News and resources

CiVic - Issue 9 - March 2015

E-magazine

Index of accessible version

CEO's report

By Rob Spence, MAV CEO.

Welcome to the first edition of CiVic for 2015. While our board elections are ongoing, I am pleased to address you in place of our President.

In 2015, the MAV will continue our focus on delivering a range of cost-saving measures for councils to utilise in order to keep pressure off rate rises. Our programs are striving to help councils work smarter and more efficiently so you can continue to improve vital services and infrastructure for your communities.

The launch of our Local Government Funding Vehicle in late 2014 has allowed 30 councils access to cheaper borrowing rates to date. The inaugural bond issuance launched with a volume of $240 million across two instalments to provide councils with access to five and seven-year fixed rate, interest only loans. This will save councils significantly compared with traditional bank borrowing and we will be issuing bonds to the market annually, including in mid-2015.

We have also made progress with our WorkCare self-insurance scheme, with 60 councils signing up to participate. This is a breakthrough opportunity for local government to take control of employee workers’ compensation insurance to deliver cost savings estimated at 15 per cent in the first year, while also improving worker safety and reducing claims.

Earlier this year we opened up expressions of interest for our Local Government Cloud Enablement Platform pilot, a partnership with Telstra to facilitate better access to shared data, provide greater opportunity for innovation, deliver significant cost savings, and enable shared services.

These are just a sample of the many collaborative projects we have on the go to deliver tangible efficiencies and cost savings for councils. Combined with our policy and advocacy representations, we aim to exhaust multiple avenues to secure greater long-term financial sustainability for the sector.

Over the years we’ve kept our subscription costs low to ensure all councils can maintain their MAV membership without impinging on budgets. In 1993-94 members contributed $3.26 million, accounting for 57 per cent of MAV's total revenue. Two decades on, actual MAV subscriptions of $2.66 million in 2013-14 contributed to 38 per cent of our total revenue pool, which continues to grow. We are proud to be offering such a breadth of value-adding membership benefits while keeping costs low for councils.

We also continue to offer affordable insurance to councils, with our point of difference including individually tailored risk management services, professional development, no cost legal services and specialised claims management.

We look forward to working collaboratively with councils again this year to redefine how services and infrastructure can be offered in more affordable and efficient ways without compromising on the high quality to which communities are accustomed.

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Editor's note

By Kristi High, Editor.

After nine editions, one thing I’ve found is that there’s never a shortage of good news stories.

With that in mind, I’m excited that we’ll return to four editions this year – March, June, September and December.

In this edition, we welcome Southern Grampians Shire Council, featuring for the first time. The council has recently completed a land-use study to future-proof its agriculture industry. Despite climate change threatening the status quo on many industries and sectors, this study has some good news for that part of Victoria and importantly for its farmers.

Our cover is a little unusual for council-land. A dog inside council! It is all part of Boroondara City Council's efforts to create a culture of innovation and break down silo mentalities. To see where the dog fits in, see page 16.

Stamping out bullying, in any form, along with all violence towards women, are two issues I am personally passionate about, and councils are doing some groundbreaking work in these areas.

Manningham Councillor Michelle Kleinhert has joined Moreland Councillor Oscar Yildiz's Bully Zero Australia crusade and can share her expertise in the area through training sessions offered to councils.

We speak with Whittlesea about the number of employees who have exercised their right to paid leave to deal with family violence through council’s Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, and how council’s family violence policy is enabling them to do so in a safe and supportive environment.

I will be looking for more examples of how councils are actively working in the PVAW space this year to ensure local government has a voice, as well as continuing to promote the work being done.

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us on Facebook or drop me a line with a story idea at kristi@puffafish.com.au

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Opinion: New budget model helps build community's trust

By Kerrie Jordan, Darebin City Council Chief Financial Officer.

Participatory budgeting not only improves transparency, governance and builds trust; it is helping government organisations to become more responsive to local needs by genuinely engaging the communities they serve.

We believe that many of the best ideas come from the community and we must trust them to identify the projects and initiatives that are most important to them.

But the community does not connect with the traditional consultation tools and processes used to engage them. We ask them to help us formulate policies and initiatives and to provide feedback on draft budgets. We take information from them, but consideration and deliberation happens behind closed doors. The outcome that council spits out the other end, from the community’s perspective, is disconnected. Participation and trust is eroded over time as a result.

For instance, when we put our draft budget out for consultation, typically only a handful of submissions from a small cohort of highly engaged individuals are received. It would be fair to say the community’s response is underwhelming and the views presented to councillors to consider represent very narrow interests – both problems are shared across the sector.

It is clear traditional consultation and engagement practices are failing on several fronts.

So what is the solution?

While it is early days in Australia, examples from overseas demonstrate that participatory budgeting can act as circuit breaker to these issues.

It is one thing to involve the community in the development of plans, but there is no better and more meaningful way to encourage people to have a direct role in making decisions about the things that affect their lives than to engage them through a deliberative democracy process like participatory budgeting.

That is why Darebin City Council established an infrastructure fund and made a commitment to consult with the community through participatory budgeting to determine what this fund would be used for.

Council appointed a citizens’ jury of 36 local residents to recommend how $2 million of the council’s budget should be spent over two financial years. Councillors determined to accept all or none of the jury’s recommendations.

Jury members were randomly selected by an independent organisation whilst ensuring they reflected the local demographics.

To provide context, armed with council plans and information about services, they attended a number of facilitated workshop sessions. We then asked for their ideas to make Darebin an even better place to live and together they deliberated over which projects to support before presenting them to councillors.

Councillors approved the eight infrastructure developments recommended by the jury. They focused on supporting disadvantaged areas of the community, including allocating funds for a new neighbourhood house and new sport and recreational facilities.

Journalist Michael Green wrote an article about Melbourne City Council’s participatory initiative in which 43 residents were asked to help shape their $5 billion, 10-year financial plan titled Citizen Watch. Published in The Age on 23 December 2014, he surmised that citizens’ juries ‘are another kind of representational democracy, one that steers policy making away from the entrenched positions of political parties, lobbyists and squeaky wheels, and towards the considered voices of ordinary, well-informed citizens’.

This view is shared by the City of New York, which believes the approach helps to ‘prevent the usual suspects or groups with more resources from dominating, and to generate spending decisions that are fairer and better reflect the entire community’s needs’.

Finally, the World Bank said in a report on participatory budgeting that ‘public representatives are expected to demand that budget allocations be based on important community considerations, rather than any individual interest. The influence of broadly based local groups on the city councils seem to be reducing the hold of a few powerful people that generally prevails in public administration’.

Participatory budgeting does exactly this and the concept has wide application, from the development of a long-term strategic plan, establishing service standards or allocating funds to projects, the list goes on.

The process is complete and money has been allocated. Our example shows that participatory budgeting is a gateway to greater civic participation and leadership in our community that encourages collaboration and creative solutions to local needs.

It is grassroots democracy at its best. It helps make budget decisions clear and accessible. It gives real power to people who have never before been involved in the politics.

It improved governance and transparency and has helped to build community trust. But most importantly, participatory budgeting helped ensure that we spend ratepayers’ money on the things that matter most to the community.

For more information visit darebin.vic.gov.au/Your-Council/How-council-works/Council-Initiatives.

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Sector Connector – Unknowable outcomes and the never ending story

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

An example of rhetoric getting the better of a worthy cause is the idea that innovation can be the heart, soul and fabric of an organisation.

With so many synonyms to choose from, it’s easy to fudge the idea. We can talk about novelty, being inventive, responding to change in new and original ways, or about improvement, doing things better and more effectively, and calling on the best of us to be problem solving trailblazers

But I go with the scientists and sociologists, who distinguish innovation from incrementalism and invention by what it does to the human experience. If it doesn’t change how we think and feel, or the fabric of how we relate to each other, it’s probably not an innovation.

Of course we value the idea highly, expecting innovation to lead to improvement. But that’s not necessarily so.

The inaugural nuclear bombs last century were innovative but didn’t improve much, nor stop wars – just one of them – but in short time did transform humanity’s view of itself. Before then only God could destroy us all; afterward we knew we could do it ourselves. That’s what I call an innovation.

The internet is another example, though this story isn’t over yet.

