News and resources

CiVic - Issue 8 - December 2014


Index of accessible version

President's report

By Bill McArthur, MAV President

Welcome to the December edition of CiVic.

Victorians have voted for a change of government and we congratulate the new Premier, Daniel Andrews and his team.

Prior to the election we received a response to our Call to Parties from Victorian Labor, which is published on our state election campaign webpage. Their response provides a strong basis for ongoing discussion, negotiation and advocacy with the new government. A priority will be to secure a commitment from the Premier that the recently signed Victorian State-Local Government Agreement will be honoured.

We will meet with the new Local Government Minister to discuss Labor’s rate capping policy as a matter of urgency. Earlier this year local government unanimously opposed this policy, however, we must now shift our focus towards achieving the most sustainable outcome for our sector and communities who rely on core council services and infrastructure. Our assessment is that the rate capping policy was a key component of their election campaign and we must work within the broad framework proposed by the government to advocate for councils to continue to retain discretion in setting their own revenue strategies.

Despite this busy time in State politics, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the MAV’s key work to help councils respond to challenges faced during the last 12 months.

This year the Federal freeze on Financial Assistance Grants posed a significant financial impost on councils, creating a $134 million black hole in council budgets over the next three years. Some councils have already experienced the very real consequences of these cuts, having to delay and revise their budgets. While a national campaign seeks to reverse this funding cut, the MAV has established a taskforce of council representatives to guide our work on this issue. We are also progressing some exciting and innovative projects to ease councils’ burden of funding shortfalls.

This year the MAV took a strategic approach to creating cost savings for councils.

We recently launched the Local Government Funding Vehicle, a collaborative debt procurement initiative to access capital markets which has created Australia’s first municipal bonds. The funding vehicle will save councils significantly compared with traditional bank borrowing and provides an alternate way to finance community infrastructure and services.

In the Human Service space, our Maternal and Child Health Service Information Technology Project is increasing the security of family data; and our Patchwork web-based program is integrating early years services by linking multiple agencies together who work with vulnerable families in common. We also provided councils with the tools for a smooth introduction of VicSmart, and are assisting councils through our STEP planning program, with practical information to continuously improve the quality and efficiency of planning processes.

Working with 55 councils on energy efficient street lighting changeover projects will save an estimated $340 million over the life of the energy efficient lights, and 73 councils have access to our energy efficient street lighting hardware contract.

A free Food Sampling app also went live last month, providing councils with a more efficient electronic-based system for collecting food samples as part of their statutory food safety responsibilities. All these programs are alternate ways for councils to work smarter, more efficiently, and in a cost effective manner.

Further innovative projects are also in the pipeline for 2015. But until then, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a safe New Year.

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Editor's note

By Kristi High, Editor

I sometimes get asked if there is a theme for the next issue of CiVic.

The answer is always yes – good news!

Anything more specific than that has the potential to get me into some trouble, and is something I avoid because of the nature of local government. Sometimes things happen quicker than you expect, other times slower. In the end, I don’t like to lock in specific themes and then search for the stories, nor promise something I can’t deliver on. CiVic is the good news stories of local government and, while there are plenty of them, you can’t always guarantee councils will be ready to talk about them just because CiVic has a deadline.

In saying that, if you look at this edition, you will certainly see some good news trends. Sustainability is topical, in a positive way. There are some great initiatives around environmental projects like Mildura’s Eco Village that keeps growing. Food waste is a problem and Bayside has called in the help of some celebrity chefs to serve up the facts on how to reduce the amount of food going to landfill. On the topic of food, the Casserole Club has been launched in Macedon Ranges, Boroondara and Moreland with volunteers cooking extra meal portions for their neighbours.

In CiVic news, we will return to four editions per year in 2015. Dates for the March edition are below.

I would like to thank all of our councils for willingly allowing us to showcase their activities, and our advertisers who support this magazine for local government.

I would also like to thank the CiVic team – graphic designers Kathryn and Jason, our sales guys Tony and Greg, regular columnist Verne Krastins, photographer Anthony Woodcock, and all of our freelancers who contributed during the year.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year.


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Opinion: Supporting a more democratic local government for Victoria

By Cr Felicity Frederico, Mayor Bayside City Council

In October of this year, Bayside City Council, like other councils in Victoria, was provided with the opportunity to respond to recommendations arising from the Independent Local Government (Electoral Review) Panel Report.

As a council we welcomed the opportunity to provide feedback on the report and were broadly supportive of its proposed reforms.

It is our belief that this Panel Report provides Victoria’s 79 municipalities with an historic opportunity to reflect upon the fundamentals that underpin the integrity and democratic functioning of local government in this state.

Many of the recommendations in the report make references to reforms that would bring our municipalities in line with provisions that currently apply for both state and federal governments.

While we agree that a consistent approach across all levels of government would help alleviate confusion on the part of the electorate, Victoria’s local government follows a different model to its state and federal government counterparts and, as a consequence, requires that some features be specifically tailored to suit its circumstances.

One of these specific areas of difference is in the ward system.

Since the 1994 amalgamation of the Cities of Brighton and Sandringham and parts of the Cities of Moorabbin and Mordialloc, Bayside has operated under a range of ward models, however, since 2008 has operated under a mixed multi-member ward structure.

Under this structure, two wards have two elected councillors and one ward has three. While this system has not served the city poorly, Bayside would welcome a uniform-ward approach and is seeking to expand the number of councillors from the present number of seven elected representatives to nine, spread equally across its three wards.

In pursuing this change we hope to achieve improvements in the equity of representation and a fairer electoral model for candidates.

Under the present model in Victoria, councils are able to operate under a system of mixed wards, where municipalities contain a mix of single-member and multi-member wards or non-uniform multi-member wards.

In calling for the discontinuation of the practice of mixed-wards Bayside is supporting an electoral model that is more uniform and would result in a fairer, clearer and more consistent election process for Victoria’s councils.

Our interests in electoral reform however are not exclusive to the counting room.

Unlike the more party-driven electoral models of state and federal politics where candidates often first achieve pre-selection with one of the major parties prior to nominating, candidates for local government are less likely to be aligned to a party.

This is not something that we would view in the negative and the diversity of candidates in local government is something to celebrate, however, it does mean that unlike state and federal politicians, elected councillors don’t always receive the training and support offered by the party structure.

Given this lack of structured support for candidates Bayside welcomes proposals that would see better, mandated, pre-election training for candidates.

At the heart of this is ensuring that local government attracts and maintains the best possible candidates and that our communities are well served.

Secure and strong local government is heavily reliant upon elected representatives who are well-informed of their responsibilities and well-equipped to handle the pressures of local government, particularly in the Victorian context where these responsibilities are generally undertaken in addition to a councillors’ primary employment.

Mandatory pre-election training for all candidates would enable potential councillors to approach public office with a fuller sense of what this office entails and an understanding of the good governance structures that underpin effective local government.

We believe that pursuing an approach which empowers potential councillors to appreciate the tasks and accountabilities of local government prior to their election will help to foster more democratic administration and a stronger leadership base for local government into the future.

It is our belief that the current review of electoral reform for local government in Victoria is timely and provides an important opportunity to enhance our reputation and increase community confidence in our sector.

Ensuring we have candidates who are well equipped and informed of their responsibility and who are supported by a fair and equitable electoral process is key to providing strong, effective and democratic local government for all Victorians.

