News

Building local government integrity during times of crisis or emergency

Integrity agency IBAC has released important tips to safeguard local government against fraud during lockdown, which we have reproduced here.

Central Goldfields Shire prepares for councillors

The preparation for Council Elections is a little different for Central Goldfields Shire Council.  We are currently contemplating the transition from appointed Administrators to elected representatives, after three years of Administration.  There are two additional challenges that we are all facing, the implementation of the new Local Government Act 2020 in a compressed timeframe, and the impacts of COVID-19 and council’s role in emergency response, relief and recovery.  All while working remotely to keep our staff and community safe during the re-introduction of Stage 3 lockdown.

To prepare for the return of elected Councillors we have run workshops with our leadership team of executives and managers, contemplating the challenges and opportunities this presents.  The workshop highlighted the significant achievements over the last three years to restructure the organisation, develop a comprehensive suite of strategies to provide a strong strategic framework for the new Council to draw on including eight Community Plans, and the strong governance framework that is now in place.  These improvements will provide the new Council a solid foundation to build a new Community Vision and Council Plan in their first year.  The workshops also identified the opportunities and strengths of having elected representatives that the organisation can draw on to further improve community consultation and engagement and deliver programs and services that meet the needs of our community. 

At our recent workshop we invited Brendan McGrath, CEO Rural City of Wangaratta to share his experience of transitioning from Administration to an Elected Council.  Brendan’s experience provided our leadership team with the confidence that we were on the right track with our preparations and the challenges and opportunities identified were similar to Wangaratta’s experience four years ago.

We have also been drawing on the experience of our three Administrators in developing our induction program, expecting that we will have many new faces with little to no experience in local government.  Our induction program needs to be comprehensive, while not overwhelming new Councillors in their first few weeks. 

One of the great things about local government is the collaboration with other Councils, and our Manager Governance is most certainly making the most of those networks.  Sharing policies and procedures that need to be updated and developed in response to the new Local Government Act has been invaluable.  We have also been making the most of the many webinars on offer – a positive from the pandemic is that small rural councils like ours have been able to participate more frequently in forums and workshops at a time that suits and without excessive travel.

The success of the Leading Excellence Maryborough program funded by State Government after the dismissal of our Council to assist in the development of local community leaders has resulted in a number of graduates considering nomination for Council.  We have seen the success of this program result in many local boards and community groups bolstered by emerging community leaders who have participated in this program, and a growing cohesion around the vision for the Shire.  We are hopeful that despite the limitations of electioneering caused by COVID-19 that we will see a good number of candidates contesting the election across the Shire.

The organisation is as ready for the elections and a new Council as we can be in these challenging times.  We look forward to welcoming the newly elected Councillors in November and providing them with the support to make their term a success.
 

Sewing for good in Glen Eira

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s the importance of being nimble, resilient and people-focused. And at Glen Eira City Council we have a story that highlights just that. 

Our Strategic Economic Development Officer Suzette Sutton’s regular role involves working hard to support local businesses and building up our local economy.  

When the Victorian Premier announced the need to wear face masks to keep each other safe, we discovered that Suzette has a whole range of other skills that are just as formidable!

With demand for face masks rising, we were struggling to secure three-ply cloth masks for our staff in time to maintain compliance with the new regulation. 

When Suzette caught wind of this, she put up her hand to sew cloth masks to help our essential workers out in the community, keeping things running and delivering important services for residents.

“I find my work with helping businesses in Glen Eira — working with our volunteer mentors and getting vital business information out to the local business community — very fulfilling,” Suzette said. “So when the opportunity came up to also help my work colleagues I couldn’t jump at it fast enough.”

Suzette has been producing bottle green and burgundy (Glen Eira corporate colours) face masks for those staff who are out interacting with the community members. 

Suzette has been sewing since she was young, making her own clothes as well as those for her three sons.

Her love of sewing came from her mother who instilled in her the love of beautiful fabrics, patterns, colours and the creativity of ‘making’. She even almost started her own evening wear business, but as she was also managing the family farm, something had to go. 

