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More than 100 of Australia’s local government authorities have so far participated in the new local Government Digital Maturity Index, a Government News initiative. Next week is your council's last chance to take advantage of our survey, which is open until Friday March 24. 

All participating councils will receive a tailored benchmarking report, quantifying and comparing their digital maturity with those of their peers. Participation is via completion of a 20-minute survey, which can be accessed here.

It costs nothing and is available to all local government authorities in Australia and New Zealand. The more councils that get involved, the more valuable the data will be.

“It’s the first time these metrics have been used in Australia,” says project leader Graeme Philipson. “It will be extremely useful for the councils that take part, but its real value will be to the wider local government sector, which for the first time will be able to gauge the extent to which Australia’s councils are adopting digital strategies and practices.”

Preliminary findings have already highlighted some valuable insights into the digital profiles of Australian LGAs:
  • Two-thirds of councils are using web site metrics to measure the effectiveness of their online presence – but less than a quarter of them are measuring the effectiveness of their overall digital strategy.
  • One quarter of councils have a mature cloud computing strategy, and another quarter are experimenting with cloud. But that means half have yet to move.
  • Two-thirds of councils allow rates to be paid online, but only one third allow parking fines and other infringement notices to be paid online.
  • Over 60 percent of councils offer at least some Wi-Fi in public places.
“The final analysis will be substantial., says Mr Philipson. “It will provide both an overall snapshot and individual ratings.” Councils can participate in the project until the end of March by clicking on the survey link. The results will then be collated and analysed, with a market analysis report containing the overall findings released in May. Participating councils will then receive their individual benchmark reports. “It’s a cooperative project, a kind of crowdsourcing exercise,” explains Mr Philipson. “Every council that participates gets to see where they are on the digital journey, and the whole local government industry gets a detailed analysis of the overall level of digitisation in the sector.”   [post_title] => Final day for free local government digital maturity survey [post_excerpt] => More than 100 councils have responded so far. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 26493 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-03-24 10:31:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-03-23 23:31:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23974 [post_author] => 655 [post_date] => 2016-05-25 17:25:22 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-25 07:25:22 [post_content] => Vinnies 1_opt   People who illegally dump donations outside charity shops will soon have to watch their backs and check for cameras. NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman launched a state government scheme today (Tuesday) to give charities grants of up to $7000 each, which can include cash to fund surveillance equipment, fencing, lighting and gates. The Environment Protection Authority’s Reducing Dumping on Charitable Recyclers project aims to stop sneaky charity shop dumpers in their tracks and save charities millions of dollars and thousands of hours in volunteer time. Susan Goldie, Executive Officer St Vincent De Paul Society Parramatta Central Council, said Vinnies was hugely grateful for good quality donations but illegally dumped donations caused staff extra work. “Almost 50 per cent of funding for Vinnies' works in local communities is generated by the sale of donations through our shops," Ms Goldie said. "Unfortunately though, many of our volunteers are faced with sorting through wet and damaged goods after they have been left outside bins or shop fronts overnight, over weekends and during holidays." Pat Daley from the EPA Charity Recyclers Reference Group said charities struggled to keep up with the volume of unusable goods dumped on doorsteps of charity shops or around donation bins. “Charities rely on donations to raise funds for their important work, but the cost of sorting and disposing unusable goods cuts deeply into fundraising efforts,” Mr Daley said. Mr Speakman said that charities received an estimated two billion items or 300,000 tonnes of goods each year but had to dispose of about 40 per cent of this because it was unusable. "This equates to 120,000 tonnes of waste. The cost alone of getting rid of this rubbish is up to $7 million a year," Mr Speakman said. “The government has been working with charities to help them manage the cost of disposing the unusable goods that are dumped in Australia each year." The Reducing Illegal Dumping on Charitable Recyclers grant program is part of the Government’s $58 million Waste Less, Recycle initiative.  Waste Less, Recycle More is a $465.7 million investment designed to transform waste management and recycling in NSW. More information on the EPA grants scheme is available online at   [post_title] => Op shop dumpers under surveillance [post_excerpt] => NSW government scheme to deter dumpers. