News and resources

CiVic - Issue 15 - Summer 2016


Index of accessible version

President's report

By Cr Coral Ross, MAV Interim President.

The recent elections have brought great change and fresh faces to our sector.

A record 2,135 candidates stood and just over half of those councillors elected are new to local government. Also, a record 38.1 per cent (or 243) of Victorian councillors are now women – the highest percentage ever elected and the highest percentage in the country.

About a quarter of councillors retired at the election and another quarter were defeated. Among those not returned was MAV President Bill McArthur. Bill was elected president in March 2009 and was also the vice-president of the Australian Local Government Association.

After 23 years as a councillor, we were sad to see Bill not returned to Golden Plains Shire, and thank him for his dedication to his community and passion for the local government sector both in Victoria and nationally.

We were also disappointed MAV Board member Helen Coleman was not re-elected. She made a valuable contribution as the Interface representative, Nillumbik councillor for 12 years and Mayor.

I was honoured to be elected by the MAV Board as interim president until the March board elections. I extend a very warm welcome to the 637 recently elected councillors, including 323 new councillors and 314 returned councillors. It is very pleasing to see that councillors have been elected to Brimbank and Wangaratta, which were previously run by administrators. The only council without elected representatives is the City of Greater Geelong.

All 78 councils have at least one woman councillor and 16 have 50 per cent or more women. There has been a 14 per cent increase in the number of women elected, and at the recent mayoral elections, a record 32 women (41 per cent) were elected mayor. It is pleasing to see Victorian councils lead the country in women’s representation.

For those newly elected councillors, I encourage you to take part in training opportunities. Along with the recent councillor induction day, the MAV will be hosting forums on meeting procedures, performing in the role of councillor, roles and responsibilities, finance, strategic planning, public speaking and land use planning. For those returning councillors – a re-fresher is always a good idea! I also encourage you to take part in the MAV strategic planning sessions in February and March next year.

2017 will be busy for councillors setting council budgets and annual plans. The sector will also be busy participating in the Local Government Act Review and the Review of the MAV Act.

I look forward to catching up with as many of you as I can and welcome your feedback on how the MAV can best serve and represent you. I can be contacted on or 0438 005 225.

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Editor’s note

By Kristi High, Editor.

This edition wraps up what has been an exciting year for local government.

Over four editions of CiVic, we have unveiled many stories that show true leadership from Victorian councils.

In the areas of environment, culture, prevention of violence against women and technology, to name just a few, Victorian councils have demonstrated the difference this important level of government makes to its immediate communities.

As key advocates, councils continue to prove the influence they have in getting outcomes from federal and state governments, and other funding bodies for new or upgraded infrastructure and other initiatives and projects.

This year’s council elections also brought to light the community’s own interest in local government, with more candidates than ever before standing for an elected councillor role.

Congratulations to those returning councillors, and to the newly elected, we welcome you to local government.

I would like to thank the MAV for its continued support of CiVic magazine, which is an important communications tool for sharing our successes.

Thank you also to MAV Technology, and to the many advertisers who keep this publication in production.

Finally, to the councils who have featured this year, I have thoroughly enjoyed your support and assistance. In the New Year, I welcome councils to get in touch and tell the sector about your good news.

On behalf of everyone at CiVic magazine, I wish you all a very successful 2017.

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Opinion: Management of contractor safety – A matter of due diligence

By Sue Bottrell, ContractorSAFE.

For those employers who engage independent contractors to undertake work for or on their behalf, the issue of managing contractor safety has been the subject of much interest of late. For councils who employ literally thousands of independent contractors, it is particularly important.

Historically, the interpretation of the duty owed to contractors for safety under health and safety legislation was that the duty was akin to that owed to direct employees. Subsequently, complex contractor management systems comprising lengthy questionnaires, copious quantities of paperwork and detailed inspection, reviewing and monitoring of contractor’s safety arrangements by employers have been used to attempt to meet those obligations. Potentially costing many thousands of man hours and dollars, but in fact potentially increasing an employer’s liability by interfering in contractor’s safety arrangements.

In 2012, in Baiada Poultry V the Queen, the High Court made it quite clear that while an employer has the right under contract to exercise control over its contractors, the question to be answered is whether exercising that control is a step which is reasonably practicable for an employer to take to meet their obligations to provide and maintain a safe working environment.