During COVID-19 she began been sewing cloth masks for her swimming ‘family’ the Bay Open Water Swimmers — so when the time came, she was well and truly experienced to do the job for Council.  

And what a job it has been! Since we announced that Suzette was producing cloth masks for staff, several other staff from across Council also put up their hands to help. 

Together, since July 14 they have made more than 2000 masks to standards compliant with the Department of Health and Human Services’ guidelines. 

Suzette said to be able to help keep the wheels turning on the vital work our frontline people do could not have been a more fulfilling. 

“I have utmost respect for those who get up in the dark and cold and work through the heat and swelter, those who remain there for the community to connect with and can’t work from home and those who support the rest of us by being the face of the organisation to our community.” 

Three of our mask-making team were potentially unable to be retained by Council, and others had very reduced hours due to various department closures caused by COVID-19. The mask-making project meant that all were able to be gainfully employed. 

This fabulous team of “sewists” led by Suzette, has ensured we can continue to provide the services that our community needs during these tough times.
 

Pandemic unites border communities, isolates governments 

By City of Wodonga CEO Mark Dixon 

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly thrown up many new challenges for local government across the nation.

For those councils that nestle alongside a state border, as the pandemic has gone on, it has also seen some additional challenges that we haven’t had to contemplate for 100 years and the last time a pandemic hit this nation.

For many of these council areas, like Wodonga and its NSW neighbour Albury, they have spent the majority of the pandemic period so far COVID-19 free.

Read full article

How communities, and councils, have rallied behind bushfire recovery

Stuart McConnell
General Manager – Bushfire Recovery, East Gippsland Shire Council


Usually in December and January you’ll find me camping at the beach. Instead, this year I spent most of summer supporting our team at the incident control centres for the East Gippsland fires.  I joined in some amazing work setting up multiple relief centres and supporting many isolated communities. 

The summer bushfires have certainly rewritten 2020 for East Gippsland Shire Council. I am immensely proud of the work that our teams delivered in incredibly difficult circumstances. 

Read full article

Diversity and Ingenuity Key to Stonnington Recovery

Jacqui Weatherill
CEO, City of Stonnington 


Like all municipalities, businesses in Stonnington have been hit hard by the pandemic. It is hard to watch so many entrepreneurial people lose their livelihoods and many young people in particular lose their jobs.

Stonnington is an incredibly diverse, historically and culturally rich community, from the world-famous bohemia chic of Chapel Street to the elegant elm-shaded streets of Toorak. 

We have some of the State’s leading performing arts, entertainment and fine art venues, and an incredible range of food and beverage from every part of the world and for every budget.

But the pandemic has not discriminated. Business, big and small, profit and non-profit – has been hit hard.

Read the full article

Casey Council Goes Virtual for Corporate Induction

The Learning & Organisational Development Team
City of Casey


Early in Covid-19 lockdown, the City of Casey realised that we would need to re-think the way we conducted Corporate Induction.

Initially planned for delivery on 2 April, we rescheduled to give us time to convert our half day delivery to a 90-minute online delivery on 15 April.

With Zoom taken off the table as a delivery mode at the time due to security issues, we pushed on with the use of Microsoft Teams, inviting participants to join through a meeting invitation with some basic instructions.  Microsoft Teams was a new medium for all of us at the time.
With an emphasis on providing an opportunity for new starters to engage with our Executive Leadership Team (ELT) our session focused on presentations by our Administrator (as we are operating under an administrator in the place of Mayor and Councillors,) the Chief Executive Officer and each of our Directors.

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Zooming in on a virtual opportunity

 By Anthony Judd, Chief Executive Officer, Buloke Shire Council


Buloke Shire Council held its May Ordinary Meeting virtually, thanks to Zoom, and livestreamed the meeting. Both achievements were firsts for Council.