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => op-shop-dumpers-under-surveillance [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-06-09 22:26:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-06-09 12:26:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23055 [post_author] => 655 [post_date] => 2016-02-15 12:14:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-02-15 01:14:21 [post_content] => Turnbull crop   Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is set to have his new Ministry sworn in by the Governor General on Thursday 18th February 2016. These are the appointments as released by the Prime Minister's Office on Sunday 14th February (in a slightly more downloadable format).   PROPOSED TURNBULL MINISTRY   Prime Minister: The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP Minister for Indigenous Affairs: Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion Minister for Women: Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash Cabinet Secretary: Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service: Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Counter-Terrorism: The Hon Michael Keenan MP Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister: Senator the Hon James McGrath Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation: Mr Angus Taylor MP Assistant Cabinet Secretary: The Hon Dr Peter Hendy MP   Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources (Deputy Prime Minister): The Hon Barnaby Joyce MP Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources: Senator the Hon Anne Ruston Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister: Mr Keith Pitt MP   Minister for Foreign Affairs: The Hon Julie Bishop MP Minister for Trade and Investment: The Hon Steven Ciobo MP Minister for International Development and the Pacific: Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells Minister for Tourism and International Education: Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment: Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck   Minister for Regional Development: Senator the Hon Fiona Nash Minister for Infrastructure and Transport: The Hon Darren Chester MP Minister for Major Projects, Territories and Local Government: The Hon Paul Fletcher MP   Attorney-General (Vice-President of the Executive Council): Senator the Hon George Brandis QC Minister for Justice: The Hon Michael Keenan MP   Treasurer: The Hon Scott Morrison MP Minister for Small Business: The Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP   Assistant Treasurer: The Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP Assistant Minister to the Treasurer: The Hon Alex Hawke MP   Minister for Finance: Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann Special Minister of State: Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann Assistant Minister for Finance: The Hon Dr Peter Hendy MP   Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science: The Hon Christopher Pyne MP Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia: The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP Minister for Northern Australia: Senator Matt Canavan Assistant Minister for Science: The Hon Karen Andrews MP Assistant Minister for Innovation: The Hon Wyatt Roy MP   Minister for Immigration and Border Protection: The Hon Peter Dutton MP Assistant Minister for Immigration: Senator the Hon James McGrath   Minister for the Environment: The Hon Greg Hunt MP   Minister for Health: The Hon Sussan Ley MP Minister for Aged Care: The Hon Sussan Ley MP Minister for Sport: The Hon Sussan Ley MP Minister for Rural Health: Senator the Hon Fiona Nash Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care: The Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP   Minister for Defence: Senator the Hon Marise Payne Minister for Veterans’ Affairs: Mr Dan Tehan MP Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC: Mr Dan Tehan MP Minister for Defence Materiel: Mr Dan Tehan MP Assistant Minister for Defence: The Hon Michael McCormack MP   Minister for Communications: Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield Minister for the Arts: Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield Minister for Regional Communications: Senator the Hon Fiona Nash   Minister for Employment: Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash   Minister for Social Services: The Hon Christian Porter MP Minister for Human Services: The Hon Alan Tudge MP Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs: Mr Craig Laundy MP Assistant Minister for Disability Services: Mrs Jane Prentice MP   Minister for Education and Training: Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham Minister for Vocational Education and Skills: Senator the Hon Scott Ryan Minister for Tourism and International Education: Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck   [post_title] => Turnbull Reshuffle: full proposed Ministry List [post_excerpt] => Appointments as released by PMO. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 23055 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-16 10:56:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-15 23:56:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21785 [post_author] => 655 [post_date] => 2015-10-14 16:26:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-10-14 05:26:36 [post_content] => Fridge-buyback By Claire Moffat The Fridge Buyback residential energy savings scheme is returning to New South Wales with new rules that will make it easier for residents to save on their power bills by giving up their second fridge or upright freezer. Fridge Buyback operates under the NSW Government’s Energy Saving Scheme.  