Originally invented to improve communication between research scientists, in a couple of generations it transformed how humans learn, form opinions and conduct their lives. At last count, just under three billion people frequently or occasionally use the internet* – that’s around 42 per cent of everyone alive on Earth, plus the crew on the International Space Station.

We don’t know yet if this will improve life on or off world, and probably won’t for another generation. A key feature of innovation is that its nature is unknowable until part and parcel of culture.

Being innovative is to mix together original, diverse and disparate ideas to create a new idea. Not a better, newer or more effective one, but something we have not experienced before. To do that, you need to get out there and learn from the unfamiliar, not benchmark.

So, can organisations judged by how well they represent and regulate really innovate? Government workplace environments could be great feeding grounds for innovation with such a diversity of knowledge and intent, but structural self preservation gets in the way.

Don’t get me wrong. Our colleagues in areas called innovation do valuable work. They help us question, learn, improve and adapt. But let’s call a spade a spade. With continuous improvement, best practice, process engineering and the like passé, the corporate language makers have simply updated the lingo.

My plea is to be able to use the word and talk about innovation with the meaning the English language originally intended. What other word am I going to use?

Please don’t take our word away!

* www.statista.com

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Ararat winning the fat fight

The show is over and the circus has long left town, but Ararat Rural City Council and its residents are determined to leverage off reality TV drama The Biggest Loser and make sure its fat label never returns.

Since The Biggest Loser put Ararat on the map last year, first for being the fattest town in Australia, and then as a winner in the reality weight loss game, council has been driving Ararat Active City, a strategy to keep the town fit.

The Biggest Loser producer, Shine Australia, first approached Ararat Rural City Council in late 2012.

Director Corporate Strategy Risk & Governance Colleen White said it was a bit of a shock to hear Ararat was the fattest town in Australia.

“It was certainly a little out of the box to be approached by a TV producer wanting to focus an entire show on our town,” Ms White said.

“At the time, we were lucky to have a council willing to have those conversations and explore what it could mean for our community.

“We decided to take it as a positive challenge, rather than derogatory.”

Filming took place over six months in 2013 with 14 contestants from Ararat being flown to Sydney to compete for the prestigious title of The Biggest Loser, which aired in the first half of 2014.

Back home, Ararat residents also jumped on board The Biggest Loser train to turn their backyard from fattest town to fittest town.

“While the show was being filmed there was an amazing sense of community, which was all positive,” Ms White said.

“It was no longer just about the people on the show.

“There were great stories coming from across our municipality ranging from strangers coming together to walk around local ovals through to 20km mountain walks on a weekend.

“It was very organic with the motivation being to come together in a healthy environment.”

Also back in town, away from the cameras, celebrity trainer Michelle Bridges held mass workout classes with the locals.

“This really was the start of Ararat Active City, where we were trying to think of ways that we could leverage off being on TV and make it a long-term legacy for the community, and be seen as a leader rather than the fattest town,” Ms White said.

Ararat Active City is built around the Council Plan and its pillars – Our Community, Our Lifestyle, Our Economy and Our Environment.

“It is about promoting strategic activities and why they are there,” Ms White said.

After The Biggest Loser aired, council participated in the annual Regional Living Expo where the finalists went as ambassadors.

“The Ararat Active City stand and banners stood out as we promoted our active community as being a great place to live,” Ms White said.

“Other organisations have also jumped on the exercise trail and businesses report decreases in lost days due to their focus on health and wellbeing for their staff.”

Activity-based infrastructure at local parks and gardens have been created in outer small townships of Ararat. Two outdoor exercise equipment stations have been installed at Alexandra Gardens through a partnership between council, Victorian Government and the Ararat Lions Club.

“We see people regularly posting maps of their walks that includes a trip from home around the lake a few times and back home again,” Ms White said.

“The small town exercise equipment installations are also being used by new walking groups and for physiotherapy.”

Council is currently seeking funding to further invest in preventative health in its region.

Mayor Paul Hooper said unless council gets the full attention of government, it will lose momentum.

“This kind of behaviour intervention requires leadership from all levels of government to be sustained,” he said.

“Preventative health must be a long-term investment.

“What we’ve done is change decades of culture in 18 short months.

“Our community has gone from the bottom to the top quartile in terms of obesity in this state.”

Being a small rural shire that is already providing around 250-odd services, Ararat needs financial funding to continue providing its community with the support it needs to stay active and demonstrate to other rural communities that it can be done.

“We’ll provide the enthusiasm and can-do, we hope the state government can provide the funds.”

Ararat Rural City Council was named a finalist in the Heart Foundation 2014 Local Government Awards where it received a Highly Commended award in the councils with a population of 15,000 or less. Council was also named a finalist in the 2014 Victorian Health Promotion Foundation Awards in the Encouraging Physical Activity category.

Ararat Active8

More than $140,000 was raised for Ararat through weight loss challenges taken on by the contestants and the community during filming of The Biggest Loser.

The money is in trust for the community and is overseen by the Kitty Committee, which comprises representatives from Ararat Rural City Council, Healthy Together Grampians Goldfields, East Grampians Health Services and four Biggest Loser contestants. The committee finds ways to spend the cash to benefit the whole community and work towards a sustained legacy.

A major initiative to come out of the Kitty Committee is Ararat Active8 Ararat’s own, Biggest Loser-inspired, weight loss competition.

Last year, a group of eight residents were matched up with a Biggest Loser contestant mentor, and a personal trainer. Over three months, they received twice weekly training sessions and a gym membership.

Active8 was celebrated by a gala event that included a makeover, but no public weigh in.

Plans for Ararat Active8 2015 are underway with participants from last year’s program putting their hand up to mentor someone this year.

“This is the knock-on effect that is making a difference,” Director Corporate Strategy Risk & Governance Colleen White said.

“People who have had some assistance to make positive changes want to ‘pay it forward’.

“The community has created a supportive environment for anyone wanting to make a start on improving their health and wellbeing.”

Pebble challenge

While the Biggest Loser contestants were slugging it out each day at their Sydney headquarters, 500 Ararat locals were right behind them, recording their every step with a special pebble device.

Over 11 weeks, the registered participants of the pebble challenge clocked up 235 million steps - the equivalent of walking around the world four times.

At the end of the pebble challenge, Ararat had recorded an 87 per cent change in hypertension, 70 per cent reduction in type 2 diabetes, and stroke risk indicators had halved.

A further 500 pebbles were later sponsored by the Healthy Together Grampians Goldfields Initiative, which Ararat Rural City Council is a partner in, for a second challenge. The total number of registered participants in the pebble program is currently around 1,200.

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Brimbank turns the lights on Sunshine

Summer in Brimbank was filled with free family-friendly events as part of the Light Up Sunshine initiative designed to invigorate the town centre.

Movie nights were held in the park, live music was performed at Sunshine Train Station, and lighting upgrades were made, all in an effort to make Sunshine a more vibrant, and safer, place to visit.

“Sunshine is emerging as one of Melbourne’s great centres and council has an important role to play in creating a vibrant, safe and clean town centre that residents and visitors enjoy both day and night,” Chair of Administrators John Watson said.

“Light Up Sunshine includes a range of fun activities at no charge to improve the vibrancy of the town centre, attract visitors and address perceptions around community safety.”

The range of activities, activation events and amenity improvements are designed to encourage visitors into the town centre.

Director Community Wellbeing Neil Whiteside said Sunshine was not traditionally a night-time venue.

“There is an amazing array of restaurants and cultures in Sunshine, which brings a great opportunity for the town centre to expand the economy at night time,” he said.

“Part of the activation program was to look at running events that would bring people into the town centre and show them that it is open for business.

“Over the summer, awareness certainly built up with around 150 people attending each free movie in the park event.”

To deliver the Light Up Sunshine initiative, council works closely with the Sunshine Business Association.

“Most importantly Light Up Sunshine will engage and involve local businesses in delivering events that will encourage residents and visitors into Sunshine, and more broadly in the ongoing transformation of the Sunshine Town Centre,” Mr Watson said.

“Sunshine already has a wonderful program of events: fortnightly street markets and annual events including the Sunshine Film Festival, the Sunshine Lantern Festival and participation in the Melbourne International Food Festival.

“These events are putting Sunshine on the map, helping to change outdated perceptions and showcasing what makes the town centre such a wonderful place to be.”