The matters the court considered on the question of practicability were:

  1. The matters over which the employer had control
  2. The cost and effort of controlling and directing independent contractors in matters of their safety arrangements.

The court said “just because a Principal has a legal right to issue instructions and it is possible to take that step, this does not establish that it is a step which was reasonably practicable to provide and maintain a safe working environment, even where the Principal has knowledge of the risks and knows of ways to control such risks.”

This position was evident prior to 2012. In Leighton Contractors Pty Ltd v Brian Allen Fox 2009, the court held that “once an activity has been organised and its operation is in the hands of independent contractors, liability for negligence by them within the area of their responsibility is not borne vicariously by the Principal Contractor”.

Specifically, the court found that:

  • A head contractor owes no stringent or strict common law duty to train subcontractors engaged to work on a site in the way the subcontractor is to perform its speciality work
  • A contractor who subcontracts work to a competent subcontractor is not subject to an ongoing general law obligation with respect to the safety of the work methods employed by the subcontractor.

In Kirk v WorkCover NSW 2010, the Court stated that “it is absurd to have prosecuted the owner of a farm and its principal on the ground that the principal failed to properly ensure the health, safety and welfare of his manager, who was a man of optimum skill and experience – skill and experience much greater than his own.”

In Fortescue Metals 2012 Supreme Court of WA, the court recognised that “Whilst the respondents could not delegate or contract out of their duties, they could perform them by ensuring that an appropriately experienced and qualified person was retained to deal with matters beyond their own knowledge and ability.”

The issues highlighted by these judgments are:

  1. What control does an employer retain over matters of health and safety with respect to contractors it engages?
  2. Whether it is reasonably practicable for an employer to specify and enforce arrangements to be adhered to by contractors.
  3. The elements of reasonable practicability which need to be considered include:
    1. the knowledge of the work and risks associated with the work being done by an independent contractor
    2. the cost and effort of issuing instructions to an independent contractor
    3. the cost and effort of directly supervising an independent contractor’s safety arrangements.

The cases now clearly state that it is not considered reasonably practicable for employers to issue instructions to independent contractors in respect of their safety arrangements.

It has also confirmed that the practice of requiring complex evidence of contractor’s safety arrangements, including collecting documentation, reviewing and monitoring compliance with those arrangements is not practicable.

Due diligence

Councils engaging contractors must demonstrate due diligence by asking them to confirm that they are competent to undertake the work and have safety arrangements in place by:

  1. Clearly defining the tasks to be undertaken by independent contractors
  2. Clearly assigning responsibilities for work and risk management in contracts
  3. Requiring contractors to confirm they and their workers are competent to undertake the work they have been engaged to undertake
  4. Requiring contractors to confirm they have identified risks associated with their work and are acting to control them
  5. Managing safety in respect of the work controlled by the employer
  6. Defining processes to review contractor safety performance at the completion of contracts.

About Sue Bottrell

Sue Bottrell has worked in occupational health and safety and worker’s compensation rehabilitation for the past 15 years. She is a qualified OHS professional as defined by Worksafe Victoria (2008) and has qualifications in a Masters level in both health and safety and law. A practicing lawyer in safety and employment law, Sue was the first safety professional in Australia to become a Certified Chartered Generalist OHS Professional Member of the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA). She has also served as SIA Treasurer and as a National Board Member.

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Sector Connector: Light at the beginning of the tunnel

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

There was a time in Victorian circles, circa mid-2000s, when you could hardly avoid the topic of community plans – those visionary documents describing a community’s long-term aspirations.

The MAV was quite a leader in this respect, for instance via its Lighthouse and other programs. Local Government Victoria commissioned detailed research on the community planning practices of eleven councils in 2007, resulting in a valuable 60-page report titled Planning Together*. The LGPro Corporate Planners Network also prepared a report Embedding Community Priorities into Council Planning which highlighted the strategic purpose of community plans, published in 2008 and as relevant now as then.

This was in the days of the Department of Planning and Community Development, when the state’s message to councils was focused on better governance through community engagement. Seems to me today’s message is more a reminder that local government is but an arm of the state.

Perhaps we’ve all moved on. But since not all councils have a community plan yet, and at a guess, many that do haven’t really put it at the core of corporate culture and performance management, perhaps we should up the conversation again.

