News and resources

CiVic - Issue 16 - Winter 2017

E-magazine

Index of accessible version

President's report

By Cr Mary Lalios, MAV President.

In my first CiVic column as MAV President, I would like to take this opportunity to firstly thank councils for your encouragement and overwhelming support.

At the time of writing this I have been busy visiting you all. I am really enjoying meeting colleagues from across the state and learning about the main issues affecting you.

I look forward to working with the MAV Board and councils over the next two years to achieve great things for our sector.

Following eight Strategic Planning Sessions with members, the MAV State Council adopted the 2017-19 Strategic Work Plan at its May meeting, which outlines the key priorities for the next two years. Thanks to everyone who participated in the sessions and for the input you provided.

Fifty-nine resolutions were also adopted at the May State Council meeting across a variety of issues including housing, transport and funding support. It was my first time chairing the meeting and I was impressed by the positive atmosphere and participation throughout the day. I look forward to the next meeting in October.

It certainly has been a busy start to my presidency, with the State and Federal budgets delivering some significant wins for the local government sector.

The Federal Government delivered on its promise to restore indexation of Financial Assistance Grants, providing much-needed funding to Victorian councils.

The Federal Budget also provided funding to support 15 hours of kindergarten each week, until the end of 2018. The MAV, State Government and councils had jointly campaigned for continued funding for 15 hours and it was pleasing to see our efforts pay off.

However, the MAV remains concerned about the long-term future of the funding arrangement.

The State Budget also contained significant wins for local government – along with a few disappointments. Highlights included $87.1 million for kindergartens, $81.1 million for Maternal and Child Health services and $15 million to fund the State Emergency Service.

However, the budget did not shed any light on how a 50:50 funding partnership for school crossing supervisors would be achieved from 1 July as promised.

The State Budget also halved the Growing Suburbs Fund and raided landfill levy money for projects totally unrelated to waste reduction and recycling, including a $110 million timber plantation, website redevelopment and solar trams.

We were particularly disappointed that the State Government announced major changes to property valuations in the budget without any prior consultation with councils. It plans to centralise all valuations within the Valuer-General’s office and to undertake valuations annually, rather than every second year.

Following strong feedback from the MAV and councils, the proposal was withdrawn from the Upper House of Parliament. The MAV will continue to work with the State Government, Opposition, Greens and cross-benchers to ensure that the local government position is well represented and that councils are not negatively impacted if the matter is again considered by Parliament. These valuation reforms, along with the government’s plans to introduce a tribunal to decide on councillor and mayor allowances, are examples of the State Government failing to honour the State Local Government Agreement. The MAV is working with the State to make sure all these issues are understood and addressed.

The MAV recently submitted its response to the State Government review of the Municipal Association Act 1907. A discussion paper released in late May proposes a number of reforms to make our guiding Act more contemporary by clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the MAV; embed principles of integrity and good conduct; formalise a framework for strategic planning, performance monitoring and accountable reporting to members; and provide an insurance regulatory framework.

I strongly believe that the MAV must remain fiercely independent and a strong voice for councils. The core priority of our response is to ensure the changes reaffirm that the MAV is accountable to, and controlled by, its members and remains independent of the State Government.

As you will read in the Editor’s Note from Kristi, this is sadly the last edition of CiVic magazine. I know CiVic has been a much-loved publication for Victorian councils and we thank Kristi for all her work. The MAV is looking at how we can continue sharing stories from the local government sector.

If you happen to be in the city, please come by and say hello. Don’t forget that my office is your office.

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Editor’s note

By Kristi High, Editor.

Welcome to edition 16 of CiVic magazine.

Sadly, this is our last edition.

Over the past four years, I have been very proud to publish so many fantastic stories that showcase the wonderful work that Victorian councils do.

From the more traditional projects like community infrastructure delivered in smart and innovative ways, to newly emerging focus areas of councils such as prevention of violence against women campaigns and projects, we had a clear objective to cover all that is positive.