Brimbank City Council and the Sunshine Business Association received $10,000 each from the Department of Justice to improve lighting in the area.

Director City Development Stuart Menzies said council and the business association focused on footpath areas around its traditional strip-shopping precinct in the town centre.

“The grants allowed us to support additional under awning lights,” Mr Menzies said.

“The local businesses are a mix of individual shop owners and tenants so we were able to make it easy for them by not just paying for the lights but also by doing all of the coordination that came with it like liaising with power companies and electricians.

“If it was just one shop putting in under awning lights, the effect wouldn't have a big impact, but by coordinating the whole strip, the area is now inviting and it is perceived to be safe to walk around at night.”

Along with more events, the next phase of Light Up Sunshine will include more practical lighting like sensors so people can see and be seen.

“At the moment the focus is on safety and improving perceptions, but the project is expected to grow from a community safety matter to creating a lively, bright and ambient environment that people want to be in at night,” Mr Menzies said.

Council and the business association also gave presentations to local traders around improving their own lighting within their shop, café or restaurant.

“We provided advice on how improving their lighting inside could improve the light outside, which has two benefits – it promotes their business while spilling out into the street to improve the amenity of the area,” Mr Menzies said.

Once the practical lighting is complete, Brimbank will look at introducing artistic uses of light, on public art and interesting buildings, to create an ambient atmosphere that will truly see Sunshine light up.

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From research, agriculture grows

Southern Grampians farmers and growers can breathe a sigh of relief after a council study revealed climate change could actually create more agricultural opportunities, with most crop types suitable for the region.

A study done by Southern Grampians Shire Council showed traditional crops like wheat, canola, flaxseed and phalaris are unlikely to be adversely affected by altering conditions caused by climate change. It also showed new crops like Asian greens, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and onion may become more prominent when the region warms up.

A Victorian Adaptation and Sustainability Partnership grant funded the 12-month council-led research project, and Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority provided in-kind support.

Southern Grampians Chief Executive Officer Richard Perry said the project aimed to encourage productive use, and diversification, of the shire’s land in an effort to explore the long-term capabilities of its largest employer – agriculture.

“One of the main drivers of the land-use project was climate change, and how altered conditions for agriculture would impact on the sector, which generates about over half of our Gross Regional Product,” he said.

Agriculture is one of several industry sectors within the Southern Grampians that has growth potential and the capacity to generate flow-on effects to other parts of the economy.

“With this study, we wanted to look at agriculture productivity generally, and how our 150-year history as an agriculture district with limited diversity and livestock grazing, would adapt to climate change,” Mr Perry said.

“This study gave us the chance to look at diversity in crops and how suitable they would be in a climate change scenario.”

The research set out to develop land and climate data such as soil, water, topography and climate. Using this data, a series of maps were produced showing land use suitability across the shire under current and future climatic conditions.

Council chose three categories – cropping, pastures and vegetables – to model and map. Within the cropping and pastures categories, wheat, canola, flaxseed, phalaris and perennial ryegrass commodities were selected.

Southern Grampians’ commitment to supporting population growth, while also promoting diversification and innovation within the agricultural sector, saw three vegetable commodities selected – brassica oleracea, which includes Asian greens, cabbage, broccoli, along with onions and lettuce.

“It was hoped that by gaining an understanding of the long-term potential for the crops currently grown (wheat, canola, flaxseed, phalaris and perennial ryegrass), that valuable information would be provided to primary producers and the agricultural service industry, which allowed for any mitigation against the risk of the climate change impacts,” Mr Perry said.

Deakin University undertook data collection on the soil types of the Southern Grampians region, topography and water. It also identified five climatic variables as the main drivers of agriculture development and its associated land uses including maximum, mean and minimum temperatures, rainfall and solar radiation.

The research found high levels of suitability for most crop types in the Southern Grampians.

“It is a heartening fact that we looked at some crops where suitability actually increases with climate change, and even as the region warms up crop suitability will be maintained or increased,” Mr Perry said.

“We are hopeful that this project will give confidence to our rural producers and future investors considering adapting their farming practices.”

“This report makes it clear that Southern Grampians (together with the South West of Victoria) has conditions to be a significant player in ensuring that the envisaged growth potential in agriculture can be realised.”

The information collected during this project will be used to establish a public Geographic Information System for the region. Soil layers, topography and climate will be made publicly available to assist local primary producers, and also investors.

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Technology: Collaborating better in the cloud

MAV is driving the development of a new, innovative platform for councils to achieve greater productivity, cost savings and more effective community engagement through better collaboration.

Through consultation with councils and project partner Telstra, MAV is exploring the viability of a Local Government Enablement Platform – a sector-wide platform to enable councils to share information, processes and services more efficiently.

MAV Technology Executive Officer Lisa Bennetto said a proof of concept exercise was underway to benchmark the benefits of the platform through the delivery of five pilot projects focused around internet services, email gateway and failover services, collaborative data storage, boundary and edge security, and shared applications.

“Going to cloud services is something all councils are doing in some capacity,” Ms Bennetto said.

“We’re hoping that by creating an environment that will enable councils to work better together, we will eventually be able to address disparity of data standards and processes, reduce duplication and enable shared services across all 79 councils.

“It will also allow local government to leverage the power of operating as a sector when negotiating with service providers and other levels of government.”

The Local Government Enablement Platform could be part of the solution to a number of significant challenges facing the sector, including funding reductions due to state and federal government cutbacks, rising community expectations, the need to do more with less, and the anticipated loss of skills and knowledge over the next five years.

“Technology has been identified as a key enabler to improving service delivery efficiency, reducing costs and increasing collaboration and innovation across the sector,” Ms Bennetto said.

Over the next few months, consultation with councils participating in the proof of concept will shape and define the five pilot projects.

“From about mid-year, the six-month proof of concept will commence, with independent benchmarking occurring before and after the pilot projects to measure improvements and identify further opportunities,” Ms Bennetto said.

The proof of concept has attracted interest from almost one-third of councils.

“There are some who are unable to participate at this time but who are expressing a keen interest in the outcomes, and in participating further down the track,” Ms Bennetto said.

“We understand that councils will need time to transition to the platform.

“That is why we have selected an industry partner to develop a solution that is highly flexible, so councils can try as many or as few of the services offered as they wish; and at their own pace.”

The partnership was established with Telstra following a tender in late 2013. Its role is to work with the MAV to establish the best framework for local government to access cloud services, without compromising competition from ICT service providers, and maximising buying power and collaboration opportunities for local government.

“It is quite specifically not a locked-in solution,” Ms Bennetto said.

“Once the platform is established, councils will be able to use any carrier they choose to connect to it.

“They will also be able to connect to cloud services from competitive providers, as well as to other levels of government.

“The platform will not compete with cloud service providers, rather it will enable councils to work with the service provider of their choice in a more consistent and efficient way.

“It could fundamentally change the way councils do business and potentially lead to more competitive pricing, less risk, less duplication and greater capacity to leverage collective skills across the sector.

“This is going to be an ongoing process and we are currently establishing a range of reference groups that will draw on council officer expertise and experience to help guide our progress. There are other levels of government watching what we are doing with great interest.”

For more information contact:

MAV Manager Commercial Services
Cameron Spence
T: 9667 5554
E: cspence@mav.asn.au

MAV Technology Executive Officer
Lisa Bennetto
T: 9667 5509
E: LBennetto@mav.asn.au

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Boroondara’s innovation revolution

Boroondara City Council is allowing the creative minds of its own staff to drive innovation that will lead to a positive culture and better customer service.

A number of initiatives from innovation@boroondara, a three-year program aimed at improving efficiency, lifting service levels and motivating staff, have proven successful.

Innovation Projects Facilitator Dragana Lolic said innovation@boroondara had allowed established processes and systems to translate great ideas into tangible programs, services and tools.

“Innovation at Boroondara is about going back to basics and looking at why we do the things we do and how we can improve the customer experience of our residents,” she said.

Among the successful initiatives launched in the past two years is an internal online ideas portal, an interactive tool that allows staff to put forward ideas for others to provide comment.

The ideas can be uploaded to the portal at any time and Boroondara’s innovation committee meets every six weeks to assess each idea.

“The assessment is based on the idea’s viability for prototyping,” Ms Lolic said.

“Project teams are then created from volunteers and the idea is trialed and evaluated.”