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Sector Connector – Music in the workplace

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

If you’re human, you’re musical.

It’s a defining feature of our species, invoked for as many reasons as there are audible notes, which by the way is around 120.

As musical as your human self is, you may not play an instrument or keep a rhythm very well. But if you can walk, talk, scream, whisper and laugh, you can sing.

The benefits of singing are both obvious and subtle. Benefits for the individual include better breathing, exercising the mind and body to work as a unit and, because singing is a focused activity, stray thoughts disappear for a while, one of the principles behind meditation of course.

The subtle benefits are in how singing (and music generally) bonds, defines and gives identity to relationships and human groups. Ask any community choir member why they do it and they’re likely to talk about social life, the fun of rehearsals and when performing, the joy of tribal achievement.

I worked many years with a council where musicality and workplace singing rated quite highly with staff, managers and councillors alike. This was a coincidence of a corporate culture keen to be innovative with employee and organisational development, a CEO who understood the value of singing together for wellbeing and goodwill, and the municipal context of a traditionally creative and musical community (the creative epicentre being Melbourne’s playground, St Kilda).

The workplace was often in song, including a long standing staff choir that performed at civic events and community celebrations, even taking the idea to the council’s Japanese sister city to jointly form their Sister City Singers.

What enabled all this? It was an acknowledgement that workplace singing could fulfil some organisational development objectives. Musical activities gained direct support with a budget for hiring those choir masters, musicians and producers who can get the best out of people who say ‘oh, I can’t sing’. Effectively an incentive.

Then there was the innovative part. Recognising that a corporate act (staff singers) publicly performing corporate songs (eg familiar melodies with lyrics rewritten to be municipally relevant) could be a great way of showing council’s human face and building reputation among constituents. For a few years, this is exactly what happened.

Reflecting on this, I wondered what place music and singing have in workplaces now. A straw poll of colleagues in communications and organisation development roles revealed very little. The most common examples are staff getting together to sing at Christmas and special occasions, and talent ‘show and tell’ events. Examples of sustained singing activity are far and few between, and I’d guess that corporate support for such programs even rarer. Put me right if you can.

Seems to me that singing is good for human groups who must cooperate, coordinate and collaborate to fulfil their purpose. A budget for singing and musical activity would be a fine investment in workplace wellbeing, on par with subsidised massages and gym passes I’d suggest.

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Injecting fun into vaccination

Just the mention of needles can make the toughest kid on the block squirm and duck.

To help overcome the decline of adolescents being immunised against diseases that will ‘never happen to them’ like diptheria, whooping cough, HPV or cervical cancer, Casey City Council asked the kids to get involved in an awareness campaign to spread the word on how important vaccinations are.

The ‘Vaccinate’ short film competition was open to budding filmmakers living or attending school in the City of Casey aged between 12 and 18 years.

Casey Team Leader of Public Health Jake Repacholi said council needed a creative and fun campaign that would deliver the vaccination message to students in years 7-9.

“People seem to have forgotten the threat posed by some of the diseases we have vaccinations for,” he said.

“With infants, they need their immunisations to get into childcare or primary school. But adolescents is a really tough demographic to reach because they have more influence over their parents as to whether they consent or not, or sometimes it is just as simple as the note never gets out of their bag to be signed. Other times it could be that they’re just really scared of needles.”

Whatever the reason, when vaccination numbers get low, diseases spread because there are not enough people immunised.

To combat these barriers, Casey offered a $1000 cash incentive for a short film idea that would later be professionally produced and used in schools as an awareness raising tool.

“Just turning up at a school and holding a council-led talk hasn’t worked,” Mr Repacholi said.

“We needed the film to have an element of fun and humour while still talking about the importance of vaccination.

“In a nutshell, we flipped it around from council telling kids why it was important, to the kids telling their peers why vaccinations are important.”

The competition was launched in April, during World Immunisation Week, using video to promote the short film competition. The budding filmmakers were given two months to film their idea on a mobile phone and upload it to the Casey Conversation website. Once uploaded to the website, the community voted on their favourite film.

The winner, chosen by a selection panel, also received a one-on-one mentoring session with a leading production company responsible for re-creating the short film. The People’s Choice Award video received more than 300 ‘likes’ and earned the winner $500.

Watch the FOFO

Casey City Council’s winning Vaccinate short film, FOFO (Full On Freak Out), had all the elements Casey City Council was looking for - fun, humour and on-message.

In the film, competition winning filmmaker Amar Haque talks about a ‘serious medical condition spreading rampantly throughout the City of Casey … known as FOFO’ Why the Full On Freak Out? ‘… it's about vaccination’.

He talks about the different types of FOFO such as ‘the runner’, ‘the crier’ and ‘the fainter’.

An appearance by the ‘disease’ zombie will get the laughs but the message is clear - beat the FOFO and get vaccinated.

View it here:

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Experts deliver the Sun Smarts

Melbourne City Council has called in skin cancer expert, the SunSmart division of Cancer Council Victoria, to keep the slip, slop, slap message fresh and relevant to many officers who have heard it all before.

Cancer Council Victoria facilitated six education sessions to Melbourne City Council officers that spend most of their day out in the sun.

This included 130 parking, and local laws, officers as well as school crossing attendants.

Council’s Team Leader of Parking and Traffic Dean Robertson said education sessions were held at the start of every summer for staff working on the roads.

“The challenge lies in educating people that have been in their role a long time, and think they are bullet proof when it comes to the sun and working outdoors,” he said.

“While we still deliver our own Beat the Heat training, we consciously brought in experts to deliver that extra level of detail.”

The interactive group sessions covered a range of topics including how to create a SunSmart workplace, understanding UV, prevention and early detection of skin cancer, and vitamin D.

“Working in the sun is about self management, keeping an eye on your body and identifying any changes,” Mr Robertson said.

“This is where Cancer Council Victoria could add real value in explaining that end-to-end process.

“It’s about wearing the protective clothing provided by council in the way it was intended, not rolling up long sleeves, ensuring the hat is on and sunscreen is applied.”

The extra level of detail came in the proven statistics Cancer Council Victoria shared.

It is estimated that around 200 melanomas and 34,000 non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia are caused by occupational exposures to UV every year.

“Outdoor workers are at an increased risk of skin damage and skin cancer because of the amount of time they spend outdoors during peak UV times,” SunSmart Manager Sue Heward said.

“Although 95 per cent of Australian outdoor workers currently use some form of sun protection, just nine per cent are considered to be fully protected from UV.

“This is a serious health risk for workers, and − as new figures show − for the commercial health of Victorian businesses.”

Skin cancer has cost Victorian workplaces more than $6.2 million over the past 10 years.

The Victorian WorkCover Authority received 107 claims for skin cancers between 2003 and 2013, costing workplaces in compensation, common law damages and impairment benefits.

In Victoria, Occupational Health and Safety legislation mandates that all employers should take steps to reduce the known health risks with occupational exposure to UV from the sun.

To help councils fulfil their responsibilities, SunSmart workplace education is available through Cancer Council Victoria.

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Community gets behind new jobs

Aboriginal employment in local government has received a boost with Wyndham City Council recruiting two Aboriginal officers to support family strengthening and community development programs.