Recent changes to the scheme means that appliances no longer have to be built prior to 1996. Fridge Buyback manager, Rene Hendriksen said, “We are delighted to be able to collect upright freezers as well as second fridges. Many people are running a second fridge or freezer that they don’t really need. Fridge Buyback helps residents cut their energy bills, which also has a positive environmental impact by reducing carbon emissions.” Now in its seventh year, Fridge Buyback has collected, degassed and recycled over 53,000 fridges in 51 local government areas. The appliances are professionally degassed and the metals recycled. To participate in the program, fridges or upright freezers must be a working second appliance that has been in regular use and is 200 litres (7.06 cubic feet) or more in size. A $15 rebate is paid for collection from homes with six steps or less. Collection is free, using professional removalists (but no rebate is paid), where collection involves between seven to 20 steps). A fee will apply only if the property has more than 20 steps. This story first appeared in Appliance Retailer. [post_title] => Fridge Buyback scheme returns to NSW [post_excerpt] => New rules makes ditching second fridge easier. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => fridge-buyback-scheme-returns-to-nsw [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-10-14 16:26:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-10-14 05:26:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 20251 [post_author] => 655 [post_date] => 2015-06-23 12:01:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-06-23 02:01:36 [post_content] => liversage Introducing Stuart Liversage … The Government News team is thrilled to introduce and welcome our new National Sales Manager, Stuart Liversage, who joins our team from today! Stuart has an accomplished and diverse background in business development, marketing and media sales across electronic and print media. He’s also worked closely with local, state and federal sector organisations as well as government business holders in private industry for over the past 10 years and has a strong understanding of what it takes to get noticed in the crowded government procurement marketplace, having held key commercial roles at the Australian Radio Network and News Corp. Don’t hesitate to contact him to get your brand and business in front of the decision makers who really count in the public sector market. Stuart Liversage Tel: +61 2 8586 6191 Mob: +61 414 954 848 E:   …And Graeme Philipson Graeme Philipson has been researching and writing about public sector issues and technology for more than 30 years. The co-founder of the Strategic Publishing Group, Graeme is a highly respected and prolific contributor of sharp and original insight for leading Australian and international titles that have included Fairfax Media, News Ltd and a range trade specific titles. Graeme has also held key research roles at Gartner and the Yankee Group Australia. Graeme will not only be filling-in as Marie Sansom takes a well-earned break, but will be a key editorial contributor to Government News over coming months. [post_title] => New talent joins Government News! [post_excerpt] => Introducing Stuart Liversage and Graeme Phillipson. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => new-talent-joins-government-news [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-06-23 16:42:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-06-23 06:42:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 18848 [post_author] => 655 [post_date] => 2015-03-30 21:04:03 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-03-30 10:04:03 [post_content] => Megaphon [By Kelli Browne] The next few years are set to bring a number of major and significant challenges to public sector communications practitioners along as dynamic new digital opportunities arise and communication and customer service expectations are put to the test. As the nation’s leading conference for professionals in the government sector, the 2015 Government Communications Australia Conference presents the year’s most important opportunity for those working at the coalface to keep abreast of changes and on top of emerging trends. Held between 13th May and 15th May 2015 at the Sydney NSW at the Amora Jamison Hotel in Sydney’s CBD, delegates have an unparalleled opportunity to hear first hand from innovative thinkers, learn about changes in our sector, best practice communications, engagement and customer experience and take away practical tools and resources to implement in your own organisations. Our diverse and exciting line-up of sought after guest speakers include senior government representatives, professionals from corporate and non-profit sectors and leading international subject matter authorities. [caption id="attachment_18850" align="alignnone" width="143"]FELICITY GREY Felicity Grey.[/caption]   The insightful and probing agenda will cover topics ranging across strategic communications, engagement, social media, content marketing, crisis communications, event marketing, advocacy and customer service. The 2015 program includes: •    Great tips for creating content, optimising your website and interpreting social media statistics -- an intensive digital marketing workshop presented by EXA •    Creating sustainable relationships with bloggers for PR professionals by Felicity Gray of Nuffnang •    Our important role in encouraging local democracy by Kathy Jones of the NewDemocracy Foundation •    Reputation and experience in customer centric organisations by Paula Giles of CSBA •    Rate capping and other challenges for communication professionals by Llewellyn Rees of KJA [caption id="attachment_18851" align="alignnone" width="191"]Llewellyn Rees. Llewellyn Rees.