO indication of where they are, even that they’re in Australia. Only 5 per cent of second clicks resolved the matter. The few that passed (barely) were shires. This is consistent with my experience of interstate and overseas council websites too. Hence, for some time now I conduct web searches as a matter of course to unearth what the council makes difficult to find.

Why this state of affairs? Well, I can’t be sure, but maybe it’s parochial vision, an oversight or simply considered unnecessary – our residents know where they are! If the latter, we prioritise screen space to say great things about the council and community, our visions, values, attributes and attractions, and let non-resident web visitors guess where this paradise is.

Thing is, every municipality is a destination, somewhere to visit or settle in, a place for investment or to start a business. There are many reasons to tell the world where you are, and let others easily connect the where with the why and what.

So as a contribution, I’d like to suggest a simple low-cost solution. All local government landing pages should bear a WAY Finder box. Better yet, an interactive widget. For Victorians there’d be an illustration showing location relative to Melbourne, Australia and the world, a caption which describes this in words and kilometres with a sprinkling of statistics, and a destination logo if you have one.

To add the WAY Finder to your home page would be symbolic, a recognition that place is a key part of identity and that none of us is an island. And as a legacy, anytime you visit your own website you’ll be reminded of this.

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Speak up on libraries

Melbourne City Council is inviting all Melburnians to share their thoughts on the future direction of its library service.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said council was seeking public feedback on the programs, collections, spaces and services that the Melbourne Library Service should offer over the next five years.

“Melburnians love books and our libraries are more popular now than ever,” the Lord Mayor said.

“There were more than 1.4 million visits across our six libraries last year.

“This year we are investing $1.7 million to enhance our traditional and digital collections. But modern libraries are about more than just books; they are great at lending all sorts of things.

“You can learn about new technology, trace your family history, view an exhibition, record your latest song, use a 3D printer, or learn another language.

“We want to know if these are the kinds of services that people want to keep accessing at their local library. Our aim is to continue providing creative spaces to inspire learning in our great city of literature.”

Anyone can provide feedback towards the development of the Melbourne Library Service Vision 2017-2021 under the following key themes:

  • Learning and Knowledge
  • Programs, Events and Activities
  • Community Space
  • Collections
  • Capital City
  • Future Focus.

The Melbourne Library Service collection includes more than 232,000 physical items.

“Rather than destroying libraries, the digital age has allowed us to transform these public buildings into vibrant community hubs,” Chair of the City of Melbourne’s People City Portfolio Cr Richard Foster said.

“We are now looking for people’s creative ideas about the best ways for libraries to continue bringing people and knowledge together.”

Over the past three years, Melbourne City Council has opened three new libraries including Library at the Dock, which opened in May 2014. In its first year of operation, this library had more than 123,000 visitors.

Community feedback on the library service closes Tuesday 20 September 2016. For more information visit

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Shifting the sand on accessibility

Hobsons Bay City Council is working hard to make two popular beaches fully accessible in the next few years.

Following the success of its Accessible Beaches Trial, council wants Williamstown and Altona beaches fully accessible by 2020.

Hobsons Bay Mayor Peter Hemphill said the results of the trial, which included an accessible beach wheelchair at Altona Beach and beach matting at Williamstown Beach, were promising.

“The trial gave many people with a disability their first opportunity to go to the beach – a simple pleasure that many of us no doubt take for granted,” said Cr Hemphill.

“It has also prompted us to look at ways, logistically and financially, to expand the trial to a more permanent project.

“To do this, council will need additional equipment such as matting at Altona Beach and an online booking system.

“We also need extra beach wheelchairs in a variety of models, such as those that can be used independently, those that are able to go into the water and others specifically designed for children,” Cr Hemphill said.

Wetlands Ward councillor and chair of council’s Disability Advisory Committee Colleen Gates said the added benefit of the matting and chairs is that it also provides accessibility for a broader audience when families with prams and the elderly were also considered.

“If we can remove some of the physical barriers that people face, then we are that little bit closer to an inclusive community where everyone can enjoy recreational activities without restrictions,” said Cr Gates.

Local residents welcomed the trial with some participating in beach activities for the first time.

“The Sandcruiser beach wheelchair was a great success at Altona last weekend,” Altona resident Lina said.

“My son Alex had a ball and was able to play in the sand with his brother for the first time in many years.”

Local businesses and lifesaving clubs played an essential role in the trial, facilitating the hiring process and assisting with marketing, promotion and monitoring of the project.

The Accessible Beaches Trial was an initiative of the Metro Access and Inclusion Project as part of the Community Building Program and is underpinned by council’s Disability Access and Inclusion Strategy 2013-17. Council is hoping to roll out a similar program in the summer of 2016-17 with additional infrastructure at both beaches.

We had a great day at Altona Beach, we were able to push Sanaya into the shallow water, then we took her out from the wheelchair and helped her stand up. We wouldn’t be able to do these things without (this) wheelchair.
- Nirupa, Glenroy resident.

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Landfill rehab complete

Baw Baw Shire Council has completed work on a four-year, highly complex, landfill rehabilitation project.

The $5.5 million project included the construction of an engineered landfill cap over the extensively levelled landfill waste to safely contain the gas, which is then extracted and treated with the aid of a purpose-built system.

Mayor of Baw Baw Shire Joe Gauci said the project was among the largest capital works projects council had ever undertaken.

“Works commenced in 2012 on this highly complex rehabilitation project, which involved a great deal of hard work, extensive collaboration with regulatory bodies, as well as design and works verification with multiple consultants,” Cr Gauci said.

The 1.8-metre deep landfill cap was built to the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA’s) Best Practice landfill guidelines and comprises several layers of compacted engineered fill, a drainage layer, plastic linings and topsoil.

Together, these elements trap gasses produced and prevent rainwater mixing with the decaying landfill waste.

The site operated for waste disposal between 1964 and 2011, and during that period accepted a range of waste products including domestic garbage and commercial waste.