Following consultation with Aboriginal communities last year, Wyndham identified priorities and actions that would help meet some of their needs from council.

In November last year, Wyndham partnered with Aboriginal community leaders to host the Strengthening Communities, Connecting Services forum. Representatives from State Government and Aboriginal community organisations met to discuss strengthening Aboriginal community, culture and services in the municipality.

Wyndham Community Development Officer Kerrie Godbold said Aboriginal people strongly and consistently communicated the need for culturally safe places where cultural identity could be strengthened, community connections built, and access to services improved.

“The forum enabled communication and collaboration amongst a range of stakeholders to identify this shared goal and commitment towards its achievement,” she said.

A Wyndham Aboriginal Community working group was established to drive the project. The need for a dedicated council resource led to the creation of Wyndham’s first full-time role for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person — the Wyndham Aboriginal Community Centre Project Officer.

The second new position at Wyndham City emerged out of the growing community of young Aboriginal families. An Aboriginal Family Support Officer has been employed to work within council’s MCH team, improving pathways to culturally-appropriate services and capacities to provide these.

Both positions have been developed with support, including funding, from the Department of Health’s Closing the Gap–Koolin Balit program. For recruitment, Wyndham sought expert advice from MAV Aboriginal Employment Project Adviser Lidia Thorpe, with endorsement from the Aboriginal community.

“I provided advice about the job description, duty statement, where and how to advertise the positions, and used my own networks and Facebook page to promote them,” Ms Thorpe said.

Ms Thorpe’s details were included on the advertisements to provide candidates an Aboriginal contact.

“A number of potential candidates contacted me to find out what it was like working in local government and to find out more about council,” Ms Thorpe said.

“This approach provided the Aboriginal community with a greater level of comfort and also gave council extra confidence that it was engaging appropriately,” Ms Thorpe said.

Before the interviews took place, arrangements were made for the council’s foyer to be more welcoming by placing information relevant to Aboriginal people in the waiting area, which included edition 6 of CiVic magazine featuring Koki, the daughter of a well-known Victorian Aboriginal community member on the cover.

The first interview started by asking the candidates to tell their story before launching into formalities, and the second interview was done in a café.

“We wanted to ask the more sensitive questions at the second interview,” Ms Thorpe said.

“To ensure the candidate was comfortable we did it in an informal setting, which was effective and they really told us more about what we needed to know,” Ms Thorpe said.

The engagement Wyndham had done over the course of the past year with the Aboriginal community helped with recruiting, which Ms Godbold described as a communal process.

“While our primary aim was to employ Aboriginal officers, we were continuing to build and earn the trust of the Aboriginal community,” she said.

“We knew that the Aboriginal community was standing behind the people applying and monitoring the whole recruitment process.”

Being newly created positions, council will now look at retention.

“The successful candidates will need to walk between the two worlds of council and the community and we will support them in that,” Ms Godbold said.

“In some ways these are positions that belong to the community and will continue to have an influence.”

Wyndham is in the process of developing its first Reconciliation Action Plan and the learnings from this recruiting process will help inform this policy guide.

“It was a little challenging putting in place an employment process without any formal council policy about engaging Aboriginal communities, but it certainly was not paralysing,” Ms Godbold said.

“This process has created an opportunity to shape a different future for council around awareness within the employment spectrum and how we can learn from this experience in all engagement with Aboriginal people.”

Wyndham is also recruiting a health promotion graduate position for an Aboriginal person, which will be in place by the end of 2014.

Councils without a Reconciliation Action Plan or Aboriginal Employment Strategy in place can start engaging and employing Aboriginal people now by using the expertise of the MAV for advice and support.

Aboriginal Employment Forum

Wyndham and Whittlesea city councils each shared their experiences with the recruitment process and journey of employing Aboriginal people at an MAV forum recently.

The Aboriginal Employment Forum was held on 18 November and followed a funding commitment from the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation to continue the MAV’s project, which aims to increase the number of Aboriginal people working in local government.

At the forum, councils contributed to the development of a new framework to assist in improving relationships and job opportunities for Aboriginal people.

The MAV is working with Hays recruitment to identify positions they are currently filling for councils, which may be suitable for Aboriginal people.

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Mildura’s new heart for sustainability

A new community garden has become the heart and soul of the Mildura Eco Village, offering residents a place to grow their own produce as part of a regional effort to make the Sunraysia region more sustainable.

At the launch of the community garden in November, residents keen to grow their own fruit and vegetables had already signed up to more than half of the 37 raised garden beds.

Mildura Rural City Council Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Bonnie Pettett said people living in town, and elderly people, were most likely to lease a community garden plot.

“We have a lot of people living in townhouses and apartments who don’t have an outdoor area big enough to grow their own vegetables,” she said.

“The community garden is also great for elderly people wanting a low maintenance veggie garden, and who also enjoy the social aspect of getting out of the house and meeting other people.”

The community garden has been built within the 4-hectare Mildura Eco Village site, which also includes an education centre that opened in June 2013.

In addition to the corrugated raised garden beds built in three sizes — 1mx4m, 1.5mx4m and 2mx4m — there are also around 30 on-ground garden beds for community groups.

“As well as growing fresh food in their own garden beds, residents will be sharing information about what they are growing, and swapping produce,” Ms Pettett said.

“The larger beds are for community groups to grow bigger crops,” Ms Pettett said.

Residents pay a small annual fee ranging from $50-$70 for the provision of topsoil and to cover water costs.

“All plot owners are taught organic gardening principles, which they are encouraged to use in their garden beds,” Ms Pettett said.

The Mildura Eco Village community garden is a partnership between Sunraysia Sustainability Network, Mildura City Council, Sunraysia Institute of TAFE and Christie Centre Inc.

An elected Garden Committee has been established to ensure decisions around the garden are fair.

The Mildura Eco Village is a $1m staged program of sustainable living initiatives. Mildura City Council has committed around $377,000 for the four projects. These include the community garden, and the education centre that displays sustainable design elements, building practices and technologies.

The solar distillation demonstration site includes a series of distillation panels which use the sun to produce distilled water from contaminated, stormwater or saline water sources.

The final project, due to be completed in December 2014, will be a central component of the Mildura Eco Village — a sustainable demonstration eco house.

“The eco house will be an educational tool that demonstrates easy, but valuable, retrofit options for energy and water savings, drought proofing and solar hot water technologies,” Ms Pettett said.

Other funding sources for the Mildura Eco Village have come from Sustainability Victoria, Department of Planning and Community Development and the Department of State Development and Business and Innovation.

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Technology: Awarded confidence boost

Awards for innovative technology offer councils more than trophies, cash or ceremonies by boosting confidence in their projects through peer recognition.

Each year MAV Technology announces its annual awards at a conference that explores the transformative role of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in delivering services to Victorian councils and their communities.

In 2013, Cardinia Shire Council won the MAV Technology Innovation Fellowship, a $10,000 grant to advance the ICT component of its innovative Activity Based Working project.

At the time the fellowship was awarded, the project was 50 per cent complete, which is part of the criteria — advancing current or proposed ICT projects.

Cardinia has now moved into its new state-of-the-art civic centre that has been built around Activity Based Working, which creates a flexible and mobile work environment where work activity is accommodated rather than fixed desks and workstations.