[/caption]   •    Social media for emergencies by Gerry McCusker of EngageORM •    As well as leaders in content marketing, advocacy and many more! •    Check it out for yourself at and downloading your conference program For more information visit Government News is a proud partner of the Government Communications Australia Conference. [post_title] => Brave New World for Government Communications [post_excerpt] => Landmark conference for innovative thinkers and communications best practice showcases practical resources. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => brave-new-world-for-government-communications [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-04-30 10:38:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-04-30 00:38:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 18027 [post_author] => 655 [post_date] => 2015-02-10 11:41:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-10 00:41:42 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_18028" align="alignnone" width="300"]Health Procurement pic web Achieving best in show healthcare procurement and supply chain operations.[/caption] [Media Partnership Announcement] Good procurement and supply management practices in the Healthcare sector matter perhaps more than anywhere else. Procurement and supply chain managers in the healthcare sector are facing challenges from continually changing and highly demanding healthcare expectations where all the FIVE rights are critical. Not just getting the right goods to the right place at the right time to the right quality – but also at the right price. The HealthProcure 2015 conference held in Melbourne on the 17-19 February addresses key challenges, including how to implement effective procurement models, innovation, stock inventory management and redesigned supplier-contractor relations. Some of the keynote speakers at the conference will include Matt Mazzotta, Chief Procurement Officer at Queensland Department of Health who will share his experiences on how Queensland Health successfully transformed their supply chain in a competitive market and optimised their procurement practices. Alba Chliakhtine, Director Procurement at Health Purchasing Victoria will provide insights on the impact of general trends and challenges that are affecting health procurement productivity and Natalie Budovsky, Head of Strategic Sourcing at Healthdirect Australia will help procurement managers discover different approaches to implement procurement systems, models and strategies. Key benefits of attending will include: •    Learn how to implement high value procurement models and strategies •    Hear case studies from industry leaders and how they are benefitting from reformed supplier and contract management •    Discover how to build more efficient stock inventory management •    Identify specific health procurement skills to improve procurement process •    Improve quality outcomes by introducing innovation and ICT procurement systems •    Create cost reduction strategies to meet budget expectations The HealthProcure 2015 conference will see the largest gathering of supply chain and procurement managers from private and public hospitals, aged care operators, government departments to meet and learn about the newest developments in health procurement across the whole healthcare sector with unique case studies, interactive panel discussions and through keynote presentations. To register to participate at this important event, and to download the full conference brochure visit Government News is a proud Media Partner of the Health Procure 2015 Conference [post_title] => Healthcare procurement under spotlight [post_excerpt] => Leading procurement managers from Australia’s healthcare sector will meet in Melbourne discuss how to decrease costs and increase results. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => healthcare-procurement-spotlight [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-12 19:07:06 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-12 08:07:06 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 17995 [post_author] => 655 [post_date] => 2015-02-06 10:59:56 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-05 23:59:56 [post_content] => Wheelchair Wheelies! Given Mitch Fifield’s latest call for a swifter move to consumer-led markets, which comes amidst the major changes to home and community care, there is an opportunity to seriously address the shortage in respite provision, writes Chris Gration. Chris Gration, executive officer, National Respite Association Respite care is disputed terrain. Advocates, carers and governments have argued for years over funding, pathways, consumer control and even the name. (The dictionary meaning “A short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant” has easily given offence to older people and carers). A 2013 National Aged Care Alliance respite review seemed to settle much. Then, in early November, Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield gave a clarion call for faster reform, urging us to “give the consumer full control” and let them direct “how and with whom” money is spent, all before the five-year review currently set for 2017. So how could we move forward? It’s not hard to make the case