Developing a community plan and periodically checking in with the community has many benefits, not least of all as a market (read community) research exercise. Its true value though lies in how a community plan influences the servant workforce.

The four-year Council Plan may well state what the council can and cannot do to meet the community’s aspirations, but assuming those aspirations are evidenced and not just words, they ought to be top of mind amongst everyone in the council, including those in back-of-house roles.

A great example of making the community plan a reference which council staff couldn’t ignore comes from one of the first post-amalgamation plans at the City of Port Phillip 1997 (Yarra Ranges and a handful of other councils were also ahead of the game).

To help make it a functional guide for the workforce, the community plan was produced larger than A3, in landscape, spiral bound and with lots of white space for making notes by hand. The logic? Well, it was too large to fit in a drawer, did not sit well on a shelf, and was as unavoidable as a document could be.

Today, this may seem extravagant and counter to the tide of digital communication, but my goodness, it worked well. For a few years, the community plan and its vision really was a leading light for us workers.

* Planning Together: Lessons from Local Government Community Planning in Victoria, prepared by Sue West and Hayden Raysmith.

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Wangaratta goes solar

Victoria’s biggest solar farm will be built in Wangaratta, after council approved the development of a $40 million project that will generate enough power for 5,000 homes.

The Wangaratta Solar Farm will be the first significant solar installation in Victoria, comprising around 70,000 photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate 20 megawatts of electricity when it comes on stream at the end of 2017.

Wangaratta Rural City Council has worked closely with Victorian-based project developer Countrywide Energy (CWE) over the past 12 months to bring the project to life.

Council’s Economic Development Coordinator Gary Warrener said the solar farm would be built on 30 hectares of land near the North Wangaratta Industrial Estate, which has largely been leased to CWE from council.

“From council’s point of view, the location, near the industrial estate is ideal to have a solar farm. It will provide reduced cost power to that estate, to nearby homes and later down the track, to council.”

Before the project starts, a number of studies are required, such as the effects of glint and glare, which have been funded through the State Government’s New Energy Jobs Fund.

“Council prepared the application for funding to undertake the studies, and negotiated with the State Government about what could be done in our region,” Mr Warrener said.

“While council is not funding this project directly, it has contributed significant in-kind support through resourcing and providing advice around development permit processes and applications.

“In the end, we hope to have a template for other councils about building a renewable energy project of this size and scale, particularly around the types of studies that are required before construction starts.”

Excess power that is not consumed within the industrial estate will be fed into the grid to be shared among consumers, including council and nearby homes, with electricity generated from other sources.

“There is certainly an immediate direct benefit to businesses operating in the industrial estate and they have been excited about the opportunity,” Mr Warrener said.

“There is also the potential for council to purchase cheaper electricity, and for several more solar projects to take small townships in our region off the grid; this is just the beginning.”

CWE Director Geoff Drucker said the Wangaratta Solar Farm was the result of all parties working together.

“Wangaratta Solar Farm has been a collaborative project bringing together the council and neighbours to deliver an outcome that will help sustain jobs in local industries, create new jobs and make Wangaratta an attractive destination for business relocation,” he said.

“There is an opportunity for businesses operating in the North Wangaratta Industrial Estate to take advantage of embedded energy from the solar farm, which means they can be directly supplied with clean energy outside the established electricity grid. The remaining energy generated will augment the grid.

“CWE’s goal is to prospect renewable energy opportunities where energy supply is unreliable, cannot be expanded or is of poor quality.

“Coupling these elements with the potential for business development, local economies have a recipe for attracting new businesses that have an appetite for clean energy and long-term competitive and predictable energy pricing.”

Solar farm benefits to Wangaratta

  • Added energy security, especially when demand for power is high, like on hot summer days.
  • Provides energy pricing control for industrial estate customers, helping local businesses manage their costs.
  • Creates around 90 jobs during construction and at least five new jobs once operational.
  • Will lead to further renewable projects that will deliver similar outcomes to other Wangaratta townships.
  • Utilises land leased from council, which has generated no interest from any other venture.
  • The project comes at no cost to the Wangaratta community, and council will earn income from renting the solar farm site over the life of the project.

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Connecting closer to Indigenous communities

Banyule City Council has welcomed two new Indigenous officers this year to continue building relationships with Traditional Custodians, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

An Aboriginal Project Officer has joined council to focus on community engagement through special projects, and an Aboriginal Contact Officer has been employed to promote Aboriginal cultural understanding, providing a key link between council and community.