“Over that time, approximately 500,000 tonnes of waste is estimated to have been landfilled here across 4.5 hectares of land,” Cr Gauci said.

“The recently installed gas extraction system will safely release the excess methane gas that is produced by the landfill, under controlled conditions.”

The landfill will soon go into aftercare mode, where it will be managed for another 30 years to ensure it continues to comply with the EPA’s closed landfill management requirements.

The site will continue to operate as a transfer station.

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Dodging roads to ruin

A video produced by Glenelg Shire Council has landed on the desks of politicians around the country to highlight its deteriorating roads, which could affect local and state economies if funding to fix them does not come soon.

The Fix Our Road video, which is also circling on social media, is part of a wider campaign to demonstrate Glenelg’s unsafe roads, which are frequently used by the freight industry along with tourists, school buses and locals.

The video shows the broken freight network, including vehicles dodging potholes on key arterial roads that are connectors to the Port of Portland.

Released in support of the Green Triangle Freight Action Plan Update – an important advocacy document used to attract urgent state and federal government funding – the video aims to get the attention of federal and state politicians.

Mayor Max Oberlander said $180-$200 million is needed now to upgrade the Green Triangle region’s key freight routes and ensure the roads are fit for purpose over the next decade in terms of capacity, safety and efficiency.

“Without this targeted investment occurring, the region – and Australia – will be at risk of losing a valuable export industry that generates thousands of jobs and economic prosperity,” he said.

“These are high traffic volume roads that are also used by around 30 school buses every morning and afternoon, tourists which are important for our local businesses and economy, and of course our own residents.”

Federal and State politicians have been invited to inspect the poor condition of the roads over the past six months to show them how bad they really are.

“We are hoping an announcement will be made soon by the Federal Government but we don’t know if it will be the full $20 million it committed to pre-election,” Cr Oberlander said.

“Once this is announced, we will continue to lobby the Victorian Government for match funding.”

For the past 18 months a cross-border team including timber industry representatives, transport, local government, and Victorian and South Australian state government representatives have been compiling data for the update.

Green Triangle Freight Action Group Chair Glenelg Shire Councillor Karen Stephens said the evidence-based analysis showed more than $180 million was needed to fix the freight network over the next 10 years.

The action plan research illustrates the region’s booming timber industry is generating more than $790 million in annual economic activity with a further 550 local jobs created this year. This is in addition to growing agriculture and mineral sand trade, exported to growing Asian markets from the Port of Portland.

Cr Stephens said the peak timber harvest had placed significant pressure on key arterial roads leading to the Port of Portland, jeopardising the safety of all road users.

“Our road network is broken and will not cope with increasing export trade in the coming years unless substantial investment is made to fix the road pavement,” Cr Stephens said.

“Conservative industry estimates predict there is potential for up to 700 per cent growth in this timber output in the coming years. It is critical that we have a freight network that can cope with this huge increase in wood flow.

“Without substantial investment in the near future we will be jeopardising the timber industry’s 18,000 jobs across the Green Triangle in addition to the estimated 10 per cent of Victoria’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) exported from the Port of Portland.”

Cr Stephens said without targeted funding from the state and federal governments, one of Australia’s most valuable export industries would be put at risk.

“This report provides a clear and detailed illustration – without investment in our road network thousands of jobs and export opportunities will be lost,” she said.

Check out Glenelg Shire Council’s campaign video at

The numbers

  • $180M needed to upgrade broken road network
  • $790M generated by local timber industry
  • 18,000 jobs directly relating to timber industry
  • 550 jobs created this year
  • $20M committed by Federal Government pre-election.

Why the Green Triangle region is important for our economy

  • Largest plantation forestry area in Australia (355,000 hectares and 18 per cent of the national plantation estate)
  • More than 150 separate businesses in the region rely on the forest industry
  • More than 3,400 direct forest industry jobs with more than 550 additional jobs expected by end of 2016
  • Over 18,000 jobs created by the region’s forestry and transport sectors
  • Six globally significant plantation companies operating
  • More than 145,000 truck trips annually to the Port of Portland (2015)
  • Forestry and transport combined output exceeds $790m per annum
  • Combined value added exceeds $397m per annum
  • Exports in raw timber and timber products, mineral sands, and grains expected to grow over next five to 10 years
  • Port of Portland is currently the largest hardwood chip export in the world.

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MAV Technology ’s main event

The MAV Technology Awards for Excellence were recently announced as part of the 2016 MAV Technology National Conference held in Melbourne’s CBD in August.

The MAV Technology Awards for Excellence are assessed by independent judges and recognise outstanding innovation, effort and outcomes; support for council business objectives; and influencing or assisting other councils to improve service delivery for the people of Victoria.

The two-day MAV Technology National Conference, themed 2020 Vision, was dotted with many highlights including presentations from councils, federal and state governments, and leading IT and technology agencies and companies.

MAV Technology Awards for Excellence 2016


This award recognises and rewards an individual who has demonstrated diligence and innovation in addressing the changing demands of ICT/GIS/RM in local government.


Lorraine Tighe, Melbourne City Council
IBM Smarter Cities Challenge 2016


Eli Afram, Hobsons Bay City Council
Organisational Reporting Dashboard

Steve Bennett
Contribution to Victorian Local Government Open Data Journey

Ben Crockett, Darebin City Council
Planning Applications Report Automation

Tom Mesilane, Latrobe City Council
LGPRF Automation Project



Bass Coast Shire Council
Free Public WiFi


Wellington Shire Council & East Gippsland Shire Council
Shared ICT Services MOU


Baw Baw Shire Council
Baw Baw Road Trip

Brimbank City Council
Not Just Another Council Website

Brimbank City Council
Business Transformation - #CommunityFirst

Melbourne City Council
Future Melbourne Digital City Hack – City of Melbourne: CityLab Team, Smart City Office

Southern Grampians Shire Council
Digital Transformation of a Rural Community – a Journey

Warrnambool City Council
CONNECT Warrnambool


These awards recognise and reward an outstanding team effort in the use of technology to improve service delivery and efficiency to local government organisations or communities.