Many of our stories focused on learning from each other – both within local government and from relevant organisations and agencies that we work with. Many of the stories have aimed at empowering existing council staff with ideas that can be applied to their own work areas, but also to their individual growth that will hopefully assist them in a long and exciting career in local government.

I take this opportunity to thank the MAV, in particular CEO Rob Spence and Media & Communications Manager Debbie Jones and her team, the great Gavin Mahoney and so many officers from across the organisation for supporting this magazine and allowing me to indulge in my quest to only write about the good.

Without support from our advertisers, which covered the cost of write-design-print-deliver, we would never have got this far so thank you.

To the mayors, councillors, CEOs and officers from councils all over Victoria who have invested time and effort in telling their stories, thank you for trusting me to bring them to life.

Finally, to the Puffafish team – graphic designers Jason and Kathryn, our columnist and LG guru Verne Krastins, and the host of photographers and journalists who made this magazine a pleasure to read and look at, your work is amazing! Thank you.

Keep sharing the wonderful work you all do.

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Celebrating 100 Years, Baby!

Councils across Victoria are celebrating a very significant milestone this year – the 100 year anniversary of the Maternal & Child Health Service.

In 1917, many young families were thrown a lifeline with the introduction of a Baby Health Centre in Richmond to support new born infants and their mums, and address high infant mortality rates.

Soon after, Baby Health Centres opened in Carlton and Melbourne and by 1950 state and local governments were contributing to 398 centres and 15 mobile circuits across Victoria.

The Baby Health Centre was a significant initiative for Victorian councils, bringing health services to the people who needed them, and going beyond delivering the core function of roads, rates and rubbish.

Now known as Maternal & Child Health (MCH), the service is staffed with around 1,100 specialised nurses and remains one of the most successful personal primary health initiatives in Victoria.

MCH in Bayside started in 1926 and is currently delivered across six centres by 14 nurses.

Marg Gibson, who joined Bayside City Council in 1986, said the MCH service was important for supporting family life.

“If family life is supported, life is better in general,” she said.

“Parenting is not easy. Mums deserve the best support to be the best they can be, as well as dads and the extended family.”

Like most services, some things have changed in Maternal and Child Health while some have stayed the same.

“The service has come a long way in terms of technology with access to information online and the way we can book families into visits,” Ms Gibson said.

“There are also some family issues that have emerged over the last 30 years that MCH nurses now provide support, advice and referrals on like post-natal depression and family violence.

“But the core service has changed less than what some might think.

“Home visits are important, and I think maybe even more important in recent years with mums being discharged from hospital earlier than what they were a decade ago.

“But providing advice on such things as breastfeeding support, understanding the expectations of becoming a parent and baby behaviour, particularly in the first 6-12 weeks, is still relatively the same. And, it is still free for families to attend!”

Peta Greig has been an MCH nurse at the City of Greater Geelong for 14 years and loves the connection she can make with families, building trust and seeing progress in a range of areas like feeding, development and parents’ confidence.

“Maternal and Child Health is just a wonderful, historic, authentic service. And in a world where there’s so many people trying to sell people things, we remain true to our core business which is a non-for-profit health service,” she said.

“Sometimes we get isolated families and we join them up with the new parent group, they make connections in the community, and they really value attending the service. We try to encompass the whole family unit, we now don’t just focus on mothers and babies and I enjoy that aspect.”

Celebrations for the centenary are taking place at councils all over the state, but recently the MAV partnered with Yarra City Council and the State Government in hosting the Maternal and Child Health Centenary event for the whole sector.

At the event, MAV President Cr Mary Lalios said the service was part of the social fabric of communities.

“There aren’t many services that have stood the test of time like Maternal and Child Health. Families have become more diverse and technology has advanced, but the fundamentals have remained the same – to provide a free, accessible service to all families,” Cr Lalios said.

“This year is all about celebrating this iconic service and the dedicated Maternal and Child Health nurses who help to improve the lives of Victorian children.”

Councils across Victoria are holding celebrations with their local communities throughout the year. Visit mav.asn.au/MCH100years for more information.