for more and better respite care. Despite almost 240,000 respite (or respite like) places in aged care, unmet demand is rising. More older Australians want to age in their home with the support of an informal carer, and respite is one of the most valuable supports available to them. Yet for carers of people aged over 65 the unmet demand is 17 per cent, and among the over 75-year-old cohort it is 20 per cent – compared to general unmet demand for respite in 2009 of 12 per cent. This demand gap grew by an astonishing 33 per cent between 2009 and 2012, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures. As well, the rapidly growing population of people with dementia and their carers is poorly served by inflexible respite care – inflexibility in hours, settings, staff continuity. So what are the solutions? The minister’s invitation for more consumer-led markets should be the way to deliver more and more flexible respite. Can we do more to meet the minister’s invitation for consumer-led markets? Right now in Canberra, officials are working feverishly to graft this faster paced reform onto the launch of the CHSP on 1 July 2015. And there was already a mountain of work in stitching together various Home and Community Care (HACC) and National Respite for Carers Program (NRCP) funded respite programs and services. It would be tempting to sit back and let respite reform be carried by growing consumer direction and budget holding in home care packages (HCP). But can we, and should we, do more? Program table The three bullet points for respite in the CHSP – flexible, cottage, and emergency – remain largely that: bullet points. There’s a lot more thinking still to be done about how that’s going to work. And to get the best thinking, we need to involve consumers and carers, as well as service providers in co-design projects. Here are five ideas worth exploring:
1. More consumer choice and voice
Better CDC planning will lead to stronger consumer choice and voice. We already have the evidence from consumer directed respite care (CDRC) trials: good planning processes that involve carers and primary care recipients can provide significant benefits and drive innovation. But the planning process is crucial. In fact, there’s good evidence from the UK that while many older social care recipients don’t like individual budgets they can benefit from good planning that involves them and their carer. However, there are a few provisos. I keep hearing accounts around the country of HCP planning that does not include carers. And that’s a problem. We know that a startling 12 per cent of carers have never used respite because the primary recipient (aged person) doesn’t want to use it. Therefore, planning processes need to be good to resolve those tensions. As well, once the CHSP is up and running, respite will be charged to the HCP package at full cost recovery, meaning packages will need to stretch further. We don’t want planners tempted to reduce respite, assuming that carers of people with a HCP have less need for respite simply because a package has more supports. Respite has dual pathways to access, for the consumer and for the carer, and these need to work well together. If we get it right, there’s good reason to believe that accelerating CDC and budget holding can drive innovation based on consumer voice and choice.
2. Entry level respite – CHSP and cashing out
So how can we activate consumer voice and choice – and drive flexibility and innovation – at lower levels of support, where the low value of supports might require a different approach? Why not trial a modified version of cashing out – in which carers and consumers get to choose where to spend support dollars, including, for example, on out-of-pocket expenses for friends or family to accompany a younger person with dementia on a regular community outing? Alzheimer’s Australia has done great work on the support for cashing out respite, and there’s no reason why we should not accelerate a trial this year. Flexible respite, including family managed accounts, has worked in disability for years, and should be possible in aged care. Cashing out also helps consumers and carers to blend together informal and formal support networks.
3. Inclusive communities
Engaged, inclusive communities support older people and carers, and can reduce the call on formal supports. The CHSP Key Directions document appeared to rule out “community development” instead choosing to focus scarce funds on care and support. But are there market-based mechanisms that get us to the same place? The National Disability Insurance Scheme is looking at ways to support community inclusion in what it calls Tier 2, including with some block funding. Some of the most interesting of these are market-based solutions that can help match groups of consumers and their needs to flexible responses from community and micro services. Can we pilot some of these at entry level home support.
4. Emergency respite coordination
Australia’s best system for emergency respite – currently administered by the Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres (CRCCs) – is to be absorbed into the CHSP. But with 20 per cent of carers caring for more than one person, and 11 per cent of carers caring across at least two different service systems, we need to make sure that the emergency system continues to work for carers across all service systems – aged care, disability, mental health and chronic illness. Co-design as part of the integrated carer support model development should help with solutions here.