During 2013-14, more than 70 per cent of the 80 ideas generated by staff have been developed by small teams and created into pilot prototypes.

Examples of some of the projects instigated by innovative thinking include Boroondara’s libraries lending e-readers.

Ms Lolic said the idea came from a librarian who was aware that some residents wanted to give their parents e-readers but were unsure if they would like them.

“Once the idea was approved to proceed to the pilot stage, the innovation team worked with the libraries to make it happen,” she said.

“It is the role of the innovation team to build capacity and support staff in developing their ideas.”

Loaning e-readers gives the community a chance to ‘try before they buy’ and comes with an instruction book, accessories and preloaded e-books.

Another pilot project developed by Boroondara’s Library Service is Stories to Tell, which brings together young and elderly generations through timeless children’s books.

“This project looks at capturing stories that older residents read as children, and sharing them with younger generations,” Ms Lolic said.

Council promoted the idea to the community via a questionnaire and invitation to participate in sharing their favourite childhood books and expectations were exceeded.

“Expectations were exceeded four-fold where almost 50 people took part and completed the questionnaire, which serves the greater purpose of connecting generations,” Ms Lolic said.

Other Boroondara staff ideas now being implemented include a business-sized card listing relevant phone number for council and other local services.

This idea was proposed by a Home and Community Care support worker who travels across the municipality as part of his work.

“This information card makes contacting relevant Boroondara staff about issues like damaged signage or roads, much easier,” Ms Lolic said.

One of the more unique ideas approved by council to pilot was bring a dog to work.

Ms Lolic said the small group of volunteers from across the organisation took seven months to research all OHS and local laws requirements.

“Once this project was given the green light, a three-month trial was held where every second Friday the community planning and development team, which was the pilot department, could bring a dog to work to the spend the day,” Ms Lolic said.

The trial was completed in December, and the project team is now evaluating the project.

The innovation revolution occurring at Boroondara is the brainchild of CEO Phil Storer.

“We now have a framework in place where staff can contribute their ideas and the best can be developed, prototyped, evaluated and delivered.”

“It has been important to encourage staff to recognise the potential in themselves to make a difference, to see that this is valued and to be comfortable with the prospect of the occasional failure.”

In addition to the online ideas portal, staff can contribute and discuss ideas through informal innovation conversations over lunch with the CEO, innovation tournaments, and innovation challenges where staff from across the whole organisation are invited to brainstorm ideas on a specific topic.

“There’s a real drive within the organisation to think about how we can create better value and better service for our community, through innovation,” Mr Storer said.

“One of the most valuable outcomes is the connection between staff across council.

“Some of the ideas we’re currently working on just couldn’t come about if individual staff and departments weren’t breaking down some of the barriers to collaboration.

“Thanks to the early success of our innovation program, we’re achieving strong staff engagement across the organisation, while improving efficiency and service for our community.”

Staff Innovation Tournament

Boroondara’s first Staff Innovation Tournament attracted 55 staff that participated in a two-hour session dedicated to generating innovative ideas that would enhance and simplify collaboration across council. With the guidance of an external facilitator, staff teams created 60 ideas and pitched 11 to the group using props, dance moves and re-enactments. These were voted on and the most popular were selected to be developed into prototypes.

Most of the ideas presented focused on getting to know other people within council and better understanding what they do to make collaborating easier.

Top 3 ideas:

Work for a different department for a day.
Council has developed an annual calendar where staff can work in a different department for a day. Each department has developed a process for visiting staff – what they will do, what they will see and who they will meet.

Pop up café
The pop up café moves around council and comes with rules:

  • No sitting down
  • No leaving the area until you have finished your drink/food
  • Talk to others – get to know the person as well as what they do.

Quicklinks
An online interactive questionnaire directing staff to resources or contacts using key words. It features staff profiles, areas of expertise and a section that lists projects that staff are interested in.

This year, Boroondara plans to involve the community in a second Innovation Tournament.

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Training ground for zero bullies

Manningham City Councillor Michelle Kleinert has joined Bully Zero Australia Foundation to provide bullying workplace training for councils.

A chance meeting with Bully Zero Australia Foundation CEO, Moreland City Councillor Oscar Yildiz, and Cr Kleinert uncovered a mutual passion to prevent all types of violence and bullying.

Actively involved with anti street violence movement, Stop. One Punch Can Kill, and a qualified trainer and workplace facilitator, Cr Kleinert is keen to deliver the message to councils that workplace bullying is simply unacceptable.

“I have a zero tolerance when it comes to any form of violence, and violence starts with bullying,” she said.

“The opportunity to work with Bully Zero Australia Foundation is in line with so many of my personal morals and ethics, but it is also about getting a better understanding of the issue and why so many people bully others and don’t realise it, or do realise but no one has ever said that it is wrong.”

The once-off training sessions for councils will explain what bullying is and the laws.

“People need to understand it is a criminal offence for up to 10 years in jail for bullying,” Cr Kleinert said.

“There is bullying in local government, in all forms of government and just because we wear a title, it does not make it okay.”

Cr Kleinert will deliver the sessions with sincerity and understanding, having spent years educating herself and making changes to the way she communicates when required.

“Once you understand what bullying is and how it affects people, you can change your behaviour,” she said.

“When you work in an environment like local government and you want to be heard, to persuade, and you want people to hear you, you need to be able to find ethical ways to achieve this.

“You need to get that balance, and to do that you need education and development.”

Cr Kleinert is currently volunteering her time with Bully Zero Australia Foundation to get a complete picture of the organisation, its goals and how it plans to achieve a zero bully Australia.

“The damage bullying does internally to someone is not really tangible, but in that damage, there is a cost to living a healthy lifestyle and to the economy,” Cr Kleinert said.

“Many people work in local government because they want to give back, and this gets undone if behaviours turn towards bullying rather than persuading and being influential.

“I am certainly no bully but I went and sought help to grow and know who I am and took on the education so my actions don’t ever become bullying.

“I would like to see all councils open their doors, take ownership that bullying does occur in local government, and encourage their councillors and officers to attend training with an open heart and mind, and ask the question ‘have I bullied?’

“It may open an uncomfortable conversation but there is nothing right about bullying.”

The training sessions are tailored and can be held over a half or full day. Examples of other topics that can be covered include the impact of bullying on employees; legal responsibilities of managers, employers and employees; developing a bullying policy; and how to respond to and manage bullying incidents.

* Stop. Once Punch Can Kill formed after the tragic death of David Cassai on New Year’s Eve 2012 from a senseless, unprovoked violent attack caused by a ferocious one punch.

National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence Friday 20 March 2015.

Did you know?

Bullying in the workplace is a criminal offence, punishable by up to 10 years in ail or a hefty fine.

The Crimes Amendment (Bullying) Bill was passed in June 2011, amending Section 21A of the Crimes Act 1958 to extend the existing crime of stalking to criminalise workplace and cyber bullying.

The law was developed in response to the suicide of Brodie Panlock, a 19 year-old Hawthorn waitress who was regularly and relentlessly bullied by a number of her co-workers.

At sentencing, the cafe owner and three males were fined a total of $335,000.

Ms Panlock’s parents called for laws to be changed that carried jail terms. The Crimes Amendment (Bullying) Bill is also known as Brodie’s Law.

What IS bullying

There is a long list of bullying behaviours, here’s a few:

  • Unjustified criticism or complaints
  • Threats to sack or demote
  • Withholding information or tools required to perform role
  • Making fun of an employee’s family, sex, sexuality, gender identity, race, culture, education or economic background
  • Deliberately changing work hours or schedule to make it difficult for an employee.

What IS NOT bullying

These actions in the workplace are not bullying:

  • Occasional differences of opinion and non-aggressive conflicts
  • Dissatisfaction or grievances with organisational and management practices
  • Managing under performance and other actions in accordance with policies and procedures
  • Transferring an employee to another area with reason
  • Deciding not to select an employee for promotion.

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School time for new recruits

Boroondara City Council’s successful gottago campaign has seen a record number of new school crossing supervisors recruited.

The campaign started in 2013 by engaging with the community and building awareness around the role of school crossing supervisors.

Since then, 26 new school crossing supervisors have been recruited, many after a marketing campaign that commenced late last year.

As part of the gottago campaign, Boroondara produced a series of videos promoting the school crossing supervisor role as a great way for people to contribute and connect with the community.