The COVID-19 pandemic will no doubt identify many opportunities for small rural Councils, but for Buloke in the state’s northwest, with its sparsely populated and large land mass, our meeting had never been so accessible.

Read the full article


Moving towards an exceptional goal as we tackle COVID-19

 Julie Reid, Chief Executive Officer, Kingston Council

COVID-19 has brought with it challenges on a scale we have never experienced, and the economic impact has been felt across the Kingston community. As a council our job has been to find a way to alleviate some of the financial burden on our residents and local businesses, but also to continue to provide the essential services and programs our community relies on.  

Read the full article


In times of crisis

 Chris Buckingham, President, Public Libraries Victoria 

If you ever needed proof of the critical importance of public libraries, the COVID–19 pandemic has delivered the evidence in full.

Over recent years there has been growing recognition that public libraries play a much deeper role in community than the storage and distribution of information. 

Read the full article


West Wimmera during COVID-19 - Managing remotely in a small rural shire

David Leahy, Chief Executive Officer, West Wimmera Shire Council 

Despite the relative safety of being so remote, West Wimmera is not immune to the restrictions in place to manage the spread of COVID-19. 

Read the full article


Organisational resilience, innovation & transformation

Mark Perrett, Team Leader Risk Management and Safety, Greater Dandenong City Council

Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, said, “Change is the only constant in life.” 

Change can be planned or unplanned, incremental or radical.  Planned, incremental change is always preferred.  Globalisation, rapid developments in information and technology, and the damaging effects of climate change are making disruptive, unplanned, radical change events more and more frequent.

Read the full article


COVID-19 and some reflections on (re) joining Local Government

Kerryn Ellis, Chief Executive Officer, South Gippsland Shire Council

Having spent a couple of years working for state government, I returned to the Local Government sector on 10 March, taking up my new role at South Gippsland Shire.  This has been a really interesting time to join a new organisation, and in particular to step into my first role at CEO level, and I have had to accept quite quickly that my 30 Day and 100 Day Plans have pretty much gone straight out the window.  

Council responses to COVID-19


We have collected examples of how Councils around the world are supporting their communities through new initiatives and innovating during this challenging time. 

Read the full article

 

Emerging Leaders Program – Leading the way by adapting to challenging environments

Samantha Murfett

In a COVID19 world, we’ve had to adapt the Emerging Leaders program to an online format which has brought another level of complexity to the program. 
My syndicate group organised the first online facilitated ELP syndicate lead session of 2020 which was held last Friday. Of course, we had concerns, the main question we had before planning the session was; will the program be beneficial if we are not seeing each other face to face? 

Read the full article 

 

Council working with business to assist the economic downturn

Raymond Deegan, Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

It’s no secret that the current situation with COVID-19 has massively affected businesses of all sizes and industries across the state, but the proactive and swift response of Local Government has brought welcome relief to business owners struggling to cope with the financial and mental stresses of trying to either - continue to do business or assure their business will see the other side of these strange and challenging times.

Read the full article


How a pandemic is changing Local Government - XLP during exceptional times

Chris Kotur, Lead facilitator, Executive Leadership program – April 2020 

My reflections on what you have to say help me draw on lessons from the major inquiries I’ve been involved with and sharing these learning will I hope be useful to you as local government is along with all of us, changing during this emergency.  
 

Read the full article

COVID-19 - The burning platform to unite Local Government   

Patrick Dillon, Manager Business Transformation, Frankston City Council

COVID-19 is disrupting every aspect of human life and Local Government is not immune. Like every other Council, Frankston City has been thrust into and unprecedented state of pandemic emergency over the last number of weeks. While Emergency management teams were popping up across all 79 Council’s in Victoria, many of us sat outside of this remit and were feverishly looking for ways to help our community.

The majority of my team quickly began working from home. Luckily with laptops and Direct Access, it was a relatively straight forward transition, however with legacy IT issues to resolve such as network bandwidth and dated systems, many staff did not have the hardware or tools to effectively work from home at the drop of a hat. While longer term strategic solutions are being investigated short term alternatives have been sought. My team are utilising Zoom, Jira and Whatsapp to ensure we continue to be connected with each other and the business.