Banyule has continued building on its work with, and for, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community since 2009 when the Banyule Statement of Commitment to Indigenous Australians was developed in partnership with Wurundjeri Elders.

Co-ordinator Community and Social Planning, Theonie Tacticos said since this time, council has been focusing on doing things well rather than trying to do it all and failing to deliver.

“Underpinning the majority of our Aboriginal strategies is a focus on supporting and partnering with organisations providing very hands-on services,” she said.

“This year, for example, we have built a very strong and active partnership with Banyule Community Health Service’s Aboriginal Health Team.”

Through this partnership, Banyule is helping facilitate general and specific community services such as cultural education across five council pre-schools, and the successful Aboriginal-run Barrbunin Beek (Happy Place in the Woiwurrung language).

Council is also embarking on an Aboriginal cultural awareness program in partnership with its three libraries.

“By partnering with these organisations, we’re helping provide our whole community with consistent and relevant information about a culture that’s incredibly important to all of us,” Ms Tacticos said.

“It’s all about engaging with our local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and then identifying and prioritising key needs.

“This gives us the ability to concentrate our efforts and resources on those areas that are most important.”

In line with a growing number of Victorian councils, Banyule is formalising its commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by developing a Reconciliation Action Plan.

“While some people might see it as yet another level of reporting, we see it is a means of remaining more relevant to our First Nations’ community,” Theonie said.

Council is also introducing Aboriginal cultural awareness and acceptance training for staff, an important way for staff at all levels to gain a strong working knowledge of the First Australians and their culture.

Community engagement

Banyule’s community engagement has included the development of:

  • An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee, which advises council on key issues confronting the Aboriginal community within Banyule. Among its members are representatives from Reconciliation Banyule and the Wurundjeri (the Traditional Custodians) Tribe Land Council.
  • Barrbunin Beek Aboriginal Gathering Space, in partnership with Banyule Community Health Service, which gives local Aboriginal and Torres Strait people a place to call home, a place to meet and a place to build community. A place of community ownership, it is where knowledge can be shared and culture celebrated, with a variety of programs including Sistas Circle, Men’s Group, Nhalinggu Bagung art group meetings, and a traditional dance group.

Sharing through art

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

These words, attributed to Albert Namatjira, the first Aboriginal artist to gain commercial success, are at the heart of a new Banyule City Council initiative – the Nhalinggu Bagung art movement.

It started as a council art exhibition featuring the works of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists during Reconciliation Week 2016. The event proved so popular and gained so much support that it was increased in scope to incorporate other Indigenous artists from within the Wurundjeri community, Banyule’s local Traditional Custodians.

During her Welcome to Country at the exhibition’s opening, Wurundjeri Elder Aunty Dianne Kerr told guests that the exhibition took her on a journey.

“As a Wurundjeri person looking at the art, I see that the artists are from different Countries, each bringing the culture and the stories of their traditional Country; and it’s wonderful to go on that journey,” Aunty Dianne said.

With support from the Wurundjeri Tribe Land Council, prize sponsorship from Telstra, and exhibitions taking place at Banyule’s Hatch Contemporary Arts’ Space, Abbotsford Convent and Telstra’s Melbourne headquarters, Nhalinggu Bagung gained much momentum.

According to Banyule Council’s Aboriginal Contact Officer, Charles Pakana, it is now more than a fleeting event on the Banyule arts and culture calendar. “Our people’s art speaks of so much of our history, culture and beliefs,” he said.

“It can depict the agony and injustice inflicted on our Stolen Generations then, with strong undertones of a desire for reconciliation, share the beauty of the connection our people have maintained with the land for tens of thousands of years.

The council-supported Nhalinggu Bagung art group meets every week and is already planning the 2017 exhibition, which promises to be a truly amazing cultural experience.

“For our local artists, this group means having the opportunity to share their work with the entire community; and that is crucial as we move forward with reconciliation as our goal,” Aunty Dianne said.

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Leading PVAW campaign

MAV Interim President and Boroondara Cr Coral Ross is one of 16 influential Australian leaders who have pledged their support for the 1800RESPECT Stand Together Against Domestic and Family Violence and 16 Days of Action campaigns.

The leaders come from 16 key sectors including local government and front line services, along with prevention of domestic and family violence ambassadors.