The campaign was launched at the Boroondara moonlight cinema series in December to target a mix of young people, mums and dads, and older audiences.

The videos were aired throughout the summer at local cinemas and on digital displays, and will continue to be promoted on council’s social media channels.

To reinforce the marketing campaign, media interest supported council’s recruitment effort with coverage across TV, radio and print.

Boroondara Manager Local Laws Michael Somerville said the initial goal was to attract a higher level of interest from potential crossing supervisors with the view to maximise recruitment numbers.

“We are working towards filling the 110 crossings that need to be serviced and 26 new recruits is an excellent result,” he said.

During the engagement phase, council discovered that a lack of understanding of school crossing supervisors’ role within the community, and the structure of having to work both mornings and afternoons, restricted many people from considering the role.

“We reviewed the structure of working hours to introduce more flexible working options to accommodate those who may not be able to commit to working mornings and afternoons,” Mr Somerville said.

“Given the strong response to the coverage of the issue in the media and promotion of the engagement opportunities, it also seems that low awareness may have been a contributing factor and that traditional recruitment methods were not effective in raising high levels of awareness.

“Young people and mums in particular responded positively to seeing themselves portrayed in the advertising of the role, and to the messaging promoting the value of the role in the community, increasing their interest and response to the campaign.”

While 26 new recruits is a great result, council lost 15 school crossing supervisors through retirement.

“Boroondara’s school crossing workforce is ageing, and with many close to retirement there was even greater impetus or need for proactive recruitment marketing activity to address a forecasted drop in numbers,” Mr Somerville said.

Council will support staff with refresher training, provision of appropriate equipment and uniforms, and maintaining effective communication through regular group meetings, supervisor visits and mail outs.

The videos and supporting print material have been adapted so other councils can benefit and use them in their own local communications.

View the videos at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLtBouzkucGGKan8xJVwHArpOYw-xObZm4

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Halls Gap to host rural summit

Northern Grampians Shire Council will host this year’s Rural Councils Victoria Rural Summit in Halls Gap from 15 to 17 April.

The theme, Standing out from the flock: is difference the key to success in rural communities? will address local government and rural community issues through a range of speakers and workshops.

This year’s focus is on harnessing entrepreneurialism and innovation, building momentum for a youth-led rural renaissance and celebrating diversity.

Innovators and thought leaders on the program include former Mayor of Christchurch City (New Zealand) Sir Bob Parker; SBS personality, Tasmanian ‘gourmet farmer’ and local food advocate Matthew Evans; and entrepreneur Naomi Simpson who founded Red Balloon.

The Rural Summit, expected to attract 150 delegates from across the state, will also showcase projects and approaches taken by rural councils which align with the theme.

Tickets are $290 per person for the first three, and $190 per person for any additional representatives from the same organisation.

The 2015 Rural Summit will be held at the Halls Gap Hub, 117 Grampians Road, Halls Gap.

The full program and booking information is available at http://www.ruralcouncilsvictoria.org.au/events-and-training/

The Rural Summit is proudly supported by Rural Councils Victoria with funding from the Victorian Government’s $3.3 million Networked Rural Councils program.

2015 Rural Summit
15-17 April
Halls Gap

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Workplace solutions to a society issue

Since the introduction of a family violence clause into its Enterprise Agreement (EA) in 2011, about 15 Whittlesea City Council employees have accessed the paid leave it provides to attend court appointments, seek counselling or attend other medical appointments.

Whittlesea was one of Victoria’s first councils to introduce a groundbreaking family violence clause, which is now included in about 60 per cent of councils’ EAs.

At Whittlesea, the clause provides for up to 20 days of paid leave, and underpins council’s policy around family violence, which is used to raise awareness and support staff.

Whittlesea Team Leader Employee Relations Anne McLeish said the rate of family violence in the municipality was high, with around 1,316 reported per 100,000 people.

“Around 45 incidents of family violence are reported to Victoria Police from our municipality every week,” she said.

“More than half of our workforce lives in the municipality, and therefore it is highly likely that there are people affected by family violence coming to work at council.”

Council’s family violence policy seeks to increase the safety of women experiencing violence and support them in the workplace.

“The EA clause provides for time off, but there are other things that can be done like changing the staff member’s work hours, or even the person’s office location if the perpetrator knows where they work.

“It is about creating a safe environment, so this could also mean changing a telephone number or work email address if the staff member is being harassed.”

Family violence training has been provided to managers and 16 family violence contact officers are in place as the first point of contact.

“These contact officers have done training and are equipped with information about external services and how to access policy entitlements,” Ms McLeish said.

“Family violence is not just a workplace issue, it is a whole of community issue and it is our job to support staff in the workplace.”

The contact officers and the support they provide are promoted through internal channels like newsletters and the intranet and team meetings.

Two deaths per week

On Monday 16 February, University of Adelaide academic Dr Ainur Ismagul was found dead in her Klemzig home. Her husband, 53-year-old Serik Eliby, also an academic, was arrested and charged with her murder. Ainur’s tragic death, caused by domestic violence, has brought this year’s toll to 14. That is two per week, doubling the one per week statistic we hear about. Local government must keep working to raise awareness of family violence, and prevent violence against women.

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Path of migration on the pier

A new space to meet, and a collection of migrant and refugee stories, were added to the fourth annual Piers Festival, which was supported by Port Phillip City Council.

More than 10,000 people attended the celebration of migration that was held over the Australia Day long weekend in January.

The Piers Festival brought to life the Port Melbourne piers precinct, celebrating the pivotal role it played from 1915 to 1969 in Victoria’s growth, and as a gateway to the diversity of cultures that enrich Australia’s community.

Port Phillip Councillor Bernadene Voss said the event was an important one on council’s annual calendar.

“It is important to recognise our past, and this is what the Piers Festival does so well,” she said.

“The location invokes memories of immigration and migration paths, of people settling in Australia post-war time.

“It is a brilliant showcase of our rich migrant history through music, art and history, which honours those that have shaped our community over the decades.”

A collection of stories, called What Happened at the Pier, honoured the memory of immigrants and refugees who travelled to Australia by boat through the historical entry points of Princes and Station pier in Port Melbourne. These points were used by half of the 180,000 post World War II refugees as their arrival point to Australia.

Lella Cariddi, who arrived at the Princes Pier with her family in 1955, curated this part of the program, which was presented in a range of artistic formats that activated parts of the pier.

People from a wide range of countries of origin, ethnicity, religion and language groups were invited to submit their migration stories to share on the day.

At The Landing, Turkish, Greek, Ukranian, Italian, Mauritian and Rodriguan communities offered creative and rare insights into their culture and migration history through art installations, games, craft workshops and performances.

The new, casual meeting space was designed for people to lay out a blanket, enjoy the food and meet someone new.

“The Landing was a great space for those communities not featured in the festival to represent their cultures,” Cr Voss said.

On the main stage, the headline act was a multicultural ensemble led by legendary band, Painters and Dockers, performing with artists from diverse cultural backgrounds including Timorese, Maltese, Sudanese, Burundian, and Irish.

The Piers Festival was also supported by Multicultural Arts Victoria, Arts Victoria and the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship. 

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Housing UK research

By Lisa Dooley.

Following the launch of Moreland City Council’s Affordable Housing Strategy last year, Cr Lenka Thompson saw an opportunity to contribute further by researching one of her key interests – Community Land Trusts.

As the 2014 winner of the $12,000 McArthur Local Government Fellowship grant, the opportunity to travel to the United Kingdom became a reality.

Given its similar governance structure and success with Community Land Trust (CLT) projects, England was chosen for the research tour, and Cr Thompson was able to build on close contacts already working in the field.

A fast-paced and tightly-packed schedule saw Cr Thompson visit London, Bristol, Liverpool, Brighton, Oxford, and Stretham in East Cambridgeshire between 15 July and 26 August 2014. She met with CLT managers, corporate investors, and the UK’s Local Government Association (LGA) – the MAV’s UK equivalent.

Cr Thompson also took the opportunity to attend the launch of the newly formed National CLT Network.

“Catherine Harrington heads up the CLT Network and has worked tirelessly on getting the model out there and assisting those who want to develop their own land trust. It was wonderful to meet such a woman,” she said.