100 Years - Maternal and Child Health Services

View the video featuring MCH nurses from Yarra, Greater Geelong and Maroondah city councils, and Mansfield, Indigo and Glenelg shire councils at https://vimeo.com/222774705

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Much more than a shed

Hobsons Bay City Council is supporting the Hobsons Bay Men’s Shed to carry out key projects in the local community.

The Hobsons Bay Men’s Shed has been operating at its current location for almost seven years and has more than 300 members spread across various interest groups, including motoring, woodwork, engineering, photography and catering.

Hobsons Bay Mayor Sandra Wilson said council was proud to support the work of the Men’s Shed as the group provides benefits for its members as well as the broader community.

“The Men’s Shed is a haven of collaboration and support for a whole range of men who want to share their skills, stay engaged with activities they love and keep connected with their mates, old and new,” Cr Wilson said.

“There are strong health benefits of socialising together and working on projects of passion and contributing to the community in a variety of ways.

“Our Men’s Shed is very inclusive, I’m a member myself and they love it when I drop in to their Friday lunch or car boot sale.”

Hobsons Bay Men’s Shed member David Wagstaff said he gains great satisfaction from participating in the Men’s Shed.

“There is always something new to learn and get involved in,” he said.

Mr Wagstaff also highlighted the diverse skills the Men’s Shed members have to offer the local community.

“I believe that collectively we have the ability to attempt any project or task that comes our way,” he said.

Cr Wilson said the Hobsons Bay Men’s Shed has a proven track record for successfully restoring heritage buildings in the community, among various other projects.

One of the heritage restoration projects recently undertaken by the Men’s Shed in partnership with council was the construction of five new heritage-look players’ shelters at the Williamstown Croquet Club.

The Men’s Shed is also revitalising the historical Truganina Explosives Reserve, including restoration of the homestead and reconstruction of the explosives carriage, in collaboration with the Truganina Explosives Reserve Preservation Society (TERPS).

“We are extremely grateful that the men and women in the Hobsons Bay Men’s Shed have donated their time to restoring our city’s historical treasures,” Cr Wilson said.

“By using the skills and talent of Men’s Shed members we are able to achieve a far better outcome than we could have otherwise.”

Williamstown Croquet Club President Andre Daniel Dreyfus said major renovations to the club pavilion had been carried out by council as part of the club’s 90th anniversary, including the restoration of original features and repainting of the building in its original colour scheme.

A need to upgrade the old tin players’ shelters in the same style as the new pavilion was identified and council provided the tools and materials necessary for the Men’s Shed and club members to complete the project.

“The result is shelters that reflect the architecture of the pavilion,” Mr Dreyfus said.

“We are truly grateful to the Men’s Shed and the council for making this possible and pleased that we could play our part in making this happen.”

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Cutting the junk in Darebin

Most municipal health plans have clear strategies to address the obesity crisis, however the reality of working with suppliers and partners can make the road to change a real challenge. A commitment to healthy eating is a lifelong journey that benefits most from collaborative efforts which recognise food security and nutrition as part of a thriving, happy community.

Darebin City Council has set out to achieve that in its four-year Health and Wellbeing Plan, working together with four sport and recreation centres across the municipality to raise awareness of proper nutrition in conjunction with the benefits of regular physical activity.

The healthy food café pilot, implemented by YMCA Victoria at the Northcote Aquatic and Leisure Centre, is an example of this and part of council’s widespread approach towards embracing and sustaining healthy lifestyles for current and future generations.

In 2010, data from the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle study indicated that the economic burden for obesity-related problems costs Australia $56.6 billion annually. A follow-up study in 2012 revealed that approximately 275 Australians are still diagnosed with diabetes daily. Dietary risks and obesity are the two leading risk factors contributing to disease here, with smoking coming in a close third. Being overweight is a major risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal conditions and chronic disease in later years. These conditions have significant cost burdens, not only at the individual level but also family, social, community and economic implications.

Darebin City Council recognised that sporting and recreational centres provide a great health promotion setting for widespread education and advocacy about smart food choices and cardiovascular health.