Southern Grampians Shire Council
Digital Transformation of a Rural Community – a Journey


Baw Baw Shire Council
Baw Baw Road Trip


Bass Coast Shire Council
Free Public WiFi

Warrnambool City Council
CONNECT Warrnambool

Wellington Shire Council & East Gippsland Shire Council
Shared ICT Services MOU


Port Phillip City Council
EPathway Customer Experience Improvements


Hobsons Bay City Council
Direct Care Workers Mobility


Bayside City Council
Online booking for Universal Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Program

Brimbank City Council
Not just another council website

Brimbank City Council
Business Transformation – #CommunityFirst

Darebin City Council
Mapping Inspections Compliance System (MICS)

Hobsons Bay City Council
The capture of all customer service interactions

Hobsons Bay City Council
Direct Care Workers Mobility

Hobsons Bay City Council
Telstra Managed Internet Gateway (MIG) Project

Melbourne City Council
CityLab – City of Melbourne’s Innovation Lab

Melbourne City Council
Future Melbourne Digital City Hack – City of Melbourne: CityLab Team, Smart City Office

The MAV Technology Song

By Casey Bennetto

Ladies and gents, we got to commence,
there’s magic in the air
Another year has galloped by
There’s oh so much to share
Stories that excite me,
that get me in a flap
My heart beats at a rate which is impossible to cap
Yeah, I know you felt the squeeze this year
I bet it caused some stress
I bet you had to find a way of
getting by with less
So you tried to keep it steady
But you missed the mark by far
You could have phoned it in, my friends –
instead you raised the bar!

You brought the M.A.V. (M.A.V.)
Technology (Technology)
Yes, I’m afraid y’all went and made some sweet I.T. (sweet I.T.)
I’m talkin’ M.A.V. (M.A.V.)
Technology (Technology)
Glorious Victorians, we all agree (we all agree)

When I check the year in tech
It’s been so fresh and strong
From Brimbank to Corangamite,
Towong, Geelong or Dandenong, there’s
So much brilliant talent
Not just the nominees
We’re honouring you all tonight
in your funky expertise
Now the evening is initialised
Let constants be declared
Let every beer go peer-to-peer
Get your network shared
A full-duplex connection
The transfer has begun
And the 192 dot 168 dot 0 dot 1 ...

Well, that’s the M.A.V. (M.A.V.)
Technology (Technology)
A beautiful night for a bit of a byte of that sweet I.T. (sweet I.T.)
I’m talkin’ M.A.V. (M.A.V.)
Technology (Technology)
Glorious Victorians, we all agree (we all agree)

Presentation slide decks, photos and details of all the finalist entries are available at

MAV Technology would like to thank its sponsors – Telstra, Tesserent, Thomas Duryea, Interleave Australia, Pitney Bowes, Perfekt and Acresta – for making the annual MAV Technology Conference a huge success.

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Holy cow, Kelly is home

The work of internationally acclaimed artist John Kelly is coming to Sunshine, and Brimbank City Council is raising the profile of Australian art to celebrate the installation of his bronze sculpture, Man lifting cow.

In anticipation of the six-metre high sculpture arriving in September, council has been leading a series of educational activities that focus on the artist’s work.

Among them is the 1000 Cows Project, which included build-a-cow workshops and a schools program.

During the July school holidays, children and families took part in building and painting a herd of 1000 cows, now on display at Sunshine Marketplace, with milk cartons donated by Visy.

Brimbank Chair of Administrators John Watson said it was wonderful to involve residents across Brimbank in the excitement being generated by the Man lifting cow project by inviting them to participate in community arts initiatives.

“The build-a-cow workshops were a huge hit and I enjoyed making one myself,” Mr Watson said.

“There was also lot of interest in finding out about John Kelly and William Dobell, the Australian WWII artist who inspired Kelly to use cows in his own work.”

All local primary schools were invited to express their interest in participating in an artist in schools program, with five selected by council.

“Schools participating in the project also really valued the focus on Australian art. A teacher from Deer Park Primary School welcomed the project saying it was important for ‘students to learn about Australian artists, recognising where they come from and finding things they can relate to in their story and their art’,” Mr Watson said.

Students from participating and non-participating schools were also involved in building a cow for the exhibition.

Other activities include the VCE Arts Prize and the John Kelly Exhibition and Education Program, which was due to be awarded as CiVic went to print.

Kelly works in a number of mediums and VCE students in Brimbank were invited to enter in one of four categories he creates – painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing.

“Students and schools participating in the arts prize were provided with an education pack that highlighted Kelly’s achievements,” Mr Watson said. “Kelly’s story as an artist is inspiring and demonstrates what is possible.”

The prize included $1000 for the school the winning student attends, and $500 and a Kelly artwork for the overall winner. Category winners received $50. Kelly will judge the artworks and the winning student will meet the artist as part of the prize.

Council’s commitment to a collaborative approach and the wider enthusiasm for this iconic sculpture has seen the involvement of 10 project partners including the Victorian Government, Sotheby’s Australia, Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and Sunshine Marketplace.

Centre Manager Sunshine Marketplace Pearse Coleman believes Man lifting cow will become a regional icon, drawing national and international attention to Brimbank.

Man lifting cow is a symbol of the gutsy, strong, and hard-working culture that makes Melbourne’s west a great place to live,” he said.

“Public art projects such as Man lifting cow will bring economic and social benefits to the community.

“It has the power to increase access to the arts, while also demonstrating to other local artists what is possible to achieve.”

The final project is an art exhibition at the Brimbank Community and Civic Centre featuring the works of John Kelly, currently on loan by Australian Galleries.

About John Kelly

John Kelly is now based in Europe but grew up in Brimbank with his mum, dad and six siblings. His parents still live in the family home in Sunshine.

In 1982 his mother entered him in ‘Win a wish’ competition featured on the side of a milk carton. Her wish was to send her son to art school. By winning the competition he was able to attend RMIT in Melbourne where he secured a Bachelor of Arts and later a Master of Arts.