A meeting in London with Senior Policy advisor for the LGA Clarissa Corbiserio and Ms Harrington gave Cr Thompson the opportunity to get an understanding of the peak body’s land trust policy, the role both organisations play in furthering the understanding of CLTs to member councils, and future actions planned for affordable housing and CLTs.

“The LGA has the membership reach while the CLT has the resources to fill that (affordable housing targets) gap which currently exists at the LGA. It looks like a perfect match to me and I most certainly look forward to its evolution,” Cr Thompson said.

Moreland defines affordable housing as ‘well located housing in relation to transport and services, where the cost of housing (whether mortgage repayment or rent) is no more than 30 per cent of the household’s income’.

A measure used by government, social services and housing researchers suggests that households who spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing costs, whether rent or mortgage, are deemed to be living under housing stress. In today’s market forces, adequate housing is becoming out of reach for lower income households.

“Addressing housing stress, homelessness, community health and supporting socio-economic growth are all valid and important benefits of CLTs,” Cr Thompson said.

“The most important thing that I observed during my research trip was the amazing community spirit and social cohesion that the CLTs fostered. The community had to get on board for it to work.”

Flexibility within the model is also essential. Across the villages, towns and cities she visited in England, Cr Thompson observed that each land trust was different.

“The governance and structure changed with each community’s plan for the land use,” she said.

“The role of local government is to source and deliver land and airspace (such as over council owned carparks) for land trust projects and to advocate for CLTs with state and federal governments for funding.”

Cr Thompson will now explore what kind of entity to use in Moreland to put projects in motion.

“Setting up a trust, its governance structure and covering all the legal requirements for delivering the CLT, essentially knowing what it will look like, is the next important step before undertaking any projects,” she said.

Cr Thompson returned from maternity leave in February, and her report will be available on the MAV website soon.

What is a Community Land Trust?

‘An organisation that provides ongoing affordable housing and other community benefits, usually set up as a private non-profit community organisation focusing on community involvement in or ownership of the organisation, and their focus on balancing the rights of the household with the rights of the broader community or society.’ Source: Australian Community Land Trust Manual 2013, University of Western Sydney Urban Research Centre.

The McArthur Local Government Fellowship is sponsored by McArthur Management Services and is awarded to a Victorian Councillor to undertake an overseas study tour on a matter of relevance to local government.

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In brief

Copenhagen to Collingwood

Yarra City Council has followed in the footsteps of Melbourne and Port Phillip to introduce Copenhagen bicycle lanes.

The first Copenhagen bicycle lanes for Yarra will be completed soon in Collingwood, providing a safer and better-connected journey for cyclists.

Wellington Street’s new Copenhagen bicycle lanes will separate cyclists from motorists, helping to make cyclists feel safer and more confident on the road.

Mayor Phillip Vlahogiannis said Yarra had the highest number of residents who cycle to work in Australia.

“This will help ease traffic pollution and congestion and promote a healthier lifestyle,” Cr Vlahogiannis said.

The lanes, to be built on Wellington Street between Gipps Street and Victoria Parade, have been allocated $940,000.

“This is a long-awaited project for many members of our community who have been involved in the proposal since 2012,” Cr Vlahogiannis said.

“This has been a difficult process given the impacts of the project on residents, businesses and organisations, especially in regards to the loss of street car parking,” he said.

Residents join Japan tour

Mildura Rural City Council has extended an invitation for residents to join its cultural exchange delegation to visit sister city Kumatori in Japan later this year.

The Kumatori Town Office will pay part of the costs for up to 10 residents, who will join two councillors and a student-teacher group from Chaffey Secondary College on the tour in October.

Mayor Glenn Milne said this was an amazing and generous offer by the Kumatori Town Office who will bear the cost of all the tours and experiences on the official itinerary.

“The residents’ part of this tour is about introducing more people to the wonderful region surrounding Kumatori and the people who make this part of the world so special,” Cr Milne said.

“The itinerary will include a range of cultural and sightseeing experiences, including the opportunity to witness the famous Danjiri Festival.”

Council entered into a formal sister city relationship with Kumatori in 2001, with educational, cultural, industrial and sporting exchanges being the basis of the relationship. Since then, reciprocal visits between Mildura and Kumatori have been held.

Bendigo considers HACC withdrawal

Greater Bendigo City Council has made a provisional decision to withdraw from providing Home and Community Care (HACC) services.

Council has based its decision on a report by Australian Strategic Services that demonstrated other organisations are capable of delivering specialist HACC services.

Mayor Peter Cox said it was important to support ageing members of the community to remain independent in their own homes.

“The increasing complexity of care, National Disability Insurance Scheme and Caring for Older Australians reform meant increasingly specialist services are required to enable this to occur,” Cr Cox said.

“The road to sustainability is not an easy one and council’s current service model is unlikely to be preferable for the future.”

Council is consulting with affected staff about the provisional decision, and all feedback will be included in a report to council to inform its final decision. It also held information sessions with the community in February.

If council resolves to withdraw from providing HACC services, a new provider will be appointed by the Victoria Government.

Geelong’s orphan memorial

A limestone seat at Geelong’s Eastern Park foreshore has been installed as a memorial for orphans.

The Reflection Seat is only one of three public memorials in Australia that is dedicated to children placed in institutionalised care.

Geelong Mayor Darryn Lyons welcomed the memorial, which serves to remember the experience of people who lived in Geelong’s 13 orphanages.

“I have a great belief that we need to acknowledge and remember our history both good and bad. This is why I welcome the installation of the Reflection Seat for people who were placed ‘in care’ in Geelong orphanages,” said Mayor Lyons.

Cr Tony Ansett said he is pleased to see the memorial in place after several years of trying to find the right location and form of remembrance.

“Our aim was to create a place for people to spend a few quiet moments to think about the past,” he said.

“The seat may become an unofficial meeting place, a place of reflection and connection for people who were placed in care in Geelong orphanages.”

The Reflection Seat was developed in consultation with Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN) and finalised in consultation with a Public Art Advisory Panel.

Other memorials are located in the NSW towns of Goulburn and Kiama.

Wyndham finds No Excuse Needed

Wyndham City Council has partnered with VicHealth to encourage young people to speak up and say ‘when’ to bring an end to the youth culture of excessive drinking.

Wyndham rates 49th in the state for the number of alcohol-related presentations to emergency departments for young people. Of the 105 Emergency Department presentations for alcohol-related conditions in Wyndham in 2012/13, 32 of these presentations were young people aged 15-24 years.

VicHealth and the State government’s No Excuse Needed campaign aims to drive change in Victoria’s alcohol culture by challenging perceived social norms around drinking.

“The No Excuse Needed campaign targets young people aged 16 to 29 and is based on a recent VicHealth study showing that young Victorians are more likely to feel positively about drunkenness than those 30 years or over,” Cr Marie Brittan said.

“The campaign shows young people that they don’t need to make up excuses to stop drinking and challenges them to question if and why they put pressure on others to drink.”

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Events

MARCH

Clyde Park 2015 Golden Plains Arts Trail

Date: 21–22 March

Venue: Golden Plains Region, Kelly Road, Bannockburn

Description: Visit usually private studios and other creative spaces to meet local artists and see exhibitions, demonstrations and workshops while exploring the towns, back lanes and diverse landscape of the Golden Plains.

Need more? www.artstrail.com.au

Macedon Ranges Cup Day

Date: 22 March

Venue: NMIT Kyneton Park, Campaspe Place, Kyneton

Description: Macedon Ranges Cup Day combines thoroughbred racing with the wonderful food and wines of the region plus a range of entertainment for adults and children.

Need more? www.countryracing.com.au

Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show

Date: 25–29 March

Venue: Golden Plains Region, Kelly Road, Bannockburn

Description: After 19 years on the state’s event calendar, this event remains the biggest annual flower and garden show in the Southern Hemisphere. This year’s show will see the creativity and passion of Australia’s top floral and landscape designers deliver stunning displays with environmental messages for gardening in this climate.

Need more? www.melbflowershow.com.au

APRIL

Boogie

Date: 3–5 April

Venue: Bruzzy’s Farm, Tallarook-Pyalong Road, Tallarook

Description: Boogie is a boutique camping festival committed to providing diversity in music, arts and food. Local and international acts will perform over three days.