The Healthy Food & Drink in Sporting and Recreational Centres project initiated by council was developed with four sport and recreation centres — the Reservoir Leisure Centre, Darebin Community Sports Stadium, Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre and Bundoora Park Café.

As the two YMCA-managed facilities – the Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre and Darebin Community Sports Stadium – were already introducing YMCA’s own nutrition policy, council was engaged in an advisory capacity for an extensive feedback and consultation process based on the Victorian Government’s traffic light system for smart food choices denoted by red, green and amber categories. These guidelines were also used to support the Reservoir Leisure Centre and Bundoora Park Café.

Since October 2016, all red category food and drink products have been removed from both YMCA facilities. At the Reservoir Leisure Centre, all red category drink products were also removed, with amber category drink options greatly reduced and green category drinks increased to more than 50 per cent of products available.

Council will continue to review these assessments and initiate widespread consultation, knowledge transfer and review among the broader community to keep the conversation going.

How to improve the quality of food and drink in community facilities:

  • Reduce the display of sugary drinks in your fridges and replace with healthier choices, such as water.

  • Create healthy check-outs wherever food is sold to help parents avoid pester power.

  • Remove junk food advertising from children’s line of sight.

  • Don’t reinvent the wheel! Visit http://heas.health.vic.gov.au/healthy-choices/guidelines for some helpful tips.

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Removing 28 tonnes of sugar

In 2014, YMCA Victoria took the step of introducing a policy to reduce unhealthy food and drinks and increase healthier options in more than 60 recreation and leisure facilities it manages. Collectively these facilities attract 17 million visits every year, with approximately 58,000 children participating in swimming lesson each week.

YMCA Victoria Advocacy Manager Ari Kurzeme said the YMCA’s goal was to create healthier and happier communities.

“We believe in the benefits of physical activity and a healthy diet in improving people’s quality of life, and reducing the likelihood and impact of chronic disease,” he said.

“Given our focus on community health and our impact in the community, this forced us to review the food we offered in our centres.

“We took a long hard look at ourselves and realised it was incongruous to serve community members hot chips and cans of cola in our cafés after their work-out or swim.

“In short, we knew we were contributing to the burden of overweight and obesity in our communities rather than helping people live healthier and happier lives.”

Just a few years ago, YMCA would sell around 500kg of lollies, 10,000kg of hot chips and 28 tonnes of sugar each year. It sold 347,000 soft drinks which equates to 14 tonnes of sugar.

“Now we have removed soft drinks from all YMCA Victoria managed facilities, which has halved the amount of sugar we sell, and we are working towards removing all sugary drinks (such as sports drinks) by the end of this year,” Mr Kurzeme said.

Preliminary results of an evaluation into the impacts of YMCA’s policy by Deakin University have shown that removing soft drinks has increased sales of healthier beverages and there has been no negative impact to the bottom line overall.

“Furthermore, our customers are satisfied with the changes; in a recent survey conducted by the Deakin team, 88 per cent of visitors agreed that YMCA should continue with the soft drink free policy,” Mr Kurzeme said.

“But it’s not been an easy journey; it’s taken time to implement these changes and we’re still going.

“The key to our success so far has been building a consensus of support within our organisation, from board level down, and working collaboratively with our partners to tailor changes to individual community needs.”

YMCA Victoria would love to see all recreation and aquatic centres across Victoria follow suit.

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Protecting the integrity of council elections

By the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate.

The 2016 Victorian council elections, which saw 2135 candidates nominating for 637 vacancies, were not only a busy time for councils and the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) but also presented unique challenges for the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate.

From the moment candidates were announced, questions from the public began to flow in to the Inspectorate, often focusing on allegations such as ineligibility of certain candidates, dubious campaigning tactics, incorrectly authorised electoral material or misleading posts on social media.

In an effort to streamline the complaints handling process, the Inspectorate signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the VEC, which commonly receives a high proportion of complaints about candidates that need to be referred on to the Inspectorate. The MoU also allowed the Inspectorate to fast-track a review program on candidate eligibility.

