Inspire : Public Works Mar Apr 2013
31 HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED IN THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND POLICY DEVELOPMENT SECTOR? I've worked with local government right from the beginning of my professional life. I started out in the community sector as a social worker (which not many people know!) and, right from the start, I worked collaboratively with local government to attract new ser vices into my area. I worked in many aspects of community development during this time and had to have a really strong understanding of everything going on in my local area. I've always had an interest in the things that make communities and localities great places: who are the people, what are their aspirations, what kinds of ser vices do they have, and what do they need? That is one of the things that attracted me to local gover nment from the beginning. WHAT SKILLS DID YOU DEVELOP AS A SOCIAL WORKER THAT YOU STILL USE TODAY? One of the best skills a community worker can have is an ability to understand what people's needs and aspirations are. You have to be able to empathise with people to work alongside them. The other thing that has stuck with me my whole working life is the importance of working in multi-disciplinary teams. Having an array of specialised knowledge gets the best outcomes. WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENTS? The project that has had the most signifcant, long-term impact is the Strengthening Local Democratic Capacity Project. We worked with two local governments in New South Wales and three in Victoria to strengthen their capacity for democratic decision making and the way they interact with their communities. One of the outcomes of this process was the Bronte Catchment Project, which we undertook with Waverley Council and the NSW Environmental Protection Authority. We developed a citizens' jury. It was quite a long a complicated process, but we worked with the council and the community to prioritise the council's spending. It delivered outcomes that better refected the community's aspirations. We didn't need to spend more money yet we achieved better ser vice delivery outcomes. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OTHER EXPERIENCES YOU'VE HAD THAT TAUGHT YOU SOME VALUABLE LESSONS? After working as a social worker I was an academic for over a decade, then in private consultancy for a further decade or so. All of these experiences have enabled me to bring different things to this new role. Working in private consultancy allowed me to work with a whole range of different local governments, both in Australia and internationally. It has given me a broader perspective on some of the issues confronting local government in general. One of the projects I worked on was a major urban planning framework for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. It involved working with local government to develop the social infrastr ucture and economic planning for an area that didn't have any of that in place. It was an enormous challenge because we had to establish frameworks for gover nance and institutional delivery arrangements. We worked with city communities and the authorities to design the entire place and ensure it met the community aspirations and the future population capacity. Leading ACELG and UTS:CLG is the ideal role for me in many ways. It brings together my academic and practice interests in way that I hope can infuence sector reform. ARE THERE ANY PEOPLE WHO'VE REALLY INSPIRED YOU? It’s diffcult for me to identify a single ‘public hero’ per se. The people who really inspire me are those in Indigenous communities who have worked all their lives to improve the circumstances of their communities, or people who live with kids with disabilities. It's the ordinary people whose lives are actually extraordinary. I know that sounds a bit cheesy, but it's true! WHAT YOU WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE ACELG ACCOMPLISH DURING YOUR TENURE? The directional path of ACELG is pretty well set. We've got excellent partners and there has been ter rifc work done up to this point. My main goal is to better communicate the signifcance of local gover nment to people's everyday lives. Nothing -- big or small -- happens in Australia without I've always had an interest in the things that make up communities and localities: who are the people, what are their aspirations, what kinds of services do they have, and what do they need?
Public Works Jan Feb 2013
Public Works May Jun 2013