Need more? www.boogie.net.au

The WW1 Centenary Exhibition

Date: 17 April–4 October

Venue: Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson Street, Carlton

Description: This once-in-a-lifetime education visitor experience about the war that changed the world is designed for all ages. View original artifacts, amazing film, rare artworks, sounds and images at this multi-sensory, collections-rich exhibition.

Need more? www.ww1exhibition.com.au

Daylesford Produce Harvest Festival

Date: 25 April–3 May

Venue: Vincent Street, Daylesford

Description: The seventh annual Daylesford Produce Harvest Festival will be a showcase of the region’s abundant food and wine and celebration of the best producers, farmers, provedores, restaurateurs and vignerons.

Need more? dmproduce.com.au

MAY

Heyfield Vintage Steam Rally

Date: 15–17 May

Venue: Gordon Street Recreation Reserve, Gordon Street, Heyfield

Description: This annual rally brings machinery of all shapes and sizes from steam engines to boilers, vintage cars, trucks, tractors, motorbikes and memorabilia together over a weekend. There’s also blacksmith demonstrations, working exhibits, stalls, a daily grand parade and tractor pull.

Need more? hdvmg@bigpond.com

St Kilda Film Festival

Date: 21–30 May

Venue: Palais Theatre, 232 Carlisle Street, East St Kilda

Description: Australia’s longest running and highest profile short film festival will inspire, challenge and entertain audiences from around Melbourne and Victoria with VIP events, forums and screenings. This curated festival screens only the Top 100 Australian short films submitted each year.

Need more? www.stkildafilmfestival.com.au

Melbourne International Jazz Festival

Date: 29 May–7 June

Venue: Various, Swanston Street, Melbourne

Description: : Over 10 days, this festival will bring the world’s modern masters of jazz to Australia, with a thrilling program of big-name artists, straight-ahead jazz, genre-bending crossovers, blistering instrumentalists and soulful singers, alongside the best Australian artists.

Need more? www.melbournejazz.com.au

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Taking the LEAD on addressing racism

The landmark Localities Embracing and Accepting Diversity (LEAD) program was a four-year trial of a new approach to preventing race-based discrimination. Funded and led by VicHealth in partnership with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, the MAV and The University of Melbourne, the trial was focused on Whittlesea and Greater Shepparton city councils. The Australian Government Department of Social Services, the Lowitja Institute and beyondblue also provided co-funding.

The final report has recently been released. In this article, VicHealth provides a thorough wrap-up of the LEAD project.

Victoria has a long history of multiculturalism and for the most part Victorians are pretty accepting of diversity. But unfortunately, prejudice, race-based discrimination and intolerance remain all too common in the community, resulting in negative health impacts for those affected.

Racism can affect health in many ways, including reduced access to education and employment, reduced self-esteem, increased stress, drug and alcohol use and self-harm, reduced social support, and detrimental effects on cultural identity. It can harm a person’s physical and mental health as well. People who are targets of racial discrimination are particularly vulnerable to developing anxiety and depression, and they are more likely to turn to cigarettes, alcohol and junk food to cope with the stress. People who use unhealthy coping methods are more likely to be obese, have high blood pressure and develop other health problems, such as stroke and heart disease. For this reason, reducing race based-discrimination and supporting acceptance of cultural diversity have been among an important part of VicHealth’s work.

In 2009, VicHealth established the Localities Embracing and Accepting Diversity (LEAD) pilot program, which developed and tested solutions for reducing race-based discrimination and promoting cultural diversity in two Victorian municipalities – Greater Shepparton and the City of Whittlesea.

Local government, as the tier of government closest to the community, is key in preventing racism before it occurs and promoting social cohesion. By taking part in the four-year LEAD program, the two councils have contributed to new evidence and practical tools that other councils and organisations can use in their existing work to address racism in their communities.

For example, the Greater Shepparton City Council now has a dedicated multi-faith prayer room in its offices, recognition of the region’s traditional Aboriginal owners in its foyer, a new multicultural food festival on its streets, and had a See Beyond Racism campaign on its airwaves.

Theses are just some of the outward signs of change in this regional Victorian council which is home to a significant proportion of Aboriginal people and newly arrived migrants and refugees.

Much more can be seen behind the scenes including Enterprise Bargaining Agreements that now provide opportunities for employees to observe days of cultural or ceremonial significance, all new staff undergoing mandatory training about discrimination, and programs are underway to recruit more people from diverse communities onto council and among staff.

Whittlesea City Council has also implemented a similar overlay of initiatives, following the participation of both councils in a unique and intensive program to combat race-based discrimination in Victoria.

LEAD was seen as the first program of its kind in Australia to bring together such a range of partners and to focus on councils being both places and the agents for change.

Also leading the way was the program’s focus on both research and action. It sought to draw out and build on rigorous evidence about the impact of racism on health, particularly rates of anxiety and depression, and to develop and evaluate practical tools and strategies to address race-based discrimination.

For both councils, one of the best resources of the LEAD program was a Racial Diversity Workplace Assessment Tool that helped them develop high-level action plans to assess and, where appropriate, improve organisational practice.

Lead researcher in the development of the Workplace Assessment Tool, Professor Yin Paradies, said the tool collects important information about current policy and practice from a variety of sources, including organisational documents, discussion or formal interviews and focus groups with employees.

“Conducting a workplace assessment is a valuable part of the process as the findings and recommendations from it inform the development of an action plan,’’ Professor Paradies said.

“Many great initiatives have come out of LEAD but that was one of the most critical,” said Greater Shepparton Neighbourhoods Manager Amanda Tingay. “It really identified opportunities for us to tackle as an organisation and had executive level buy-in that said we are serious about making sure our organisation is inclusive for employees and customers.”

Whittlesea City Council Aboriginal and Cultural Diversity Team Leader Ben Waterhouse said the project is leading to the development of a council-wide anti-racism strategy, which will include ongoing projects and more systemic approaches for both preventing and responding to racial discrimination.

“Post-program surveys showed an increase in pro-diversity attitudes: we saw an increase in staff identifying policies or practices they believed negatively affected people from minority backgrounds as people became more aware of their rights in the workplace and also an increase in confidence that the organisation would do something about it.”

The need for such programs was clear from a 2010 survey of attitudes and impacts of discrimination in four local government areas including the two LEAD sites. While 78 per cent of respondents agreed diversity was an important part of Australian life, 55 per cent thought people from racial, ethnic, cultural and religious minority groups should ‘try to think and act more like other Australians’, and 58 per cent felt that some of those groups do not ‘fit’ into Australian society.

More telling for program research partner beyondblue was the study on mental health impacts of racial discrimination in Victorian Aboriginal communities, which showed that people can be just as distressed by less overt forms of racism, such as being left out or avoided, as from having their property vandalised because of their race.

“That’s informed our thinking for the Stop. Think. Respect. campaign,” said beyondblue Project Manager Dr Sarah Squire.

VicHealth Manager of Mental Wellbeing Irene Verins said LEAD research also made it clear where and when the intervention should come in reducing race-based discrimination.

“Prevention of race-based discrimination should address individual attitudes and raise community awareness about the social and economic benefits that diverse societies can experience rather than a focus on responding to harmful incidents,” she said.

“We also need to target settings in which discrimination occurs – such as education, employment and community – where it can cause particular harm to health but also where there are good prospects for prevention and promotion.”

LEAD was concentrated in the Shepparton and Whittlesea local government areas to test the impact of a ‘place based’ approach, trialling a number of tailored anti-racism strategies within the councils and across a range of settings, including schools, business and councils.

Ms Verins said it was designed around best practice in health promotion.

“This tells us that you don’t do one thing alone to address this problem. You test a range of strategies that reinforce each other and, ultimately, ‘strengthen the dose’,” she said.

As with most pilot programs, not all initiatives worked as effectively as hoped. The evaluation report recommends that anti-racism work in schools, business and sporting clubs may be better done through education authorities, employer groups and peak sporting bodies unless councils already have strong partnerships in place.

However, the evaluation findings indicate that local government is well placed to lead anti-racism and pro-diversity interventions and that the LEAD councils saw increased pro-diversity attitudes develop among staff during the course of the program.

The MAV said the pilot program had given a significant boost to the work already being done in local government on anti-racism strategies, and its findings will be presented to all of Victoria’s councils in the coming months.