Following data analysis and the conclusion of many matters related to the elections, the Inspectorate released its election report – Protecting integrity: 2016 council elections. This publication contains an analysis of the data collected during the election period, case studies on competed and ongoing investigations and opportunities for future improvements in the electoral system. The report is available online at http://www.vic.gov.au/lgici/reports-and-newsletters/protecting-integrity-2016-council-elections-report.html

The Inspectorate handled more 2000 enquiries and fielded around 400 complaints during this time, with 32 formal warnings being issued and 18 investigations currently occurring.

Allegations of unauthorised election material formed the bulk of complaints, followed by enquiries about misleading or deceptive material and allegations involving social media. While the highest number of complaints involved the authorisation of election material, 40 per cent of all issues raised related to content published online. This is significantly influenced by the rise of social media as a campaigning tool for candidates, and for some community members as an opportunity to publish comments and unsubstantiated allegations about candidates that may be perceived as influencing voting.

Inspectorate staff at the Inspectorate worked across several fronts to maintain the integrity of the elections. One key outcome early in the election period was the identification of two candidates for unlawful nomination, resulting in the removal of those ineligible candidates prior to voting. Post-election education and guidance from the Inspectorate to all councils continues.

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New mayors balance family & career

Murrindindi Mayor Charlotte (Charlie) Bisset never imagined she would be where she is today.

“If someone had asked me six years ago would I be a mayor and a CEO, I would have said no,” she said.

Cr Bisset made the decision to run for council in 2016 after noticing there were no working women with young children on Murrindindi Shire Council.

“I really felt that there was a complete demographic of our local society that was not represented on council,” she said.

Cr Bisset was elected to council for the first time, and was surprised to find out she had also been elected as mayor unopposed.

“It was a bit of a whirlwind,” she said.

Cr Bisset is also the CEO of a not-for-profit adult community education centre located in Alexandra and has occupied that role for the past five years.

“Life is definitely busier, there’s no denying that, but it’s manageable at the moment,” she said.

“It’s about having a supportive network.”

Currently, five of seven councillors at Murrindindi are female and Cr Bisset said she would love to see more women putting themselves forward for councillor roles.

“One of the legacies I want to leave is encouraging women and young women to stand up and not be afraid to put their hand up and have a go,” she said.

“You might surprise yourself.”

Cr Bisset, who lives just outside of Alexandra with her family, said her motivation comes from a desire to make the area a better place for future generations, including her own children.

“Being a mother of 10-year-old twins, I have a vested interest in ensuring that the community in which we live is a community that is suitable for raising families and providing for families,” she said.

She said it was a privilege to be mayor of her local region.

“The opportunities to meet people, to hear stories, to see amazing people and businesses and the creativity and innovation that’s happening within your region, you just go ‘wow’,” she said.

For Strathbogie Mayor Amanda McClaren, it was a matter of waiting for the right time to enter the world of local government.

“I had shown interest in local government elections back in 2011 but at that stage my boys were too young. I thought it was going to be too much of an impact on the family,” Cr McClaren said.

As her children grew older, Cr McClaren decided 2016 was the right time to put her name forward to be a Strathbogie Shire councillor. Like Cr Bisset, she was elected to council and elected as mayor unopposed.

At that time Cr McClaren was CEO of the Shepparton-based Fairley Leadership Program, starting out as a board member and executive director before moving into the role of CEO for four years.

The Fairley Leadership Program provides opportunities for people across the Goulburn Murray region to develop their leadership skills. Cr McClaren said her role as CEO with the program provided her with an understanding of the key issues facing the region and the opportunity to network with industry and government leaders.

“That network and that knowledge has been incredible stepping into this role [as mayor] and it’s that information that I call on every day,” she said.

Cr McClaren lives with her family on a property in Graytown, between Heathcote and Nagambie.

She is one of three female councillors at Strathbogie Shire of seven councillors in total.

“It’s the best percentage we’ve had so far,” she said.

Cr McClaren said it would be great to see more women, and young women in particular, getting involved with their local councils, but acknowledged the importance of balancing work and family.

“I would love to see younger women engaging and understanding the role of local government and getting themselves involved,” she said.