To achieve Activity Based Working, the introduction of a number of new technologies was required. Among these were a roaming print service called follow-me printing, an upgraded electronic document management system, light laptops called Ultrabooks, enterprise WIFI and citrix. A socialised intranet has become council’s primary communication tool, and eForms and wireless presenters are widely used. A full VoIP phone system with corporate system integration and wireless headsets was the final piece of technology introduced at the new offices.

Cardinia is the first council in Australia to introduce Activity Based Working and it came as no surprise that there were some non-believers in the alternative work model, both internally and externally.

Then, it won the MAV Technology Innovation Fellowship, and then another award, and then another. Suddenly, the non-believers were being converted and the project was gaining confidence and momentum.

“Winning the MAV Technology Fellowship provided us with recognition and support internally and externally,” Cardinia Manager Information Services David Jackson said.

“To have your peers and external consultants assess your project and deem it worthy of an award was great.

“We were able to bring that back to the organisation, which helped people who had doubts about what we were doing to understand it better.”

Activity Based Working was an unknown for Cardinia, and for the rest of local government. Mr Jackson said many people just didn’t understand and were sometimes confused by the concept.

“The MAV Technology Fellowship ceremony was a great recognition moment, to be acknowledged in that space among peers,” he said.

“Before this, people that didn’t understand would just look blankly at me, confused.

“When the fellowship was announced, people started approaching us, asking questions and taking an interest. It was a really nice moment that gave us a bit more confidence that we were on the right track.”

After the MAV Technology Fellowship, Cardinia went on to win the prestigious Sir Rupert Hamer Records Management Award and was a finalist at the national eGovernment Awards.

“Winning the MAV Technology Fellowship gave us confidence to apply for other awards that we may not have,” Mr Jackson said.

“We were judged alongside projects with multi-million dollar budgets and sitting beside them being assessed equally; it was very satisfying.”

Applications are now open for the 2015 MAV Technology Innovation Fellowship, and the winner will be announced in the first half of the year.

“The application process is not onerous when you sit down and go through it, in fact most of it is already done through business cases,” Mr Jackson said.

“The benefits are tangible, yes, you might get money but the recognition and acknowledgement you can bring back to the organisation and to your community can really enhance what you are trying to achieve in the ICT space.”


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The Council, the cook and the diner – Connecting Communities

There is a new volunteer club emerging within three Victorian municipalities that is helping deliver home-cooked meals to people in need while strengthening community connections.

It is called the Casserole Club, based on a successful UK model developed by FutureGov to connect older people with others in the community through sharing home-cooked meals.

Led by the MAV with funding from the Department of Health, Casserole Club is being trialed by Macedon Ranges Shire Council, and Boroondara and Moreland city councils.

The program matches volunteer cooks with diners living in Lancefield, Canterbury, Surrey Hills and Brunswick through a web-based system.

Before starting, the cook completes a food safety quiz and undertakes a police check. Once complete, the cook is matched with an older diner facing difficulties in preparing meals living in their neighbourhood. The cook then prepares an extra meal portion and delivers it to their neighbour.

Casserole Club was launched in October 2014 and in its first month recruited 48 cooks and eight diners across the three municipalities. It also attracted eight external community organisations that actively help promote the program.

MAV Casserole Club Project Manager Jan Bruce said the initiative targeted younger volunteers who love to cook and would like to volunteer in their community but might not want the long-term commitment required through traditional volunteering opportunities.

“Casserole Club works around a volunteer’s busy schedule and their lifestyle,” she said.

“Volunteer cooks are adding an extra portion to what they are already cooking. They can choose when and how often they cook; it might be once a week, fortnight or month.”

The program will be monitored and evaluated with the aim to roll-out to other Victorian councils. For this reason, the pilot councils were carefully chosen to provide a range of different learnings.

“Moreland delivers its volunteer services externally and is a good example for councils that do not have a volunteer process in place, whereas Boroondara and Macedon Ranges have established volunteer programs,” Ms Bruce said.

“We are continuing to explore different ways for Casserole Club to be delivered by councils,” Ms Bruce said.

Macedon Ranges was selected for its regional location, and chose Lancefield to undertake the pilot.

Director of Community Wellbeing Karen Stevens said Lancefield had little pockets that are isolated but was supported by an active community.

“In some parts, Lancefield is an ageing community, but it also has a very active Neighbourhood House that can identify cooks and diners,” she said.

At the start of the pilot, Macedon Ranges held information sessions with key community individuals and other clubs, like the Men’s Shed, to promote the project and recruit champions.

“We see Casserole Club as empowering people,” Ms Stevens said.

“It has the benefit of connecting people, particularly new people moving into Lancefield that want to make a positive contribution and become part of the community.

“Our cooks are people of generous spirit that love cooking and want others to eat their food and provide good nourishment. For them, it is not a chore.”

For the diners, they can be assured of getting the food they like as the project coordinator matches the diner’s food likes and dislikes with an appropriate cook.

Once a match is made, the partnership is then between the diner and the cook.

“The cook and the diner agree on the timing for a meal share,” Ms Stevens said.

“Depending on the arrangement, the cook may deliver the portion straight away, or deliver it the next day for reheating.”

Cooks and diners are provided with a guide on how to store, transport and reheat food safely.

By mid-November, Macedon Ranges had 11 volunteer cooks registered and four diners.

“We had our first successful meal share on Monday 3 November, which was also the first for the program, where a volunteer cook delivered a home-cooked baked chicken with apricot and seasonal vegetables to a neighbour,” Ms Stevens said.

“We are currently working on matchmaking so we expect to have quite a few more Casserole Club friendships formed in time for the holiday season.”

In the UK, where leading technology experts to the public sector, FutureGov, developed the Casserole Club, more than 1,100 meals have been delivered within 22 local authorities.

Weekly community lunch for all

A weekly community lunch in the Macedon Ranges town of Kyneton is offering people from all walks of life an opportunity to enjoy a tasty two-course meal and meet others from their local community.

The lunches are held each Wednesday during school terms, and attendees are asked to provide a small donation of $3 to help cover some of the costs.

Macedon Ranges Shire Council is supporting the community lunch program through grant funding and in-kind support.

“This is a great community initiative, and a unique way for members of our community to re-connect with others, improve wellness and access a nutritious meal,” Cr John Connor said.

“There are many benefits for the community in being able to share a healthy meal with others in a friendly way, improving their social connections,” he said.

The majority of the food is being donated by local businesses and the food is be prepared by a team of volunteers.

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Mitchell’s new crowd gets kids thinking local

The value of shopping locally is being taught to school children as part of an innovative economic development campaign by Mitchell Shire Council.

The Live Local, Shop Local campaign aims to reduce the ‘escaped’ spend caused by the large number of residents travelling outside the shire for work, and by those choosing to shop at large centres located in neighbouring municipalities.

In late 2013, Mitchell’s Economic Development and Tourism Coordinator David Power began exploring ways that council could change buyer behaviour towards shopping locally.

He looked at past campaigns that had little success, and identified challenges of having no local radio station or newspaper that covered the whole shire.

“We started by visiting some of the schools and explaining what they could get out of this campaign,” Mr Power said.

“It was approved by one school to start with, which incorporated our one-hour session into the existing curriculum because it was a good fit for the grade 5 persuasive and narrative learning outcome.”