5. Co-design with consumers, carers and respite services
The minister has asked us to accelerate reform – and to go faster we need rapid listen, trial learn, implement cycles. We’d be well served in respite to fund a few co-design projects with consumers, carers and service providers on the ground to test out and prove the ideas listed above. Listening directly to the voices on the ground can help us accelerate the reform cycle, and get to the consumer-led market that the minister is hoping for. Chris Gration is executive officer of the National Respite Association. Chris is contactable by email, This article first appeared in the inaugural issue of Community Care Review, AAA’s new magazine dedicated to community care. [post_title] => Respite care: disputed terrain [post_excerpt] => Building better respite care. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => respite-care-disputed-terrain [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-06 11:00:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-06 00:00:57 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 18001 [post_author] => 655 [post_date] => 2015-02-06 10:54:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-05 23:54:14 [post_content] => Children at the Maamatoa Kindergarten play on the play equipment during their lunch break. This article first appeared in the August/September 2014 issue of Government News. A 10-year update to the Australian Standard for playground equipment not only widens choices for buyers, but embraces the challenge and risk needed for better learning. Laura Boness talks to the experts. It’s been a full decade since the Australian Standard for playground equipment last had a major revision, but changes that have come into effect are being hailed as a significant improvement by key stakeholders. As councils and other buyers consider their choices, the door has been opened for playground owners and designers to purchase a wider range of more challenging playground equipment from both Australian manufacturers and overseas. Released in April 2014, the new standards come in the form of AS 4685–2014. The document was a full adoption of European playground equipment standards, while taking into account Australian design and safety requirements, such as height regulations for upper body equipment and specifications for moveable equipment used in supervised early childhood services, into account. The previous Australian standard was published in 2004 and was overdue for a change, according to Professor David Eager from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), the Engineers Australia Representative and Standards Committee chairperson. “Not only are they 10-years-old, they’re based on documents that are even older,” says Eager, explaining that the European playground standards at that time (from which some of the Australian 2004 playground standard was adopted) were based on documents from 1998. “The world’s moved forward considerably with play equipment since 1998,” Dr Eager says. Embracing challenge The latest standard should make playgrounds more challenging, encourage outdoor activity and promote fun over risk aversion – as risk taking is recognised as an essential part of healthy development and play. While this means that the element of risk has increased as a result of some of the changes, councils shouldn’t panic – because playgrounds have not become more dangerous because of the new standard. Kay Lockhart, manager of the Kidsafe NSW Playground Advisory Unit, says that challenge is a ‘good’ risk, as it actively engages children and contributes to their cognitive, motor and social development. “Taking that risk helps them be able to cope with things better in life as an adult,” she says. With this in mind, the specifications in AS 4685–2014 define the minimal acceptable standard for playground equipment. Importantly, they are also designed to minimise risk of injury to children using playgrounds and protect them from any hazards they may be unable to foresee when using the playground equipment. But the standards are not intended to remove obvious risks, like exposure to heights, which allow children to develop a sense of what is safe or unsafe. “The standard is not designed to put children in cotton wool,” says PlayTest’s Grant Humphreys, who represented the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia on the Committee. “There needs to be risk for children to develop their own sense of boundaries. Through play they learn their own limits and discover what they can and can’t do.” Heightened expectations The most obvious change in the revised standard is the increased maximum free height of fall from 2.5 metres to 3.0 metres, an increase that had already been adopted in European standards before Australian playground equipment standards were last reviewed in 2004. However, according to Professor Eager, in the early 2000s the Committee felt there increasing the free height of fall to 3.0 metres was a step to far as there was insufficient evidence to support this radical change. Ten years later, he says, there is now evidence from Europe that the frequency of injuries had not increased because of the greater fall height and, although the Committee will rethink the increased height in the Australian standard if it turns out that there is an issue, he’s confident that they haven’t made a wrong decision in increasing the maximum height. This increased height is actually good news for Councils, who are being urged not to worry about the changes to playground equipment in the new standard for playground equipment as they won’t immediately be affected by this change – most of the playground equipment that complied with the 2004 standards will also comply