It expects many councils will benefit from the training and tools developed under the program, as well as from VicHealth’s in-depth research on the health impacts of such an important social issue, as they have done previously around the prevention of violence against women.

Key findings for councils

Among a range of lessons, LEAD found that its strategies worked better when:

  • Multiple strategies were applied to fewer organisations over the longer term, rather than shallow engagement with more organisations
  • Dedicated ‘champions’ were embedded in the projects
  • Organisations already had experience in engaging with diversity
  • Senior management and executive teams were fully engaged
  • Effective internal communication meant word was spread.

Case study: Costa Group Mushroom Exchange

Having its workforce involved in the LEAD program not only won a Victorian business a national diversity award but helped smooth workplace changes and led to a more positive and harmonious workplace.

The Mushroom Exchange is a division of the Costa Group, an international fruit growing and export business. It’s the second largest business in the city of Whittlesea, with more than 63 nationalities among its 700 employees.

National HR Manager Susan Marshall said diversity is a great strength for the business, but it had led to some tensions within teams around issues of gender, age and culture.

“People can misinterpret and then get angry or frightened if they don’t understand why people react the way they do on some issues,” Ms Marshall said.

“Getting involved in the LEAD project let us break down some of the barriers between different cultures amongst our teams and let them know what they have in common, whether it’s what they need to work productively through to the food they like or sports team they barrack for.

“It opened people’s eyes to the difference between tolerance, acceptance and actually embracing diversity.”

Mushroom Exchange’s LEAD engagement ranged from Celebrating Diversity dinners and See Beyond Racism team booklets through to better communication of policy and procedures, and different ways of implementing change.

Surveys showed more staff believed the organisation was committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming work environment. Ms Marshall said that as a result, a similar program promoting diversity is being implemented across all Mushroom Exchange sites, with strong backing from the national executive.

“Our business has many people from different cultures and backgrounds, and the talent and skills you get from that is enormous,” she said. “That’s a huge benefit to our company and we want to tap into that.”

Testing team traits

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Senior Adviser Jane Lewis helped develop and deliver ‘reflexive anti-racism’ training to nearly 750 people in Greater Shepparton and Whittlesea municipalities.

The highly interactive sessions were designed not to confront people but to look at how social conditioning can affect attitudes and behaviour and to get people to ‘walk in the shoes of others’.

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with most people keen to take the training into their own work teams, to address what they began to recognise as ‘team traits’ that could lead to race-based discrimination or social exclusion.

“People were telling us: ‘I wish my whole team was here’ or ‘this needs to be across the whole organisation’. This is the start of being able to create authorising environments where corrective behaviours are the norm, not the ‘unconscious bias’,” Ms Lewis said.

Other Victorian localities are now engaging the Commission to run similar training, particularly in the context of signing up to the Australian Human Rights Commission campaign, Racism: it stops with me.

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Five minutes with … Cr Felicity Frederico, Bayside City Council

After a summer at Somers, Bayside City Council’s newly elected, sports loving Mayor, Cr Felicity Frederico, outlines her plans and goals for 2015.

Cr Frederico, you described being elected Mayor last November as having your ‘training wheels removed’. How did six years on council prepare you for the role?

I’ve had six years of observing others in the role. It’s a steep learning curve to become an effective mayor and I feel it has been an incredible advantage having the corporate memory, understanding of process and governance, knowledge of key networks, and observing what has worked, what hasn’t, and why.

What has been a personal highlight as a councillor since you were elected in 2008?

There are many!

Putting junior sport on the council radar, in particular female sport, has been a major achievement. In particular, the redevelopment of the $3 million Highett Youth Centre was one highlight.

We now have a strategic plan and have commenced upgrading our 27 ageing pavilions and resurfacing our 44 ovals. We are also midway through a strategic planning process to increase our stock of seven netball and four basketball courts.

It was a privilege to have been actively involved with our 2009/10 Community Plan. It provided an opportunity to have a genuine conversation around the needs and aspirations of our community, which then fed into our Council Plan.

I have enjoyed advocating for the Beach Road corridor strategy. This hopefully will ensure that all key stakeholders and users of Beach Road including cyclists can co-exist in a safer environment. It is imperative that we understand and manage its complex safety issues. Doing nothing is not a viable strategy, and can result in devastating consequences.

These projects have all been a genuine team effort with the community, councillors and officers aligned on the same journey. Success occurs when the right people with the right passion form the right partnerships.

What are you enjoying most about being Mayor?

Being Mayor provides a terrific opportunity to adopt a strong and focused advocacy role and network on behalf of the Bayside community. Everyone can contribute, it’s just a matter of targeting, listening, asking questions, and making people feel valued.

It’s a privilege to be able to leverage the position and the credibility to help make Bayside a better place.

What are some of the challenges council is facing?

For councils to be sustainable in the long term, we need to be resilient. This means we need to manage change ahead of change. We are particularly concerned about the pending rate-capping, declining traditional revenue sources and cost shifting resulting from policy decisions by state and federal governments which accounts for one per cent of our total budget, and has been increasing in recent years.

We are struggling to correlate the synergies between a basket of groceries (CPI) and the cost of asphalt, salaries and buildings. We strive very hard to deliver a robust and responsible budget. Seventy per cent of our revenue is derived from rates, of which 90 per cent are residential.

As we don’t have a large industrial base or hard top shopping centres, we are looking very hard at identifying alternative rates of revenue. For example last year we installed parking metres along Beach Road to try and offset the $2 million beach cleaning/maintenance bill, of which the Victorian Government contributes only around 10 per cent.

How do you describe living in Bayside to people you meet outside of your municipality?

We have 17km of uninterrupted beautiful foreshore that caters for both passive and active use.

We are a healthy and active community with significantly high rates of participation in sport and recreation. Not only do we have some of the oldest sporting clubs in the state, we also have some of the largest.

In addition, we have a high rate of volunteerism, with 41 per cent of our community volunteering on a regular basis.

Our participation rates are reflected in our energy and vitality.

Please feel free to visit and see for yourself!

When not fulfilling council commitments, what do you enjoy doing?

Like many parents, I run a complex logistics operation, ferrying my children to netball, rowing, triathlons, footy/cricket, tennis, lifesaving, basketball etc on a daily basis.

In my spare time, I stand up paddle, play midweek ladies tennis, ski and run and walk with my dog.

I am also involved with many local committees and boards.

What is your favourite holiday destination in Victoria?

For my entire life I have had the privilege of holidaying with my family down at Somers on Westernport Bay. This is a tradition I have continued with my family. You will find us down there on the water most school holidays.

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Park pops up in town centre

A pop up park in the middle of town delivered a new active space in Wangaratta over summer.

Musicians, activities and free barbecues turned a car park adjacent to Wangaratta City Council’s civic centre into a temporary public space while work was underway on the building next door.

Some milk crates covered in fake grass, beanbags and free Wi-Fi were enough for hundreds of locals to utilise the area over a two-week period before Christmas, and then another fortnight in January.

Wangaratta’s Director Community Wellbeing Jaime Carroll said it was a priority for council to activate spaces in the CBD to increase social interaction and community activity.

“Essentially, this was a concrete slab that was part of an undercover car park, but we managed to attract people who wouldn’t normally come and just hang out in the CBD,” she said.

“By creating a space where people could meet, or just chill out, we were able to really hit the mark for an incidental space in an urban environment.”

The first pop up park in December was a success with the community, prompting council to activate the space again in January.

Numbers grew by word of mouth, and in addition to entertainment and food offered pre-Christmas, council arranged a number of recreation activities.

Fitness events including morning yoga classes were held, however, most people were happy to just enjoy the comfortable, central space.

“We were surprised that the space was utilised more when there was not an organised activity taking place, especially by young people who just came to chill out in the beanbags and access the free Wi-Fi offered,” Ms Carroll said.

“The more people used the space, the more comfortable they felt to arrange to meet other people there.

“It was good for council to see it develop and encouraging that the community wanted it.”

While this location has returned to a car park, Wangaratta now has a shipping container packed and ready for the next mobile park to be installed.

“This was a great test for active spaces in the Wangaratta CBD and it was embraced by our community, meaning we will certainly be using pop up parks in the future,” Ms Carroll said.

“For just a few thousand dollars, it was an excellent way to engage the community, and provide a space in the CBD that they wanted, and used.”

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