As a result, five characters called Handy, Foodie, Fashonista, Sporty and Hipster were developed and named after their shopping personalities.

“We created five different personalities that make up the Mitchell Crowd. Handy, Foodie, Fashonista, Sporty and Hipster also describe ways people spend their money,” Mr Power said.

“The characters featured around the shire; in shops and markets that sponsored the program.”

The Mitchell Crowd has been printed on bookmarks, bumper stickers and fridge magnet shopping lists. It also features in a five-minute campaign video that shows the cool characters spending their money locally, and the spin-off effects this has on the local economy.

The one-hour Live Local, Shop Local school sessions were delivered to grade 5 students by Mitchell’s youth councillors throughout the second half of this year. The sessions started with an introduction to the characters, and their behaviours, via the video. Students were asked questions based on what they watched, and then split into pairs to develop a poster and slogan explaining why shopping local is important.

The campaign roll-out started in June with three individual launches capturing 1,000 grade 5 students from local primary schools.

“We launched it three times because we’re a big shire,” Mr Power said.

“We needed to keep the campaign live and interesting over a long period of time, and launching three times also helped keep the media coverage going.”

“It may sound like a lot of extra work but we knew the campaign message was already spreading so by the time we did the last launch, the community was warmed-up to the idea after seeing it roll-out across the shire.”

After all 12 primary schools in Mitchell have completed their entries, Mitchell Shire youth councillors will judge the best posters and the Mitchell Crowd will offer first, second and third prizes supported by local traders.

Live Local, Shop Local won a silver award in the community economic development category at the Economic Development Excellence Awards. The graphic design work also delivered a silver gong at the Melbourne Design Awards.

CiVic went to print just as the posters were being judged but you can see the winning entries on our iPad app version.

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Making food waste palatable

Bayside City Council held a food masterclass with two high profile chefs recently to highlight issues around food waste and educate its community about sustainable food practices.

Reducing food waste is a challenge for many households and an issue that councils are continuously working on through community education.

With startling statistics like food making up around 50 per cent of waste found in Bayside bins, going back to basics like sourcing products and produce, menu planning and cooking proved to be a great way to attract a hard-to-reach audience.

The sell-out Think.Eat.Save event at The Pantry in Brighton attracted 70 locals keen to hear from Dandelion chef Geoff Lindsay and Daniel Wilson from Fitzroy-based restaurant, Huxtable.

Council delivered a strict brief to the chefs about the menu. It had to be certified organic, ethically produced, Fairtrade, seasonal and locally sourced.

The chefs excelled at the challenge, sourcing new local supplies for key ingredients, and discussed sustainable food holistically with the audience by examining the most effective ways to source, store and manage food waste.

Sustainability Campaigns Officer Lisa Finn said the event was a good way to make food waste interesting, informing and entertaining.

“Celebrity chefs are topical, influential and have the sizzle to deliver an important message like food waste in a way that is fun, and they certainly succeeded bringing in a packed-out audience,” she said.

“By partnering with The Pantry, which has a masterclass series of events happening throughout the year, we were able to reach chefs that are passionate about food and the environment.”

General Manager of The Pantry Tim Purton-Smith said council coming to a restaurant to deliver the food waste message was good for everyone.

“The restaurant industry is where the idea of food being so great first originated,” he said.

“To achieve this, our industry has relied on food miles – minimising waste, careful purchasing, using as much of the product as possible. For us, we wouldn’t survive as a business if we didn’t operate this way and it really is the same message for households – minimise food waste, save costs.”

A lot of homework went into preparing the menu for the night, both from cºouncil, The Pantry and the guest chefs.

“While the message around food waste probably wouldn’t get through so successfully without the chefs, this was a two-way street and we really saw the chefs grow throughout the process,” Mr Purton-Smith said.

“For example, the effort and depths Geoff (Lindsay) put into understanding the products and produce was mind boggling. He is so passionate and caring about food.”

The event also included a 10-minute presentation from Spade and Barrow, an offshoot of food rescue organisation Second Bite that buys the whole farm crop of fruit and vegetables regardless of what it looks like.

Bayside Coordinator Environmental Sustainability Rachel Murphy said Spade and Barrow’s presentation made the connection from farmers to markets (including supermarkets) and how it was working to reduce food waste.

“The audience was interested in the amount of food that never makes it on to a supermarket shelf because of imperfections,” Ms Murphy said.

Bayside’s food waste rates are slightly higher than other parts of Victoria, mostly caused by a demographic of time-poor residents.

“One of the common things we hear is meals are planned but then not eaten so the food ends up in the bin,” Ms Murphy said.

“Then there are other lifestyle barriers like work and children that contribute to high food waste.”

This event allowed people living in Bayside to deepen their understanding of how to source sustainable foods and what to do with them once they have.

“Sourcing sustainable foods that reduce our impact on the environment, taste great and are good for us is one of the best ways that people can make a real difference to their family’s carbon footprint,” Ms Murphy said.

This event complemented Bayside City Council’s range of food waste initiatives to reduce the amount of food going to landfill.

Among these is a subsidised green cone program that was trialed by 200 residents earlier this year and is now offered to all residents at a discounted rate.

The green cone takes between 500g and 1kg of food waste every day – the average amount produced by a family of four.

“It is great for busy people and doesn’t need much space,” Ms Murphy said.

“It is also easy to use and install and accepts all kinds of food waste that worm farms and compost systems don’t, such as meat, bones and cooked food.”

The green cone takes food waste from kitchen to garden in three quick and easy steps – put the waste in the kitchen caddy, walk it out to the green cone in the garden, put the lid on.

Did you know?

Australians waste around 4 million tonnes of food each year. That equates to 178kg per person.

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From seedlings to sustainability experts

Young children are learning the important role everyone can play in creating a sustainable future through an award winning initiative led by Knox City Council in partnership with Melbourne and Port Phillip city councils, and Yarra Ranges and Alpine shire councils.

The Seedlings Early Years Education for Sustainability Framework was piloted in 2013/14, testing the initiative among 60 early years services from across the five municipalities. This included Maternal and Child Health services, playgroups, preschools, and family and long day care centres.

In development for almost five years, the framework provides direction on sustainable practices that can be interpreted differently in each early years service.

By incorporating sustainability principles into existing early years programs and services, there is no extra work for staff on top of what they are already doing.

At Knox Maternal and Child Health service, discussions around sustainability were introduced into first parent groups.

“When talking to parents about introducing their baby to solid foods, the MCH nurse provides advice around making their own baby food and growing their own vegetables,” Project Officer Early Years Sustainability Bronwyn Cron said.

“Also, at some of our playgroups, children are spending more time outside to connect with nature, and bush playgroups have started as a result of this work.”

Seedlings is a three-year program funded by Victorian Adaptation and Sustainability Partnership, which grew from an inter-department discussion within Knox around integrating sustainability education with children’s services.

“We identified a gap in young families forming sustainable behaviours and realised other councils were finding it difficult to access this demographic also,” Ms Cron said.

“Then we looked at how we could start implementing life long learning around sustainability and saw that early years’ services were relatable for this target group.”

By providing resources, materials and professional development education around sustainability, Seedlings provides an early years approach to educating about sustainability.

“Parents and educators are provided skills to answer the hard questions that children often ask about their world,” Ms Cron said.