“I think we need to recognise as women we have a lot to offer local government, but we shouldn’t put too much pressure on ourselves; it’s important that we take time out to spend with our family.

“It’s all about work-life-community balance.”

Cr McClaren said she sees diversity in council as essential.

“We have got a really diverse range of councillors with different age groups and different experiences. I think that really helps in our decision making,” she said.

Female representation statistics from 2016 election:

  • 38 per cent of all councillors elected were women, up from 34 per cent in 2012

  • All 78 councils have women councillors

  • 15 councils have a majority of women councilors.

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Sector Connector: Doing good in the jungle

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

An opportunity came up last year to get involved in the not-for-profit sector in a marketing role, with a small ‘new kid’ on the block, barely two years’ old, which works with youth at risk. Since local government and the non-profit sector overlap, I expected the business environment to be familiar. But not really.

Small bucket syndrome

Funding is an issue for most non-profits, especially small-scale ones. The reason is simple – funding is finite.

The most sustainable organisations have independent means, for instance a bequest generating enough cash to keep going. Others are auspiced by, or effectively a subsidy of, a financially secure charitable organisation.

If relying on government funding, the future is not secure. Funding may only last an election cycle, since priorities and policies can change. That’s significant, taking into account that governments provide around 40 per cent of non-profits’ income across the board*.

My way or the highway

Despite the self-apparent value of partnerships and collaboration, many non-profits guard their patches voraciously.

Charitable organisations do what they do on the basis of service models, concepts of social good, as a demonstration of philosophy, or a mix of these. Forging operational partnerships would be a monumental effort for many, as anyone experienced in merging corporate cultures will know.

For organisations focusing on the same ‘cohort’, as many do, it gets worse. The financial bucket isn’t just finite, it is siloed. Such organisations may see themselves competing for the same group of people, needs or listeners to ensure they have sufficient credibility to get funding at all.

It’s a jungle

My sense is one of paradox – the welfare and social support part of the sector at least, seems to exhibit predator-prey competitive behaviour amongst organisations working for similar good.

Who suffers? Most likely the people who need them. The money gets spread thinly across similar but separate enterprises.

And if organisations stick to their service model or philosophy, it’s unlikely that all of an individual’s needs can be accommodated by a single provider. For clients, it’s a jungle of services without a lot of cooperative traffic management, nor holistic approaches that reflect the complexity of a person’s life.

There’s no doubt that good is done, but for the recipient, what you get will be more about who gets you first, rather than covering one’s needs across the full spectrum of wellbeing.

My interim conclusion is that elements in the non-profit sector need to reduce competition, enhance collaboration and ensure their cohorts are at centre. Funders, especially governments, should make partnership a requirement, as they do in many other areas.

* www.ourcommunity.com.au/

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Women encouraged to apply for top jobs

By Davidson General Manager Victoria HR Consulting, Sharon Ardley.

It is a confronting statement but the evidence is stark: women simply aren’t applying for the senior level roles in the same numbers as men.

However, when they do, they have a significantly greater chance of getting the job.

According to the latest gender workplace statistics compiled by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, women represent 15.4 per cent of CEOs and 27.4 per cent of key management positions in non-public businesses.

A staggering 25.1 per cent of businesses that reported their gender statistics have no females in key management roles. All non-public sector businesses with more than 100 employees are required to report.

In the public sector the data is only marginally better. Data from The State of the Public Sector in Victoria Report 2015-16, reported 39 per cent of executives in the public sector were women.

At first glance this appears to be a good proportion, however, not when you take into account that 67 per cent of the total Victorian public sector’s workforce are female. The numbers of females are there, they are just not progressing to executive levels.

For many women, putting themselves forward and backing their skills can be a key challenge for their career advancement. Women are not inherently wired to self-promote. They need additional resources and encouragement to gain the confidence to succeed and step up.

What can be done to help women be better self-promoters?

To address the gender issues and equip women with the skills they need to excel, the Davidson Leadership Acceleration Program (DLAP) has been established to work with females at all levels to gain self-awareness and develop mindset, skills and tools required to optimise leadership behaviour, achieve results and build transformational leadership.