Together, this group of leaders showed unified support for women and children affected by domestic and family violence during the 16 Days of Action campaign, which ran from 25 November until 10 December.

Councillor Carol Ross took this unique opportunity to demonstrate the actions and activities local government leads in the prevention of domestic and family violence space.

“While local government is not a family violence service provider, it does provide around 140 services that touch the community directly,” she said.

“Council officers work in community areas where they may come across people experiencing family or domestic violence such as maternal and child health centres, kindergartens, sporting facilities, even emergency management and local laws.

“Councils are also leading by example as employers, with many now including a family and domestic violence clause in their Enterprise Bargaining Agreements.

“And the MAV is fortunate to have the only role in the country that is funded by the State Government to solely coordinate and disseminate information about family and domestic violence both within and outside of local government. This role is vital for connecting councils so that they can learn from each other.”

Prominent domestic and family violence prevention advocates, Rosie Batty and Jimmy Bartel, led the chorus of influential Australians who pledged their support at the launch of 1800RESPECT’s Stand Together Against Domestic and Family Violence and the 16 Days of Action campaign.

During the launch, Ms Batty released a video outlining four simple steps in identifying and responding to someone that is affected by domestic or family violence.

In the video, the 2015 Australian of the Year suggests that if anyone suspects that a family member, friend or work colleague is experiencing sexual assault, domestic or family violence, to adopt the four step approach – asking if she feels safe, naming it as violence, referring her to a specialist and then following-up with her.

As a leader of the campaign, Cr Ross spoke as part of a panel at the launch and was surprised that many did not know the work local government does in this space.

“As a sector, we must do as much as we can to highlight this important issue,” Cr Ross said.

“I would actively encourage local government workers, especially those working with women and children in their communities, to learn what they can do to make a difference.

“This includes watching Rosie’s four simple steps that all workers should know when identifying and responding to domestic and family violence.”

There are a number of great examples of projects, programs and activities taking place in Victorian councils that support the prevention of violence against women and children, with many supported by MAV grants.

The Local Government Prevention of Violence Against Women grants are funded by the State Government and administered by the MAV, with a total funding pool of $345,000.

The MAV received 31 applications for this funding, with successful councils being Latrobe, Darebin, Maroondah, Ballarat, Whittlesea, Horsham, Frankston, Port Phillip, Nillumbik and Macedon Ranges. A further 11 councils will be involved through collaborative projects.


1800RESPECT is the National Sexual Assault Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service. It is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services as part of the Commonwealth Government’s commitment under the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022. 1800RESPECT is a confidential online and telephone counselling, information and referral service available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is for those experiencing the impacts of sexual assault, domestic and family violence. Victims of sexual assault, domestic and family violence, as well as their family and friends, can call 1800RESPECT or visit the website.

The 16 key influencers who took part in the 1800RESPECT’s Stand Together Against Domestic and Family Violence and the 16 Days of Action campaign launch included:

  • CEO Aboriginal Family Violence Preventions and Legal Service Antoinette Braybrook
  • CEO ACON Nicholas Parkhill
  • COO YGAP Manita Ray
  • National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell
  • CEO beyondblue Georgie Harman
  • Chief Commissioner Victoria Police Graham Ashton
  • MD & CEO, Australia Post, Male Champions of Change Ahmed Fahour
  • Disability advocate, 2015 Canberra Citizen of the Year Sue Salthouse
  • Ambassador, Rape and Domestic Services Aust and former Captain of Australian Opals basketball team Lauren Jackson
  • MAV Interim President, former ALGWA President and Boorondara Councillor Coral Ross
  • Pro-feminist sociologist at University of Woolongong Michael Flood
  • Independent Cross Cultural Consultant Tasneem Chopra
  • Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins
  • CEO Medibank, Male Champions of Change Craig Drummond
  • Doctor, Journalist Dr Norman Swan
  • Former Chief of Army, 2016 Australian of the Year Lt Gen David Morrison.



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Sustainability trailblazer awarded

Award winning sustainable city, Yarra City Council, has a longstanding commitment to environmental sustainability and is recognised as a leader in this area for local government.

Since 2001, Yarra has reduced its greenhouse emissions by 38 per cent and now generates more than 25 per cent of its own low-carbon energy.