“The framework provides guidance and tools, but does not tell the service what to do, which makes it flexible to their individual requirements.”

A childcare centre in Alpine created its own Enviro Week challenge focusing on conserving energy. Each day, an electricity item was switched off. By day five there were no lights on in two of the centre’s rooms, food was cooked on a gas cook top and campfire, and the children washed their dishes in buckets of water.

The activity was linked to the childcare centre's own learning outcomes around children becoming socially responsible and aware of the environment.

At a pilot family and children’s centre in Yarra Ranges, a group of children learned about reducing, reusing and recycling by creating a Christmas Giving Tree using handprints. The class invited families at the centre to wrap a second hand toy from home to place under the tree.

In Port Phillip, a biennial preschool market became a zero waste event. All items used for the event were re-homed, re-used, recycled or composted to minimise the amount of waste materials generated.

Seedlings won the community category at the Premier’s Sustainability Awards announced in October.

Knox Mayor Darren Pearce said the project allowed Knox’s youngest residents to become more aware of the importance of sustainability and has significantly increased their awareness and dedication to sustainable living for the rest of their lives.

“These pilots have created wonderful opportunities for children, their families and the services themselves to define what sustainability means to them and their community,” he said.

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Councils’ Smart Website

A website has been launched for the My Smart Garden program, an initiative of Hobsons Bay, Moonee Valley and Maribyrnong city councils.

Mayor of Moonee Valley Jan Chantry said the My Smart Garden website was the perfect resource for all urban gardeners looking to grow their own food, create natural shade or just make their backyards more sustainable.

“The website has so many great features and contains a wealth of information to help all green thumbs and would-be green thumbs across the inner west,” Cr Chantry said.

“One of the most exciting features is the gardener’s forum where people are able to discuss any issues or successes they may be having with their gardens and receive practical advice and support from other gardeners in their area.”

The website also includes a searchable archive of over three years of My Smart Garden workshop notes, collected from sustainable gardening and permaculture experts from across Melbourne to form a library of gardening know-how.

The My Smart Garden program has been running for three years. It started as a small initiative and has grown into an important part of the three council’s environmental strategies.

Mayor of Maribyrnong Grant Miles said building resilient local communities, and empowering them to act in a changing world, was a major priority for local government.

“This priority has led many councils, including Hobsons Bay, Moonee Valley and Maribyrnong, to work to enhance the community’s food, energy, and water security through innovative programs like My Smart Garden,” he said.

“By working closely together, we have been able to create a program, and now a website, that can help people make a real difference right now in their own backyards.”

Mayor of Hobsons Bay Sandra Wilson said the website would provide a boost to an already successful initiative.

“The program has over 1,200 members and we expect this to grow with the launch of the new website,” Cr Wilson said.

“The feedback we have received about our workshops has been excellent with the average workshop rating at least nine out of 10.

“Over half of the people attending have gone away and planted their own fruit trees, over half have designed their own garden area, and over half are now recycling their food waste and keeping it out of landfill.

“The workshops also bring people together. They’re a great means of strengthening networks and community connections,” she said.


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In brief

Darebin’s solar savings

Darebin’s solar program for pensioners has earned council recognition at the Banksia and United Nations Association of Australia World Environment Day awards, where it was a finalist at both events.

The innovative program removes upfront costs associated with installing solar power systems to reduce home energy bills for residents on low incomes.

Residents receiving a pensioner rebate on their rates can apply for the initial purchase of a solar system and installation costs, which are repaid over a 10-year period through a special rate charge.

Following a pilot where 500 applicants’ homes were assessed, 294 households signed up to have solar systems installed between September and December.

“The simple step of incorporating payments for solar systems into the participants’ rates over a 10-year period eliminates the upfront cost which is one of the biggest barriers to installing solar for pensioners,” Mayor Steven Tsitas said.

“We know that many pensioners will not switch on air conditioners because they fear they won’t be able to afford the electricity to run them.

“It’s hoped that the program will give them more confidence to use electricity to keep themselves cool on hot days.”

The program has recently been expanded to offer all residents the opportunity to purchase solar power systems at a discounted price through a bulk buy package.

After factoring in the additional rate payments, participating households can save around $120 per year off their energy bills.

1000 Cities

Melbourne City Council is inviting people to take part in a new interactive game that will change the way they see the city — forever.

Using a smartphone, a blue Melbourne Bike Share bike and a helmet, the interactive game 1000 Cities turns the CBD into a mythical adventure where riders will fight monsters, collect treasure and explore the hidden parts of the city.

Cr Rohan Leppert said this arts participation project highlighted council’s dedication to contributing to a creative city.

“1000 Cities is an innovative project that allows participants to go on a city adventure with a twist. Cities can be hard to navigate when you first arrive and the best way to get to know your way around is to explore,” said Cr Leppert.

Once participants visit the 1000 Cities site on a smartphone, they will be prompted to take out a bike at the Federation Square blue Melbourne Bike Share station. From there, the game will take riders through a series of tasks that will unlock hidden secrets about the city. Discover tucked away coffee shops, artworks, buildings, secret laneways and obscure city gems.

1000 Cities is a partnership with Pop Up Playground, and is based on the Joseph Campbell book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. It will take place throughout February, starting at the Federation Square Melbourne Bike Share pod outside the Melbourne Visitor Centre. For more, visit

World-class Yarra

Yarra City Council’s world-class sustainability program has seen it named Australia’s first One Planet Council and only the third local government in the world to receive the title.

One Planet Living is an internationally recognised benchmark bestowed on regions around the world, for being exemplars of sustainable living.

Council’s sustainability performance was independently assessed against 10 principles that allow communities to live and work within their fair share of the earth’s resources.

“Since 2012, council has continued to strive to reduce its carbon footprint, including a substantial retrofit program for 18 of its buildings, as well as introducing on-site energy generation to save on energy required to heat two of our community pools,” Mayor Jackie Fristacky said.

“Council has reduced its annual energy consumption by 25 per cent compared with consumption in 2000/01 — the base year we measure against.

“While Council is doing what it can, we also see that our Yarra community is taking action too.

“More Yarra residents cycle to work than in any other local government area in Australia so we are very fortunate that we have a community of people making the choice to live more sustainably.”

Greater human rights

Greater Bendigo City Council launched its Human Rights Charter ahead of a Human Rights Forum held in November.

Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane and Victorian Human Rights Commissioner Kate Jenkins participated in the launch of the charter, which is centred on 11 elements of the Victorian Human Rights Charter relevant to the municipality’s operations and areas of responsibility.

Director Pauline Gordon said the charter was an important document for Greater Bendigo and the wider community.

“Everybody has human rights, including those with disabilities, of different ethnicity, children, the elderly and the homeless. It is the responsibility of all citizens to promote and protect the rights of others,” Ms Gordon said.

“The charter will help promote the importance of cultural diversity and social inclusion and will be an excellent guide for all local organisations to ensure they are mindful of the four key rights of freedom, respect, equality and dignity as recorded in the document.”

Guest speakers at the forum included Dr Soutphommasane, Ms Jenkins, AFL player and Multicultural Program Ambassador Bachar Houli, Bendigo Advertiser General Manager Margot Falconer and Dja Dja Wurrung and Yorta Yorta Elder Graham Atkinson.