The program is targeted at females in management and senior management who are looking to gain an insightful assessment of their capabilities and the confidence to take the next step in their leadership journey.

Taking a data-led approach to analyse strengths and identify areas for development, participants come away from the program with an individual debrief of performance, development plan and personalised support.

Through extensive work in the public sector, Davidson has identified a specific need in this area to work with females as they advance through their careers and into leadership roles.

It is important to shine a spotlight on exceptional female leaders who are in the Victorian Public Service, assisting them to progress their careers by highlighting their work and raising their profiles.

The Top 50 Public Sector Women (Victoria) initiative has been developed to highlight female role models for others in the sector.

Females in the Top 50 cohort will get the opportunity to receive one of six scholarship to the Davidson Leadership Acceleration Program.

To learn more about this program visit www.publicsectorwomen.com.au

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In brief

Melbourne’s emergency relief training

Fourteen metropolitan councils took part in an emergency relief training exercise at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) recently, which was coordinated by Melbourne City Council to test the city’s emergency management plans.

Exercise Off the Grid was the first scenario to assess Melbourne’s relief centre capabilities in the event of a city-wide emergency.

The operation involved 350 people from the councils, Victoria Police, Melbourne Cricket Club, Department of Health and Human Services and Red Cross. Emergency Management Victoria supported the exercise, which included around 200 volunteers.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said Exercise Off the Grid simulated an extreme heat event that leaves parts of the CBD without power and shuts down sections of the public transport network, resulting in people being unable to get home and requiring emergency assistance.

“This event tested the City of Melbourne’s ability to work with emergency services to set up a major relief centre at the MCG in the realistic threat of an extreme heat emergency,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Training exercises such as this provide valuable lessons which will help us improve and prepare our response. It helps bring peace of mind to everyone who lives or works in the city or who visits.”

This is the fourth emergency management drill the City of Melbourne has co-ordinated, after Exercise Foundation last year, Exercise Afloat in 2014 and Exercise Mazu in 2013.

Solar panels for Bayside

Bayside is heading towards its carbon neutral goal by 2020 with the installation of solar panels at council buildings.

The Beaumaris Library and Community Centre recently had 150 solar panels installed, which will provide one-third of the building’s energy needs.

More solar panels have also been installed at council’s Corporate Centre in Sandringham, with 300 panels now providing 16 per cent of the building’s energy needs.

The solar power systems at these two locations will reduce council’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than 200 tonnes per year.

“The savings in energy bills will most likely pay back the costs of installing solar panels at these buildings within nine years,” Bayside Mayor Alex del Porto said.

More solar panel installations are planned at other council community centres.

More sporty girls in Moreland

Female sporting participation in Moreland has tripled as a result of a council policy aimed at promoting gender equality in sport.

The policy allocates the highest quality sporting grounds in Moreland to the clubs that actively encourage women and girls to participate in all facets of their club.

Moreland Mayor Helen Davidson said the initiative has made sports clubs in Moreland more welcoming for women and families.

“The positive effects of incentivising women’s participation in Moreland’s sports clubs reaches beyond the playing field. It touches on deep societal issues of gender equality and positive family relationships,” Cr Davidson said.

Wyndham ready and steady

Wyndham City Council has received a $120,000 grant from the State Government to launch the Ready, Steady, Together Partnership (RSTP) in Wyndham.

The program brings together women from different cultural backgrounds to work together and use their personal experiences to help prevent family violence.

The program was created by Wyndham City Council together with the Wyndham Community and Education Centre and one of the longest serving welfare organisations in Victoria, Drummond Street Services.

Yarra reducing greenhouse gas

Yarra Ranges Council is on track to reduce corporate greenhouse gas emissions to 10,000 tonnes per year by 2020 as part of its Carbon Management Program.

The installation of energy efficient streetlights has reduced council’s total greenhouse gas emissions to their lowest levels in 17 years and saved $475,000 in costs.

A number of LED lighting upgrades and rooftop solar panels have also been installed at various council buildings as part of the program.