In 1995 Kelly studied at the Slade School of Art after winning a Samstag Scholarship. In 1999 he exhibited Cow up a Tree in Champs de la Sculpture on the Champs-Élysées in Paris and in 2002 exhibited the sculpture Three Cows in a Pile in the Monte Carlo Sculpture Festival. In 2008 he exhibited in the Guangzhou Triennial and 2010 at the Göteborg International Biennial.

Kelly engages across mediums as a painter, sculptor, and printmaker and also writes. In Australia, he is best known for his paintings and large sculptures that reference William Dobell’s papier-mâchÄ cows created in World War II.

His works are highly sought after by both public and private collectors such as David Walsh, the collector who built MONA in Hobart.

About the sculpture

The sculpture Man lifting cow is a link to a very specific and important aspect of Australian art history, namely the camouflage and art created by William Dobell and Joshua Smith during World War II. Both were employed as camouflage artists and created farms and market gardens to disguise grass airfields from the enemy.

Dobell was quoted as saying, “I think the authorities underestimated the eyesight of the Japanese airmen.”
- John Kelly, Man lifting cow artist

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Sports clubs team up with council

“… This initiative is great. Presenting to grass-roots clubs is a win.”

And with that feedback, Port Phillip Council knows its innovative, grass-roots program for local sporting clubs can help reduce family violence in the wider community.

Over the past few months, council has started rolling out family violence and gender equity information sessions as part of a pilot.

Momentum is building and there is genuine belief among participating clubs and council that this program might just ‘catch on’ in club land and help communities stem the tide of family violence.

Council has met with local football and netball clubs to build inclusive, respectful cultures that can re-balance gender inequity, and identify and respond effectively to family violence.

At the information sessions, full houses of senior men’s and women’s teams were held at Port Melbourne Colts Football Club and St Kilda City Football Netball Club.

Mayor Bernadene Voss said the response to council’s family violence and gender equity information sessions has been overwhelmingly positive.

“People are telling us they are more aware of the key drivers of gendered violence and the impact of family violence in our community,” Cr Voss said.

“More importantly, they now understand how sporting clubs themselves can make a difference.”

Port Phillip built the sessions by combining the talents of its health, equity and social justice team with the sports and recreation team.

“This cross-team collaboration has boosted the skills and knowledge of staff who join together to tailor each presentation to the clubs for maximum impact,” Cr Voss said.

A key focus of the program is to identify the leadership role that sports clubs have in strengthening female participation and creating fair, equitable and respectful sporting environments.

Sports club members who would otherwise be silent bystanders are now encouraged to ‘call out’ inappropriate and sexist behaviour informally – on and off the field – and formally through policies and code of conduct or procedures.

AFL star Jimmy Bartel used national TV and newspaper outlets this year to ramp up efforts against family violence by recalling his family’s harrowing account of life with his now deceased father.

Bartel spoke of his decision to be a silent bystander no more and the long-lasting damage wrought by perpetrators. “It was a real line in the sand moment. I was thinking that there’s another generation that was going to have to go through it all if I didn’t do something, so I had to stop it,” Bartel told the Sunday Herald Sun.

Bartel has been roundly praised across the country for speaking up.

According to Cr Voss, if mirrored by local sporting clubs every weekend and coupled with greater awareness, Bartel’s stand could significantly shift negative behaviours that seem to be ingrained in some pockets of the community.

A club member commended the Port Melbourne Colts for having a female-led committee and team, and urged others clubs to ‘step up and treat women equally and improve their areas of inclusion. Violence against women is not necessarily physical.’

Another heartfelt view was that family violence and gender inequity is ‘the responsibility of men to set the right example for the younger generation coming through’.

Council plans to extend the program to other sports clubs and encourage them to take a central role in preventing family violence by creating respectful, healthy environments.

The early success of this innovative program means that supportive cricket and soccer clubs across the municipality could also take part in this worthy cause in seasons to come.

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Playground designer kids

Bayside City Council enlisted its youngest residents to help design upcoming playground upgrades.

With more than $1 million in upgrades to 10 playgrounds in 2016/17, council recruited more than 200 children aged between two and 12-years-old as official playground testers.

Looking the part with hat, drink bottle and an official playground passport, these well-qualified fun experts hit local playgrounds to make notes about what needs improving.

Bayside Recreation Planner Elizabeth Casey-Orlov said it was important to receive feedback directly from those who use the playgrounds.

“We realised that while we were reaching lots of people with our playground engagement like parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles, we were missing the mark getting feedback from the most important group – the kids using the equipment,” she said.

The feedback received over the past few months will now be used to influence the design of Bayside’s playground upgrades over the next year.

“It is always a challenge to get input directly from children but this innovative approach to community engagement is getting to the heart of what our playground users really want,” said Ms Casey.

“It was a great way of finding out what kids really value in our playgrounds and ensuring it is respected.”

An example of the great feedback was at Myrtle Avenue playground in Hampton where council discovered the tiring train was the most valued piece of equipment in the playground.

“Rather than replacing the whole train with something else, we have decided to give it a ‘face lift’ and replace some of the panels that are a bit worse for wear,” Ms Casey said.

“You’ll also see a lot more spinning cups in our playgrounds as we now know that’s what our kids want.”

Thanks to input from local kids like nine-year-old Ben McCullagh, council also knows that ‘bucket’ style swings that can fit two or three kids playing at the one time, or an adult and child, get a big thumbs up.

“The best part about being a playground tester was playing and seeing if we like the equipment,” he said.

“I went to one that doesn’t need much work because it has a wooden fort, big slides, climbing walls and a fireman’s pole.

“But there are others that need an upgrade like one that just has a little wooden cubby and had some graffiti.”

Feedback also dispelled the myth that kids prefer bright and colourful playground equipment to wood and natural treatments.

“There was an even split amongst our testers and it was exactly 50/50 between those who like colour and those who prefer natural wood,” Ms Casey said.

In 2017/18, council will make significant inroads into its plan to upgrade every local playground in the next 10 years.