Council officers have played a key role in Yarra’s success with behaviour change campaigns, such as the 2014 Carbon Countdown resulting in a 20 per cent reduction in the organisation’s energy use.

Yarra Assistant Director Planning and Placemaking, Jane Waldock said council’s carbon management has been a successful journey.

“Yarra was the first Victorian council certified carbon neutral back in 2012 through the National Carbon Offset Standard, and became the first accredited ‘One Planet Council’ in Australia in 2014,” she said.

Energy generation has now been incorporated into 40 council buildings including 479kW of solar PV. Among the buildings is the iconic heritage-listed Victoria Park grandstand, which has a 99kW installation. Also, three leisure centres are equipped with cogeneration plants, which create cleaner electricity and ‘free’ hot water for these community facilities.

Yarra has been leading sustainable street lighting retrofits in Victoria over the past six years, and as a trailblazer has reduced emissions from street lighting in the municipality by 40 per cent.

“We have also been using Energy Performance Contract methodology in 18 council buildings, ensuring they’re operating in the most efficient way. This is saving 2,400 tonnes of CO2 annually,” Ms Waldock said.

Growing a sustainable Yarra

Yarra adopted one of Australia’s first urban agriculture strategies in 2014.

This ground-breaking strategy empowers Yarra’s inner-urban community to create spaces for growing food to improve wellbeing, sustainability and connectedness.

“Our urban agriculture coordinators, and wider sustainability team, have worked in close partnership with the local community to help urban agriculture to bloom in Yarra,” Yarra Assistant Director Planning and Placemaking Jane Waldock said.

Council has produced industry-leading guidelines for the development of urban agriculture, established five council community gardens including an orchard, and installed more than 125 planter boxes in local streets that are cared for by the community.

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Citizen science recruitment

Melbourne Water is calling on councillors and council officers to get involved in its Frog Census.

Now in its fifteenth year, Melbourne Water’s Frog Census is a citizen science monitoring program that tracks frog populations in Melbourne by recording their calls and location.

This year, participation rates received a big boost following the launch of an innovative mobile phone app at the start of spring, which saw the number of frog calls submitted by the community dramatically increase.

Melbourne Water’s frog expert and Waterwatch Coordinator Richard Akers, said every record submitted is important and could play a crucial role in a species’ ongoing survival.

“Frogs are very sensitive to changes in the environment and collecting this information tells us a lot about the health of a waterway,” Mr Akers said.

“When we receive records of them calling we know the environment in that location is healthy. We use this information to focus our conservation efforts in the locations that will make the biggest difference.”

Many of Melbourne’s frog species are still recovering from the long-term impacts of the Millennium Drought; the red groined froglet, for instance, had not been recorded anywhere in Melbourne in eight years.

“There were plenty of high fives in the office when we received a record of this species from a citizen scientist during spring,” said Mr Akers.

“Targeted interventions like this could prove to be the difference between the ongoing survival of a species or local extinction.”

Melbourne Water is hoping to recruit people who work in local government to participate in the Frog Census by downloading the app and helping to spread the word.

“It’s a bit like a treasure hunt and a great excuse to visit your local river, creek or wetland area,” Mr Akers said.

“We are getting lots of feedback from parents who tell us it’s a great family activity and encourages interest in the environment too.”

Records submitted by the community are analysed by Melbourne Water and added to the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas and Atlas of Living Australia, which is used to inform important decisions, such as threatened species nominations.

Download the app from Google Play or the App Store.

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Closing the confidence gap

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

It is regularly reported – from a famous Hewlett Packard study – that men apply for a job when they meet only 60 per cent of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100 per cent of them.

Why is that the case? Most often it is a lack of self-confidence. Confidence is our belief in our ability to succeed at a given task. A lack of it however, drives risk aversion and makes people less willing to pursue new challenges as it’s safer to stick with the status quo.

So, if women are more cautious in their careers compared to men, particularly when talking about applying for a senior role like CEO or manager, what impact will this have and what can we do about it?

Improving organisational equality has repeatedly proven to reap major economic and financial benefits, yet progress across the local government sector has been tediously slow.

No one would argue that the type of leadership needed in the sector should more closely represent the diversity of our workforces and our communities. With local government female CEOs comprising a little over 16 per cent, there is a glaring imbalance in the makeup of the most senior administration leaders.