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Playground Beasties

Date: 13–14 December

Venue: ArtPlay, Birarrung Marr, Melbourne

Description: Children aged 6-12 years are invited to help spruce up the ArtPlay playground panels. Artist Gregory Alexander will help by leading the young creatives to develop strong colourful images and designs. This is part one of the project. Part two will be held in January.

Need more?

Lotus Flower Season

Date: 27 December–7 April

Venue: Blue Lotus Water Garden,

2628 Warburton Highway, Yarra Junction,

Description: The annual Lotus Flower Season includes a water garden featuring thousands of lotus flower blooms of different varieties spread over 14 acres of ponds and ornamental lakes set in a tropical garden. And one of the oldest flowers on earth – the 2,000 year old Japanese Oga Lotus pond.

Need more?


Spanish Film Festival

Date: 16 January–20 February

Venue: Palace Cinema Como, Southbank, Melbourne

Description: The 16th Spanish Film Festival includes a bumper line-up of 22 stand-out Spanish and Spanish-speaking Latin American titles.

Need more?

Piers Festival

Date: 25 January

Venue: Princes Pier, Off Pier Street, Port Melbourne

Description: Celebrate Australia Day at the Piers Festival — a spectacular display of music, dance, markets, exhibitions and information sessions that will highlight the state’s rich history of migration.

Need more?


Great Australian Beer Festival Geelong

Date: 21 February

Venue: Geelong Racecourse,

99 Breakwater Road, Breakwater

Description: Brewers and brews from all around Australia will be on display. Enjoy the alfresco beer garden and indulge in sipping, sampling and tasting some of the 150 plus craft beers and ciders.

Need more?

Heywood Wood, Wine & Roses Festival

Date: 28 February

Venue: Town Green, Edgar Street, Heywood,

Description: Join in the action as this festival celebrates its 22nd birthday with 13 hours of non-stop entertainment including roving performers, a street parade, wine and cheese tasting, carnival rides and a fireworks display at the end.

Need more?

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Playground brings fairy tales to life

Whittlesea City Council has delivered Australia’s first Smart Playground featuring the classic fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen.

Using state-of-the-art technology never before used in Australia, children can interact with their favourite characters from The Little Mermaid and The Ugly Duckling while enjoying the playgroup equipment.

At Winchester Park in Epping there are traditional slides, swings, a fireman’s pole and spiderman climbing frame, but, what makes this playground special is a digital layer that children can activate to bring the fairy tale characters to life.

Whittlesea Partnership and Engagement Officer Brooke Wilson said the playground looks like any other but there is a QR code on the panels that can be scanned to download the Play GateTM app, which allows families and children to interact with the equipment.

“Parents can take a photo of their child playing with a superimposed character and then go home and use the app to interact with that story and undertake different educational activities and popular app style games,” she said.

Many children can operate a smartphone or iPad as soon as they can walk, making this a perfect solution for outdoor play combined with interactive learning.

“Bringing together technology and traditional play equipment provides a new and exciting learning environment for children and families to go outdoors, be active and then continue the experience at home through their iPad or smartphone,” Ms Wilson said.

The technology has been installed by leading playground provider, Kompan Australia.

Kompan distributor Mark Chatman from Ikonic Playgrounds said the technology was easy and could be used by Apple or Android smartphone users.

“When the QR code is scanned, the app recognises the equipment and brings up the augmented characters,” he said.

“On the iPad you will see for example The Little Mermaid on the screen, and you can put your arms around the character and take a photo.”

The fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen have been chosen for their universal appeal.

“These fairy tales have strong moral truths and are used in education all around the world, making them appealing for children everywhere of all ages,” Mr Chatman said.

The panels are transportable, which means they can be added to existing playgrounds as they are upgraded, or moved around the municipality.

“It is exciting to watch parents downloading the app and interacting with their children in a whole new way,” Ms Wilson said.

Kompan provided information sessions to the community at the launch and over the opening weekend. It will also assist childcare centres and playgroups to use the technology at the playground, and then back at their centre.

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Local Government and Alcohol Policy

By Sarah MacLean, Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Global and Population Health, University of Melbourne

In October 2010, the University of Melbourne commenced a research study to provide an analysis of patterns of alcohol consumption by young adults in inner and outer suburban local government areas, along with information about how young adults view alcohol use.

With financial contributions from the Australian Research Council, VicHealth and the Victorian Department of Health, as well as in-kind contributions made by project partners, Yarra and Hume city councils and the MAV, the study aimed to support the development of policy responses that are sensitive to how and why young people consume alcohol.

The research drew upon existing survey and administrative datasets, complemented by in-depth interviews conducted with 60 young adults aged 16-24 living in Yarra and Hume, to explore the place of alcohol within their lives.

Dr Sarah MacLean was awarded a postdoctoral fellow to work on the study and worked with a steering committee comprising all project partners. The project finished in April 2014.

In this article, Dr MacLean shares some of the findings from the report, titled Understanding and reducing alcohol-related harm among young adults in urban settings: Opportunities for Intervention

Do we need different policy responses in inner and outer-suburbs?

To share our findings of this study we have written reports, given presentations at conferences and to local and state government staff and have published articles on issues such as differences in drinking patterns, pre-drinking and alcohol-related trouble in the city night time economy.

Prior to our study, little was known about how patterns of alcohol consumption, or attitudes and experiences related to alcohol use, vary across large cities like Melbourne. A group of researchers and policy makers wondered whether local government alcohol policy in inner and outer suburbs should focus on addressing different sets of harms.

From its inception, our study involved strategic collaboration of partner agencies: The University of Melbourne, VicHealth, the Victorian Department of Health North and West Metropolitan Region, the Municipal Association of Victoria, the City of Yarra, the City of Hume and the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University. This gave us a unique opportunity to conduct research about real concerns for local government policy development.

Study findings included that:

  • Almost all young people from both inner and outer urban settings who participated in a large representative study of young people and drinking, had consumed alcohol during their lifetimes. Drinking patterns and alcohol-related harms did not differ substantially for young people across inner and outer urban settings. However, participants from the inner region were, slightly more likely to report having drunk five or more drinks in a single occasion than their outer urban counterparts.

  • Pre-drinking (consuming alcohol before attending licensed premises) is popular among young adults and no significant differences in pre-drinking rates by urban area were evident in survey data. Interviews with young adults suggested that getting drunk before travelling to entertainment precincts led to more problems for those living in outer urban areas because of the distances they needed to travel. The most frequently given reason for pre-drinking by interview participants from both inner and outer urban locations was the price differential between drinking at home and in venues.

  • Survey data indicates that young people living in outer urban growth areas are more likely to drink at private parties than those who live in inner urban settings. Interview participants said that they often drank heavily in private settings such as houses because they felt safe among friends and had less distance to travel home. Nonetheless, many participants also believed that licensed venue serving and promotional practices contributed to heavy drinking during nights out. Alcohol purchase by people aged under 18 years was more common in inner urban than in outer urban growth areas.

  • Although there are fewer liquor licenses overall in outer Melbourne growth areas than the inner city, growth areas have greater proportions of packaged liquor outlets (eg bottle shops and bulk buy warehouses). Packaged liquor outlets are linked to ‘pre-loading’, where people buy and consume cheap alcohol from bottle shops before visiting bars and clubs. Other research suggests that introducing new packaged liquor outlets in suburban areas is particularly associated with increased harms.