For now the job of the official playground testers is done, but Bayside hopes to build on its existing pool of official playground testers for the next program of upgrades in 2017/18.

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Gateway to surf coast

Surf Coast Shire Council is exploring a new tourism concept for Torquay to position the surfside town as a must-see destination.

The concept of a Great Ocean Road Gateway is being explored, after a study was done to assess the merits of upgrading the Australian National Surfing Museum, located in Torquay, as a major tourism destination.

Following extensive research and consultation with local surfing businesses, peak surfing and tourism bodies, and other stakeholders, the study found limited market potential for developing the museum beyond its current surfing niche.

This finding prompted a broader investigation of options to encourage more people to start their Great Ocean Road journey in Torquay by creating a multi-faceted experience to attract visitors and entice them to stay longer and spend more.

“While Torquay marks the official start of the Great Ocean Road, the opening of the Geelong Ring Road has seen many tourists bypass the town to start their Great Ocean Road journey in Anglesea,” Cr David Bell said.

“Anecdotal feedback from Surf Coast retailers and Torquay Commerce and Tourism Association members indicates annual sales revenue has fallen by some 10 per cent since the road opened, with the study suggesting this may be due to reduced incidental visitation revenue.

“The general decline in the museum’s visitor numbers, from more than 21,000 in 1994 to less than 12,000 last year, reinforces this trend, while previous market research indicates only 34 per cent of visitors associate Torquay with the start of the Great Ocean Road.”

The study identified and assessed three options, with the first two looking at the merits associated with upgrading the Australian National Surfing Museum, either within its current building or in a new, larger one.

The third option acknowledged the museum’s limitations as a major tourism drawcard while presenting the potential for Torquay to strengthen its position as the official start of the Great Ocean Road.

“This would be achieved by developing the concept of a Great Ocean Road Gateway Experience aimed at pulling in visitors who currently bypass Torquay via the Geelong Ring Road,” Cr Eve Fisher said.

“In expressing our unique surf history and culture, the experience could also incorporate Bells Beach as a national and international tourism drawcard, along with the Australian National Surfing Museum.

“The concept itself would aim to compel visitors to commence their Great Ocean Road journey in Torquay before dispersing them to other attractions in Surf Coast Shire and the Great Ocean Road tourist region.”

Council has allocated $50,000 to undertake further research, in partnership with Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism, into developing the concept and its subsequent business case. The project has also been included in council’s advocacy priorities.

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Councils guide young entrepreneurs

Yarra City Council has opened up a different dimension in youth work,  tackling youth unemployment head on with a program to encourage young entrepreneurs in its municipality.

While traditional youth work focuses on sport, the arts and volunteering, the Yarra Young Entrepreneurs (YYE) program supports young people to create their own real and viable employment opportunities.

Yarra Director of Community Wellbeing Chris Leivers said YYE was created in response to rising youth unemployment and young people asking for guidance.

“Young people were accessing other youth programs and voicing their desire to start their own business but needed support and resources to make it happen,” he said.

Yarra brought together its economic development and youth services teams to develop the program.

“The economic development team had connections to the business community and could support connecting young people with local entrepreneurs, while the council’s youth services officers were able to approach young people who would be interested in the program,” Mr Leivers said.

“This partnership highlights the strengths in working collaboratively in providing opportunities for young people.”

The program starts by building participants’ skill base to support them in creating and developing their own business ideas.

Last year eight young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who lived in public housing estates took part in a series of training workshops to discuss and develop their business ideas, including learning about target markets and making pitches.

YYE 2015 participant, Angelo, said the program had given him the tools he needed to bring his business idea to life.

“I always had a business idea but council’s program gave me the encouragement to actually go and do it, having that connection with likeminded people and working together,” he said.

Local mentors provided ongoing support and participants were also provided with opportunities to network with the local business community.

Agum, who also graduated from the program last year, is aiming for a career in fashion.

“It’s pretty inspiring to hear from people who have started their business from scratch,” she said.

The success of YYE can be seen with all past participants now employed.

This year, Yarra, Moreland and Darebin city councils will partner to deliver the Young Entrepreneurs in the North.

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Melbourne’s smart Bigbellies

More high-tech BigBelly bins have been installed around Melbourne’s CBD, following a successful trial.

Equipped with smart sensor technology, Melbourne City Council placed the first six bins in busy locations around Flinders and Elizabeth streets, and along Southbank earlier this year.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said the trial of Victoria’s first high-tech bins had been a resounding success with more than 146,000 litres of general waste collected.

“The BigBelly bins hold seven times the waste of a standard litter bin,” the Lord Mayor said.

“This has resulted in fewer garbage trucks needing to regularly access this busy area of the CBD.

“Instead of collecting the bins up to eight times a day, we have only needed to collect them once a day.”

A further eight new BigBelly bins have now been installed within the block of Swanston/Flinders/Elizabeth streets and Flinders Lane. Standard recycling bins have also been located alongside the BigBelly bins.

“Our city welcomes up to a million people on a busy day. This means waste is increasing and our bins are filling faster. The high volume of pedestrians and food outlets in this block makes it one of the most challenging areas in the CBD to service litter bins,” the Lord Mayor said.

Chair of the City of Melbourne’s Environment Portfolio Cr Arron Wood said it can be a challenge to keep Melbourne’s bins below capacity, especially during events and busier times of the year.

“The BigBelly bins include sensor technology that is solar-powered, but the great thing about them is that they also compact rubbish as it’s collected, allowing them to fit more in,” Cr Wood said.

“A contractor is then alerted when the bin is 70 per cent full and needs emptying within the hour.

“One of the biggest challenges we face as a capital city council is the amount of landfill our city produces, so we are always looking at new ways to reduce waste and improve recycling.”

Surf Coast Shire Council has also trialled BigBelly bins in popular beachside Lorne. It too will roll out the BigBelly bins into other areas of its municipality this financial year.