There is a constant challenge to guard against a whole host of concerns for staff such as disengagement, disconnection, stress and anxiety. Frequent and clear communication is paramount. My team has twice daily Zoom meetings to discuss the latest information from the Emergency Management Team. We also discuss the increasing requests for help and how we might prioritise. The team utilises a cut down version of our problem solving framework developed to enable departments across Council to problem solve in a consistent, structured and prioritised fashion.

Another key challenge is ensuring that reactive solutions, while required in the short term, did not contravene long term strategic direction. A great example at Frankston has been the deployment of PowerFront’s Inside, a live chat tool for customer service. Something on the road map for a couple of years’ time, it was fast-tracked to improve our reach to the community and allow business continuity in the event of a stage four lockdown.

The product itself wasn’t transformational. The way we rolled it out however was. The deep impact this method has had both internally for staff and externally for the community cannot be underestimated. Normally this project would takes months if not years to complete. Research, consultation, face to face meeting after meeting, business cases, funding, approval, negotiations, compromise, planning, internal politics, long protracted procurement, implementation, testing and finally go live. 

This project went from thought bubble to live in less than 72 hours. Staff empowered to make good decisions quickly while still following Council process. Importantly the project team were all working from home, utilising digital tools to communicate with each other. Within a week live chat is rapidly becoming the channel of choice for the community. Virtual Council meetings, community engagement and management meetings have been enabled by technology. Collaborative meaningful and efficient work is being completed online in the safety of our own homes. 

These digital solutions are more critical now than ever. Why? Because not only will they allow Council’s to continue support their communities in the immediate future, they are also or at least should be, the long term strategic aim of every progressive Council.  Having said all that I do get the sense in the current climate that technology is getting all the spotlight. We need to be very mindful that it’s only when you have the right people, with the right processes, utilising the right technology, that you will get long term sustainable solutions with measurable benefits.  There are no silver technology bullets. 

Thinking strategically about our workforce, a transformation barrier that has tumbled through this crisis is that of people thinking they cannot change. They cannot adapt. They were too ‘set in their ways’ for these new agile ways of working. When the need is great enough, everyone can acquire a growth mindset. This lesson will be invaluable as Council’s continue to improve and transform its workforce post COVID-19 and look to reduce the strategic risks associated with transformation programs.

Finally the biggest positive the sector can take from this pandemic is that it has created a universal burning platform for change. We will never have a greater opportunity than right now to collaborate across Council lines to innovate and transform for the good of all Victorians. No more ‘herding cats’ as one of my previous CEO’s used to say when describing Councils trying to collaborate. COVID-19 has brought into laser sharp focus the need for contemporary technology to enable Council’s to change how we operate at our foundation. To upskill, uplift and inspire our workforce. To do more with less, to concentrate on the essentials. To improve the customer experience. To find ways to not only work remotely but how to connect with our community. To redesign our outdated effective but inefficient processes. 

Let’s grasp this opportunity with both hands!


The critical role of your local Council in pandemic response

By Adam Lee, Pandemic Coordinator, Surf Coast Shire We are experiencing uncertain times with the rapidly changing global situation concerning Coronavirus (COVID-19) and with the Australian, State and Territory Governments leading the emergency response, it is important to remember the key role of Local Government in pandemic response at grass roots level. Local Government, through its emergency management responsibilities, will be using their Pandemic Plans and Business Continuity Plans to reduce the impact of a pandemic on their local communities. This involves input and expertise from a wide range of council staff to assist in this process, including Environmental Health Officers (EHOs). Increased threats to public health associated with events such as COVID-19 places greater demand and thrusts into the spotlight, the essential role of EHOs. EHOs play a lead role in pandemic planning and preparedness, providing credible public health advice to staff and the community about health hygiene practices to contain and prevent the spread of disease. EHO’s would also coordinate the provision of mass vaccination clinics for COVID-19 when this becomes available.
EHO’s will be assisting senior management and officers with emergency and risk management to ensure essential Council services continue during expected staff absenteeism in a pandemic.