This issue is not a local government concern alone. According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency data, this ratio runs almost exactly in line with CEOs in Australian non-public sector organisations (with 100 or more employees), with less than one in five CEOs (15.4 per cent) being female.

The statistics improve somewhat at the second and third levels in local government (director and manager), with female representation at 34 per cent and 39 per cent respectively, but there is still much to achieve.

Data collected recently from Victorian local government female CEOs and executive recruitment firms showed a clear problem at the talent pool stage. That is, whilst the sector in totality has a healthy gender balance, at the senior levels, there remains an inequality in the application numbers from female candidates.

The evidence is stark, women simply aren’t applying for these roles but interestingly, when they do, they have a significantly greater chance of not only making it to the shortlist, but of being appointed to the role at all levels.

The question then becomes, why aren’t they applying? Obviously there are a range of issues that sit behind this from differing arrangements in what constitutes flexibility from council to council (especially with the unique amount of evening work in local government), to confidence in either themselves or the hiring process itself.

A recent study by Wiebke Bleidorn, Ph.D., from the University of California, reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that the disparity in belief between men and women is universal.

The eight-year study by Bleidorn analysed data from over 985,000 men and women across 48 countries, asking them to rate the phrase: “I see myself as someone who has high self-esteem.” The study found that across the board – regardless of culture or country, men have higher self-esteem than women.

Bleidorn’s research offered some theories regarding this finding. Firstly, that part of the universal confidence gap may be explained by our biology. That is, we’re simply hardwired differently. “Most personality traits have a genetic basis, so there’s reason to assume it might be at least partly genetically driven,” Bleidorn said.

Gender split at different stages of the selection process

(data collected across all local government shortlists 2013-16)


Application: 14.75%

Shortlist: 21.88%

Appointment: 26.31%


Application: 25.15%

Shortlist: 35.36%

Appointment: 43.13%


Application: 26.3%

Shortlist: 41.4%

Appointment: 47.6%

The moral of the story: women need to have more belief in themselves.

While there are a number of strategies the local government sector has at its disposal to bridge the gender gap such as targets or quotas, an important piece of the puzzle is addressing the gender confidence gap.

While having more confident women won’t eliminate the unconscious bias, it will empower more women to call out bias when they see it, put themselves forward and take more risks. This will see more women moving up the career ranks which, in turn, will provide more much needed role models and inspiration for women following below.

There are many organisations we can turn to in order to learn from the success stories of others, such as the quota approach of DELWP, but it is clear that solving this issue is complex and requires a multi-faceted approach. However one piece of the puzzle certainly requires supporting women to back themselves more. Of course there is no quick fix or silver bullet for building self-confidence or permanently eradicating self-doubt in women.

In 2017 Davidson Executive will seek to partner with each of the 79 Victorian local government CEOs to identify their top 2-5 female leaders.

Knowing that confidence in applying for more senior roles has been a barrier for many senior female leaders, Davidson Executive will be launching a targeted development centre and program aimed at identifying strengths, areas for development and providing executive coaching support. The outcome will be getting senior female leaders comfortable in the often-uncomfortable process of preparing for more senior positions.

Most people don’t change, or willingly go along with change, because the change is “the right thing to do.” They do it if there is an important reason to change.

Organisations don’t generally promote women because doing so is nice for women. They do it if there is a compelling business reason to do so. The bottom line reasons to achieve gender diversity in leadership are exactly that – compelling.

Inclusive cultures and organisations with gender-diversity achieve superior business outcomes – retention, productivity and profitability. That’s what can drive action and culture change. Achieving the vision requires leadership that is able to build strong organisational cultures, reflective of the changing nature of local government. The type of leadership needed should more closely represent the diversity of council workforces and communities.

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In brief

Melbourne City Council

Melbourne City Council recently hosted 20 free talks in 10 bars in one night.

This was the first Raising the Bar event to be held in Victoria – a global education initiative that began in New York in 2014 and has since been held in London, Hong Kong, Sydney and San Francisco.

At the pop-up learning labs, 20 of the world’s top creative thinkers, academics and visionaries presented their latest research, ideas and insights to bar patrons for free.

“We are the World’s Most Liveable City: a 24 hour CBD with a focus on business, tourism and social inclusion. We believe knowledge sharing, through events like Raising the Bar, supports fresh ideas which are vital to the continued growth of our city,” Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said.