Facts about BigBelly bins

  • Holds 560 litres (compared to 80 litre standard public bins)
  • Has reduced average weekly collections from 27.5 to 5.4.
  • Can be opened using a foot pedal
  • Costs $6,000 per bin.

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In brief

Wyndham tops tourism economy

A new study has found that Wyndham’s top tourist attractions contribute more than $224 million towards Victoria’s economy every year.

An Economic Contribution Study of the Werribee Park Tourism Precinct also found that more than 1.1 million people visit the area every year.

The Werribee Park Precinct Partners in collaboration with Wyndham City Council and regional tourism organisations commissioned the study.

Wyndham Cr Intaj Khan said the study revealed just how popular the Werribee Park Tourism Precinct was.

“With more than 1.1 million people visiting the Werribee Park Tourism Precinct every year, it is without doubt a popular area,” Cr Khan said.

“Featuring the Werribee Park and Mansion, the Werribee Open Range Zoo, the National Equestrian Centre, Shadowfax Wines and many other attractions, this area has become a major drawcard for tourism.”

“The Economic Contribution Study found that the Werribee Park Tourism Precinct contributed $224 million to Victoria’s economy every year, $128.5 million to the economy of Melbourne’s west and $116.2 million to Wyndham’s own economy.”

Alpine goes live

Alpine Shire Council is offering live streaming of monthly council meetings on social media platform YouTube. This gives residents the opportunity to observe council business via their computers and mobile devices.

It is a significant step forward in terms of making councillors and officers more visible to the community and follows in the footsteps of other tech savvy councils in Victoria including Moreland, Kingston and Bayside.

Arts funding for Mildura

Mildura Arts Centre (MAC) will receive almost $600,000 over the next three years from Creative Victoria as part of the State Government’s Regional Partnerships program.

The funding will provide $190,000 a year for the next three years and forms the basis on which most of the programs, exhibitions and performances are funded. It is integral to the programming initiatives across the visual and performing arts in North West Victoria.

Arts & Culture portfolio Cr Jill Joslyn said the additional funding for Arts of the Underground, “will see MAC transformed into a catalyst of lighting, sounds, music, dance, exhibitions, interaction, performance arts and more.”

Boroondara hits back at graffiti

Boroondara City Council has launched a Graffiti Management Strategy 2016 designed to reduce unattractive graffiti in the municipality.

In addition to dealing with graffiti on its property, the new strategy outlines how council can influence the removal of graffiti on assets managed by other public authorities such as VicRoads, Telstra, VicTrack, Metro Trains, electricity providers and Australia Post.

Almost 400 people from across Boroondara provided feedback into the strategy.

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Melbourne Fringe Festival

Date: 15 September–2 October 2016

Venue: Melbourne and surrounds

Description: Get amongst the vibe of Victoria’s largest celebration of independent art, featuring local, national and international artists who will bring Melbourne to life with work across all art forms. Choose from hundreds of shows, events and exhibitions and get some culture into you!

Need more?


Metal United Down Under

Date: 5 October 2016

Venue: Musicman Megastore, 264 Hargreaves Street, Bendigo

Description: The biggest underground metal event in Australia with shows all over the country in the same night under the same banner.

Need more?

Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix

Date: 21–23 October 2016

Venue: Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, Back Beach Road, Phillip Island

Description: Watch the world’s best riders on one of the fastest tracks in the world. Feel the excitement, witness the superb racing and hear the roar. Tickets available to suit every budget.

Need more?

Kododa Challenge

Date: 23 October 2016

Venue: Ferntree Gully Picnic Ground, Mount Dandenong Tourist Road, Mount Dandenong

Description: Take the Kokoda Challenge by attacking either the 30km or 15km team trail event. There is also a junior challenge. The course winds up to the summit at Kalorama Park. Not for the faint hearted.

Need more?


Budburst Festival

Date: 12–13 November 2016

Venue: Various, check website

Description: The annual Macedon Ranges Wine and Food Festival, affectionately known as Budburst, celebrates the buds bursting on a new vintage. Visit 30 wineries in 19 venues set in the vineyards dotted around the stunning Macedon Ranges.

Need more?

RACV Great Victorian Bike Ride

Date: 26 November–4 December 2016

Venue: Halls Gap

Description: Take this opportunity to camp and enjoy the beautiful Victorian countryside by bike. Now in its 33rd year join Bicycle Network on this journey from the Grampians to the Great Ocean Road through coastal and inland Victoria.

Need more?

Melbourne Music Week

Date: 11–19 November 2016

Venue: Various

Description: More than just a music festival, this eight-day program includes an imaginative line-up of music, film, art, design and hospitality. Wholly produced by the City of Melbourne.

Need more?

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Challenges facing council CEOs

By Clare McCartin, Victoria General Manager Executive & Boards, Davidson Executive.

In the Autumn edition of CiVic, I looked at key lessons learnt from mayors when it comes to hiring CEOs for local government in Victoria.

The article discussed the many aspects councils need to consider when recruiting a CEO and how to mitigate risk of a poor hire. It also reflected on the recent high turnover of Victorian local government CEOs, a phenomenon not seen since council amalgamations in 1994.

I have been fortunate to work closely within the sector over the past 14 years on dozens of CEO and Director level appointments. In my role I engage with numerous CEOs in local government and I recently found myself questioning: is the role of a local government CEO vastly different from what it used to be? And why is our state experiencing such a high turnover and what does this mean for future CEO appointments?

To find answers, I interviewed 14 local government CEOs from across Victoria about job satisfaction and key challenges. I was also keen to gain insight into the aspects of their job they enjoy, find most difficult, and the skills they believe are critical for future local government CEOs.

The objective of the research was to determine what has changed within this role and most importantly, why we are seeing such a high level of turnover. Following are the key findings, combined with my advice.

What do they enjoy about being a CEO in local government?

The research found three consistent themes, including:

  1. The opportunity to lead tomorrow’s workforce: they all enjoyed the opportunity to lead a new generation and develop their skills.