  • Outer urban young adults had greater involvement than inner urban young people as both offenders and victims in assaults which occurred on Friday and Saturday night, when alcohol use is most prevalent.

Councils in all areas have a role to play in developing policies to manage alcohol outlet density and these policies should be sensitive to varying patterns of alcohol use and related harms. Legislative changes providing local governments with more concrete powers to influence liquor licensing decisions would better enable them to fulfil this role. A full report on the study is available on the VicHealth website.


The Australian Research Council, VicHealth and the Victorian Department of Health funded this research and Hume City Council, Yarra City Council and the Municipal Association of Victoria made in-kind contributions. Thanks to Robin Room and David Moore for their guidance of the study.

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A Rainbow over council

The Rainbow Flag is flying high at the St Kilda Town Hall with Port Phillip Council becoming one of Australia’s first organisations to be awarded a Rainbow Tick.

Port Phillip City Council is the first to be formally accredited by Quality Innovation Performance (QIP) for demonstrating inclusivity and a safe and welcoming environment for people who identify as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (GLBTI).

The Rainbow Tick is an accreditation developed by Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria in consultation with QIP, Australia’s most comprehensive not-for-profit accreditation organisation.

Mayor Amanda Stevens said council chose to undertake the comprehensive accreditation process as it has a proud history of being inclusive of all members of its diverse community.

“We provide services to more than 1,500 people to help them remain independent in their homes and the community,” Cr Stevens said.

“Sadly, many older GLBTI people have lived through discrimination and prejudice, making them less likely than older heterosexual people to access mainstream service providers.

“Our Access and Ageing officers (have said) that some home care recipients have ‘de-gayed’ their homes, by removing pictures of same sex partners, before visits by service providers.”

Over the past 18 months, council undertook changes to ensure people who identify as GLBTI feel welcome, confident and safe to access its services. Staff participated in GLBTI awareness training, policies and procedures were changed and staff and client handbooks revised.

A community-based reference group, involving GLBTI and non-GLBTI council staff and GLBTI community members, helped facilitate the accreditation.

Reference group member Gavriil Aleksandrs said the GLBTI community had in the past found it difficult to identify service providers who could make them feel welcome.

“Word is already spreading about the Rainbow Tick and people are definitely aware that council has been proactive on this issue,” he said.

Marcus Barlow said he and partner Martin found that having council workers visit their St Kilda home weekly to help with household chores makes a big difference as they both have physical disabilities.

“We’re forever grateful for the council workers being so supportive and non-judgmental. I hope every council will seek the Rainbow Tick.”

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Five minutes with … Cr Warren Wait, West Wimmera Shire Council

For the first time in Victorian local government history, a small group of councillors were awarded for 30 year’s of service at the MAV State Council meeting held in October. Among this committed group of elected representatives was West Wimmera Cr Warren Wait.

Cr Wait, you have served the West Wimmera community for 30 years as a councillor. What has been the driving force behind this commitment to your community and region?

I became a councillor as I wanted to give everyone a voice across the shire and ensure that the silent members of our communities were heard, not just the vocal few.

There must be many, but what are some of the highlights of your career on council?

Yes, there have been many highlights of my time on council but what stands out most is the opportunities it has given me, and still gives me, to meet interesting people whom I would not have possibly met otherwise.

You were a councillor in 1994 when former Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett amalgamated 210 councils into 78 (later to become 79 when the Shire of Delatite was split into the Rural City of Benalla and the Shire of Mansfield in 2002). What were your thoughts at this time?

The amalgamation was inevitable and had to happen. Unfortunately, I forecast another amalgamation happening in the future with the population falling in country areas, while growing dramatically in the metropolitan areas along with the ever rising cost local government administration, there will be changes going forward.

And, 20 years on, do you think it was the right decision?

I don’t think there was any better option.

How have you seen the challenges and needs of the West Wimmera region and community change over the past three decades?

There have been massive changes in West Wimmera over the last three decades. The main one is people’s expectations. Also, a greater number of women are now working and need to work, which means we need more childcare, better children’s services and employment. This has greatly impacted our communities in many ways but the message we are receiving is that you can’t keep or attract people without jobs.

What do you think are some of the challenges facing the Victorian local government sector?

Councils are providing an ever increasing number of services to their communities. The Enterprise Bargaining agreements should be run on a state level as it has a greater understanding of the sector, and leave councils to take care of their core business and services.

How can we overcome these challenges?

Centralise the Enterprise Bargaining process.

You serve on council with your nephew, Richard. Were you an influence on Richard’s decision to run for council, and is there much council talk over╩Sunday lunch?

No, Richard ran for council for his own reasons. It is definitely interesting having two members of the same family on council but we are both at different places in our lives and bring different viewpoints and qualities to the table.

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PVAW stopping all stations

Brimbank and Maribyrnong city councils took their prevention of violence against women message to train stations as part of the annual White Ribbon Day held on 25 November.

An early morning breakfast barbecue was held at Sunshine Train Station, followed by a pledge of the White Ribbon Day oath at St Albans Square. Trader groups supported these initiatives. At the Sydenham Neighbourhood House, near Watergardens Railway Station, chalk artworks were on display and another oath pledge ceremony took place.

Brimbank Administrator John Watson said council also provided the community free coffee from some cafes throughout the municipality.

“To get the conversation started in our community about how more men can advocate against violence, we provided coffee at no charge at participating coffee shops,” he said.

“White Ribbon Day branded keep cups were distributed at our three events hosted in Sunshine, St Albans and Sydenham.”

Maribyrnong City Council also held events at train stations. Footscray, West Footscray, Tottenham and Yarraville stations were transformed with musicians, circus performers and poets celebrating women and driving home the need to end violence against women and gender inequality.

White ribbons were handed out and commuters enjoyed free breakfast snacks and participated in a photo booth art project.

The public also dropped off practical items like sheets, towels, clothes and kitchenware to an arts chest at council, which will be donated to a community organisation that runs safe houses and refuges for women escaping violence.

White Ribbon Day is an international male-led campaign that happens on 25 November each year. It seeks to change the attitudes and behaviours that lead to and perpetuate men’s violence against women, by engaging boys and men to lead social change.

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Celebrating Christmas large in Geelong

Greater Geelong City Council welcomed the festive season with the arrival of a giant floating Christmas tree moored in Corio Bay.

Standing 25m above the water level, the unique installation is set to become an icon for the region.

The tree is beautiful by day as the sun reflects onto the 10,000 kinetic discs covering the exterior, which move and shimmer with the water.

At night, it comes to life with a lighting show every 30 minutes from 8.30pm that incorporates internal and external lighting elements reflected in the water.

Three local companies constructed the tree, which features 400 metres of LED lighting and stars ranging from 1m to 3m. The giant star on top spans nearly 4m high.

The $1M tree is expected to attract visitors from around the state, boosting the local economy.

“Based on a conservative estimate of a 10 per cent increase in tourism visits we could expect an additional 44,993 visitors to the region equating to $18 million in tourism expenditure,” Mayor Darryn Lyons said.

“The iconic Christmas tree will add fun and glamour to our city but at the same time it is a part of very deliberate strategy to support our local tourism and retail sectors.”

The tree is Australia’s first floating Christmas tree and tallest outdoor Christmas tree.