Often the role of local Councils EHO’s is not well recognised in the community and local government is experiencing a workforce shortage in this area. Remember the vital role your local Council plays in keeping the community healthy and a big thank you to all the EHOs working hard during this pandemic period.

If you are interested in joining this important profession, find out more on how to become qualified by visiting Swinburne University of Technology’s Graduate Diploma of Environmental Health Practice.

The critical role of your local Council in pandemic response

By Adam Lee, Pandemic Coordinator, Surf Coast Shire

We are experiencing uncertain times with the rapidly changing global situation concerning Coronavirus (COVID-19) and with the Australian, State and Territory Governments leading the emergency response, it is important to remember the key role of Local Government in pandemic response at grass roots level.

Local Government, through its emergency management responsibilities, will be using their Pandemic Plans and Business Continuity Plans to reduce the impact of a pandemic on their local communities. This involves input and expertise from a wide range of council staff to assist in this process, including Environmental Health Officers (EHOs).

Increased threats to public health associated with events such as COVID-19 places greater demand and thrusts into the spotlight, the essential role of EHOs.

EHOs play a lead role in pandemic planning and preparedness, providing credible public health advice to staff and the community about health hygiene practices to contain and prevent the spread of disease. EHO’s would also coordinate the provision of mass vaccination clinics for COVID-19 when this becomes available.

EHO’s will be assisting senior management and officers with emergency and risk management to ensure essential Council services continue during expected staff absenteeism in a pandemic.

Often the role of local Councils EHO’s is not well recognised in the community and local government is experiencing a workforce shortage in this area. Remember the vital role your local Council plays in keeping the community healthy and a big thank you to all the EHOs working hard during this pandemic period.

If you are interested in joining this important profession, find out more on how to become qualified by visiting Swinburne University of Technology’s Graduate Diploma of Environmental Health Practice.



A message from our President


Last week was certainly one like no other.  We had the Local Government Bill pass through the houses and is now awaiting Royal Assent.  We also saw the monitor's report on the City of Whittlesea Bill and Municipal Monitor's report tabled and recommend that the Council be dismissed, it passed through the houses with little comment and speedily received Royal Assent. By way of declaration, I had the privilege to work at the City of Whittlesea with smart, passionate and incredibly professional people and I left at the end of November last year to fulfil my dream of being a Local Government CEO.  

I want to acknowledge the impact of working in an environment where the principles of good governance and public service are impeded, undermined and disregarded.   Please see the Municipal Monitor's report which will give you a sense of the impact on the organisation and its people.  Here is an extract:-

 " However, the Council itself is broken by years of internal division, factionalism, personality conflicts and bitter legacies of perceived betrayals. The poisons in Council run so deep that Councillors from both sides of the divide see little prospect of ever bridging their differences. Council governance has irretrievably collapsed. Some Councillors appear to derive comfort from the thought that, irrespective of their endless feuding, the business of Council continues to get done. It ignores the damage that has been done to the good governance and reputation of the City, to working relationships between Councillors and staff, to their health and wellbeing and to the planning and delivery of services and infrastructure to the community. That the Council has continued to meet its service and statutory obligations is in no small part due to the resilience and professionalism of its administration. However, both have been sorely tested in the months after the sudden dismissal, whilst on Workcover leave of its Chief Executive Officer Mr. Simon Overland ".

I am so proud of the team at the City of Whittlesea.  They are now in a special club with the tremendous teams at the City of Casey and Shire of South Gippsland, City of Brimbank, Rural City of Wangaratta, City of Greater Geelong, City of Darebin ...... (apologies if I have forgotten a sacked council since amalgamation).  You are the heroes in these sad tales.  Thank you for your public service.

Liana Thompson
President, LGPro

Chief Executive Officer, Northern Grampians Shire Council