  2. The diversity of the work: they listed it as a rich and diverse role that provides great value. One said ‘it is a blend of being close to the political work, the community and being able to apply corporate skills.’

  3. The opportunity to make a difference for the community: many listed how they enjoyed the chance to achieve and drive important outcomes for communities and create better, more liveable communities.

The biggest challenges

The data found five key themes.

  1. Councillors

We have all heard about the high performing councils who work tirelessly and in genuine partnership with their CEOs to build connected and healthy communities, while on the other end of the spectrum there are councillors whose behaviour has been so destructive that administrators have been appointed.

Interestingly, managing councillors was ranked as the biggest challenge and perhaps not surprisingly the participants also reported spending 60 per cent of their time managing and supporting councillors. This was seen as a key challenge for a range of reasons, with common statements such as:

  • ‘Councillors have their own agendas such as political ambition, which are not in the community interest.’
  • ‘Conflict with councillors and residents or between individual councillors.’
  • ‘Misbehaving councillors.’
  • ‘Accepting poor decisions of council.’
  1. Leadership, management and staff

Leadership was ranked as the second biggest challenge. The results showed a large focus on recruiting the required talent and retention of future leaders as core concerns for today’s CEOs. In addition, not surprisingly, the key connector in all responses was on building a culture of agility to deal with the ever-pressing challenge of leading new restructure and realignment processes.

There was an emphasis on encouraging staff to look beyond their usual practices and implement another level of continuous improvement methodologies beyond what is considered ‘best value’. In addition, there was a focus on the complexity of the leadership challenge given local government is such an incredibly diverse business with more than 50 different professional disciplines.

  1. Pressures of the job and workload

The results can be broken into three key areas and they include:

  1. Managing new financial pressures caused by rate capping, cost shifting by other tiers of government and the constant rising expectations of service delivery and the reduced capacity to deliver.

  2. Workload and maintaining the team’s focus on strategy and looking forward was another concern, with many listing the after hour commitments (on average three to four commitments a week) of a local government CEO as a large pressure. There was a strong theme of the constant pressure ‘to address the ‘white noise’ while also remaining focused on key council priorities’.

  3. Reporting and the constant demands for submissions from peak bodies and other levels of government was a consistent theme relating to work pressure.
  1. Working with State Government

A number of CEOs reported the relationship with State Government, due to rate capping and perceived cost shifting, as more challenging than in previous years. Many mentioned the tension between administering legislation on behalf of State Government vs responding to community views as a key challenge. In addition, there was a feeling of increased expectations placed on local government by State Government.

  1. Media and public perception

Managing persistent and often only negative local media attention was another key challenge listed. It was reported as difficult to get people who are happy with council to engage and challenging to engage a younger, growing community who is time poor. There was also a perceived lack of understanding by the community and State Government about the role and value of local government.

What would they change about the role?

Perhaps not surprisingly given the number one challenge of CEOs was supporting councillors, there was a range of governance suggestions in response to this question, such as:

  • A number of respondents suggested the implementation of a skills based/professional board, or a ministerial appointed board.

  • Others suggested enhanced support for tenure given the need to manage councillor and council governance – for example, with the new IBAC obligation to report suspected corruption a CEO would likely be risking their employment.

  • Many called for further education and support around some of the more challenging aspects of the role, including the expectation on CEOs to play a leadership role in managing councillor issues. They also called for more support around the implementation of legislation to effectively deal with bullying and distributive councillor behaviour.

  • There was also the suggestion that the CEO not be appointed by councillors, but by a ministerial appointment.

Decreasing the level of regulation and developing a clearer legislative framework was another item suggested by CEOs. It was also suggested that the number of reporting requirements impeded the ability to make things happen with a strong feeling the role is regulated more heavily than ever before.

Future skills for local government CEOs

There were five key skills identified as critical for CEOs of the future. In order, they were:

  1. Relationship building/emotional intelligence – there is a strong need to network, lobby, develop public, private, partnerships, build strong relationships with communities and councillors.

  2. Agile leadership – the ability to bring people on the journey as you transform and change workforce structures/systems/processes and policies.

  3. Good governance/political acumen – there was a strong focus on the understanding of governance responsibilities and the ability to read the play in order to protect the organisation and councillors, both individually and as a collective.

  4. Curiosity – the ability to understand complex systems to find innovative and simple solutions, with an emphasis on digital technology to do more with less.

  5. Resilience – personal resilience was mentioned by many as critical, having a greater capacity to manage constant change and bounce back from setbacks.

How has the role changed from 10-15 years ago?

All correspondents mentioned the role presented different challenges today than from 10 to 15 years ago. The three common themes included:

  1. Increased accountability – 64 per cent of respondents said with reporting obligations increasing to enhance transparency of the sector, there was a sense of increased pressure from other levels of government.

  2. Higher community expectations – 50 per cent of respondents highlighted the fact that a more articulate and engaged community is holding local government to greater levels of accountability and service expectations are growing. Councils are expected to be on-call 24/7, and immediate response and action is demanded. This is driven by social media and the instant news cycle.

  3. Rate capping – 43 per cent of respondents said revenue reductions and constrained resources to deliver/financial sustainability was a new and big challenge.

How has technology impacted council operations?

All CEOs agreed that enhanced technology and digital disruption has been positive for council as it delivered more effective and efficient services.

They all said it has made it easier to communicate, inform and engage with stakeholders and deliver a higher degree of transparency.

On the flipside, some of the challenges that have presented with accessibility have been enhanced community expectations around faster response times, along with a greater volume of correspondence to manage. There was also a feeling by some that social media provided a channel for those ‘louder voices’ in the community, potentially compounding the silence of the majority and possibly damaging councils’ reputation/image.

Why do you think Victoria is experiencing a high level of turnover of CEOs?

Participants provided three clear reasons for this alarming trend and they included:

Behaviour of councillors

Thirty-five per cent listed the poor behaviour of certain councillors, making it very hard and unfair not only for the CEO and the leadership team but for fellow councillors to deal with.