Casey City Council

Casey City Council has welcomed the announcement of more than 2,700 extra police for Victoria over the next four years, following a strong council and community public safety campaign.

Mayor Sam Aziz said residents had named public safety as their number one priority during the recent Casey Next community engagement project.

Council wrote to the Police Minister and Chief Commissioner demanding action on the huge spike in youth crime, violent home invasions and burglaries.

The Safer Casey campaign ran in September where thousands of residents signed a petition to all Victorian and Federal Members of Parliament calling for more police in Casey.

Cr Aziz said the community safety campaign had already led to the Government introducing tougher penalties for aggravated burglaries and home invasions.

Wyndham City Council

Wyndham is now home to the only reverse vending machines in Victoria, with three machines installed throughout the municipality.

The machines allow people to insert empty cans and bottles to be recycled in return for instant rewards like vouchers, entries into major prize draws, food and drink offers and charity donations. Each machine can hold up to 2,000 cans or bottles before they need to be emptied.

Surf Coast Shire Council

Surf Coast Shire Council and Deakin University have formed a partnership to collaborate on five key areas: tourism and the visitor economy; renewable energy and energy efficiency; evolution of communities and our places; health and wellbeing; student placements and project-based learning.

The partnership will provide opportunities to provide Deakin students with work experience while council will benefit from collaborating with a world-class institute renowned for its innovation that will bring benefits to its community.

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Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori: Dulka Warngiid – Land of All

Date: Until 29 January 2017

Venue: : The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

Description: A retrospective celebration of the life and work of contemporary artist Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori c.1924-2015 featuring more than 30 works on loan from Queensland Art Gallery – Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane.

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Lee Mingwei: The Moving Garden

Date: Until 29 January 2017

Venue: NGV Australia, St Kilda Road, Melbourne

Description: This exhibition from internationally recognised Taiwanese-American artist Lee Mingwei, a leader in creating art that invites audience participation, delivers new and unexpected encounters in the city.

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Moonlight Cinema

Date: Until 2 April 2017

Venue: Royal Botanic Gardens, Birdwood Avenue, Melbourne

Description: Spend an evening at Melbourne’s original summer outdoor cinema in the surrounds of the Royal Botanic Gardens. Sit back and enjoy your favourite flicks as the sun goes down while enjoying your own picnic or indulge in snacks, street food and drinks from the on-site food-truck and bar.

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A Day On the Green – Simple Minds and The B52s

Date: 4 February 2017

Venue: Rochford Wines, 878-880 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream

Description: A Day On the Green presents Simple Minds and The B52s at Rochford Wines in the Yarra Valley. Packages with food and wine options available. Tickets on sale now.

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Apollo Bay Seafood Festival

Date: 18 February 2017

Venue: Apollo Bay Foreshore, Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay

Description: Staged on the picturesque Apollo Bay foreshore, the Apollo Bay Seafood Festival is a fun-filled day of cooking demonstrations from local and celebrity chefs, live entertainment, market stalls, wine, beer and of course – seafood in abundance.

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Grampians Music Festival

Date: 24–26 February 2017

Venue: Valley Floor, 7 Valley Drive, Halls Gap

Description: Be a part of this fun, friendly and relaxed music festival nestled in the heart of the Grampians National Park and featuring a great line-up of local bands.

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Lost Trades Fair

Date: 11–12 March 2017

Venue: Kyneton Racecourse, Campaspe Place, Kyneton

Description: Discover trades and the incredible artisans, workers and makers who continue to pursue them as they showcase their skills, craftsmanship and share their knowledge. More than 90 bespoke makers practising their crafts and trades include chairmakers, coopers, silversmiths, tinsmiths, fletchers, gunsmiths and stonemasons.

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Ballarat Begonia Festival

Date: 11–13 March 2017

Venue: Ballarat Botanical Gardens, Gillies Street North, North Ballarat

Description: Regional Victoria’s largest flower festival, the Ballarat Begonia Festival, attracts more than 60,000 spectators annually. Highlights include flower displays and installations, celebrity gardeners, markets, entertainment, kids’ activities and a community parade.

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Open Studios West Gippsland

Date: 25–26 March 2017

Venue: Various studios in Warragul
Description: The Open Studios tour map reads like a treasure hunt for the senses. See some inspiring artwork, eat, drink and navigate the spectacular scenery of West Gippsland, just one hour’s drive from Melbourne.

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