Increased financial/reporting and transparency pressures

There was a sense of higher pressures, as previously mentioned, due to rate capping, the 24/7 news cycle, new reporting requirements and the ‘reputation of local government has taken a hit. Ultimately, careers outside of local government look very attractive.’

There was a sense that ‘State Government, peak bodies and communities don’t value the critical role of local government in a very high volume, complex and high expectation environment’.

Job security issues

The CEO’s role is often in focus when councils change or hot political issues surface.

Given all of this information, it caused me to reflect on the variety of CEO searches I have engaged in, across a range of different sectors, and I appreciate it takes unusually high degrees of stamina to hold the role of a local government CEO long-term.

Most would agree that it is healthy for CEOs to not outstay their welcome in order to enable fresh ideas and approaches to come to organisations. However, having said that, some of the best CEOs I know are also some of the state’s longest serving.

Given the very honest opinions listed above and the current high turnover the state is experiencing, now more than ever it is important for the future of the sector that we strike a balance to achieve a healthy level of CEO turnover.

This can only be done if collectively and proactively we address some of the themes listed above.

It’s not only in our interest, but also in the interest of our communities.

A breakdown of their time

CEOs said they spend:

  • 60 per cent of their time supporting councillors
  • 20 per cent of their time on operational leadership
  • 20 per cent of their time on advocacy/stakeholder engagement.

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Five minutes with … Cr Jan Vonarx, Alpine Shire

After 11 years on council, which included two terms as mayor, Alpine Cr Jan Vonarx is calling time. Before she heads off to spend more time with family and the Girl Guides, along with exploring her family tree, Jan caught up with CiVic Editor Kristi High.

Cr Vonarx, you’ve lived in Alpine Shire for 40 years, what is it about the shire that you love?

This is a beautiful area of Australia where we have four distinct seasons. Summer can be very warm, in autumn we have some fabulous autumn leaves, winter of course there is the snow and in spring we have all the plants starting to flower. It is also very friendly and everyone is made to feel welcome. I have lived all around the world but Alpine Shire is where we chose to live.

As a long time councillor and former mayor, what are some of the changes you have seen in local government over the decades?

Obviously with amalgamation there was a big change going from small councils to much larger councils, but on the whole this has worked out well. We are moving in the right direction with our Codes of Conduct. I believe that penalties for breach of any parts of the Code of Conduct should be tougher.

I believe councillors are more involved in their councils than in the past. Any councillor who has been around for a long time may disagree with me, but having been interested in local government for over 40 years I can see a great change in this area.

What have been some of your proudest achievements on council?

I am not sure I can claim for any major achievements on council as we work as a team, therefore all achievements belong to the council as a whole, but one of my personal achievements is listening to what the community want. They may not always get what they want but at least they have been listened to and if I pass anything on to a new councillor it’s the ability to listen to both sides and not to make spot decisions. Hopefully the legacy I can leave behind is that ‘she listened’.

Is there anything you are going to miss about being part of council?

Yes, definitely the community. I have been involved in the community for over 40 years and have always loved advocating on their behalf. Again they may not always like what the result is but at least they have been consulted. I will also miss the debate in council briefings and in the chamber! I am not one to say ‘yes’ to everything and am always questioning and arguing my case but once a decision has been made whether in my favour or not, then it is time to move on and bear no grudges. I will also miss the camaraderie with my fellow councillors and our staff, and of course working with everyone on the various committees I have been on, including Timber Towns Victoria and Rural Councils Victoria.

You have been involved in the Girl Guides in various roles including your current as Region Manager for Hume Region, tell us about why you became involved 30 years ago and what has been most rewarding about it?

As a lot of Guide Leaders will tell you they became involved because their daughter/s became a Guide. This is exactly what happened to me. With four daughters I had no hope but to become involved. And here I am 35 years later. I started off as a leader, became an adult trainer, District Commissioner and now Hume Region Manager, which is a huge region from Corryong down to Kilmore, and from Marysville across to Cobram and everything in between. The most rewarding part of Girl Guides is watching these young girls turning into the leaders of the future. Many travel overseas with other Guides and have the experience of a lifetime; they enjoy camping and the outdoors and of course follow Lord Baden-Powell’s philosophy of ‘being prepared’.

As a representative for Alpine on Timber Towns Victoria, how is this work important to you, the shire and other councils represented?

Alpine is very timber focused with pine plantations covering many hectares, we also have natural forest, which is not harvested. Over 92 per cent of land in the Alpine Shire is Crown land, so this means we are heavily reliant on forestry, tourism and agriculture. Being a member of Timber Towns Victoria is vitally important to any council that is impacted by timber. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have plantations but the timber trucks driving through your municipality could impact you. Alpine is lucky enough not only to have plantations but to also have a processing plant in Myrtleford, which does create jobs in our community. Being on Timber Towns has enabled us to have a say in the way the TIRES report is delivered and we have also received money for roads as a result of this report. Being a member of Timber Towns Victoria gives us a collective voice to lobby government.

Family is seemingly very important — four daughters and eight grandchildren. What has been the best part of raising your family in the shire?

The freedom! When my girls were growing up they had the freedom to wander around on their own, the fresh air and outdoor life is so important for any child and we have plenty of that. My family is important to me and I am lucky that three daughters live in Wangaratta, just ‘down the road’ so I see them very often, and one lives on a small farm in Young and we visit on a regular basis.

Are there any new projects on the horizon after life on council?

Plenty! Obviously spending more time with my long-suffering husband, Les, and family. I will continue with my Guiding but am also interested in ancestry so intend to work on my family tree. I have no fear of being bored.

Do you have some parting advice for the new council?

Being on council is a privilege, not a right. Be yourself and listen carefully, and attend the briefing sessions. Staff put a lot of time and effort in preparing for these sessions and councillors should give them the courtesy of attending. You have to be fully briefed before making any decision, be prepared to challenge something if it doesn’t ‘feel right’. Also be prepared to lose an argument and move on, you can’t win them all. Finally, do not promise something you can’t deliver – listen but don’t commit.