with the specifications of AS 4685–2014. Instead, the changes give them the option in the future to import or design equipment that’s slightly higher and therefore more challenging, which will encourage children to play outdoors in an environment that’s more stimulating and help them develop important skills for life. “Some of the more challenging designs have not been available in Australia due to the restriction of height of the equipment,” Mr Humphreys says. “These will now be available with the introduction of the new standard.” Andrew Reedy from Play Check, who represented the Australian Industry Group on the Playgrounds Standards Committee, shares this view, saying that Councils are often looking for opportunities to provide a greater variety of play experiences in their parks. “The increase in the maximum allowable free height of fall allows the introduction of a greater variety of playground equipment.” Manufacturers, playground designers and Councils will also benefit from the change in the minimum size of the impact (fall) zones required around playground equipment. Evidence indicates that, even with the increased height, children who do fall are falling straight down rather than landing further away from the equipment, so the standards Committee have adopted the same minimum impact area specified in the European standards. This change will allow Councils and designers to either add more equipment in the space available or, as surfacing is one of greatest costs in setting up playground equipment, reduce the overall cost of equipment and set-up. Professor Eager hopes that the new standard will have a positive effect, not only for Councils, but also for manufacturers. Adjusting the Australian standards to conform to those overseas will remove trade barriers for compliant importers – but it will also open a door for local manufacturers to export their products overseas. While equipment from overseas is now more likely to meet Australian standards and can be imported, domestic manufacturers won’t be penalised by the removal of this trade barrier. “We’ve made our standard slightly easier to comply with than the European standard, so our manufacturers aren’t being disadvantaged,” Professor Eager says. The standards Committee considered the impact of the introduction of the standard on Australian manufacturers and took into account the fact that a straight adoption of the European standard may penalise them by causing significant costs associated with re-tooling, according to Mr Reedy. He added that some of the deviations from the European standard, like the retention of a 800 mm maximum opening on platforms instead of adopting the European maximum of 500 mm, reflect this decision. “The Committee saw no increase in safety by adopting the dimensions used in the European standard; however a change form current practice may have led to the significant costs in re-tooling and the manufacture of new moulds,” he says. The new standard also differs in some ways from the European Standard to better suit Australian conditions; monkey bars, for example, cause the highest number of playground-associated injuries in Australia. As a result, the Australian Standards Committee has kept the maximum height of monkey bars and other upper body equipment at 2.2 metres, instead of raising it to 3.0 metres, in recognition of these statistics. Additionally, the new standards divide the equipment into three categories instead of the European two, with the addition of the supervised early childhood category. This covers the moveable equipment installed for children under school age in an educational environment and will ensure that the equipment will be set up and used properly, says Ms Lockhart. She feels that there was a need for this category to be recognised, as she has seen many examples of equipment not being set up correctly or safely. The other main category, all ages, which encompasses public playgrounds, has been divided into ‘easily accessible’ and ‘not easily accessible’ sub-categories, using ability-based filters for the equipment. ‘Easily accessible equipment’ can be accessed and used by younger children or those with a disability (referred to a 36 month old child using ability rather then age), while the ‘not easily accessible’ equipment is intended for use by older children, as it has fewer guardrails and barriers. This provides older children with a greater challenge and, according to Professor Eager, ‘removes the bubble wrap’. There are ability-based filters on the equipment in the not easily accessible category, like the 600 mm step height, so that children who fall into the first category can’t access it. Furthermore, these two categories of equipment can’t be connected within a playground, so children without the necessary ability can’t access them. However, the standards Committee does recognise that children don’t immediately transition to being able to use more difficult equipment as they grow and assumes parents will help children access the more difficult equipment and supervise them while they are learning to use it, providing them with an extra measure of safety. Ms Lockhart says that Kidsafe applauds the Australian Standards for adopting this standard based on the evidence; she thinks the changes are good news, as they will provide playground designers and Councils with the option of installing a wider variety of equipment. Kidsafe are instead more concerned about getting the message out to concerned parents, Councils and others worried about the increased risks that these specified changes are safe. “Yes, there is an element of extra danger, but I’d rather call it risk and challenge,” Ms Lockhart says. Professor Eager cautioned Councils that the increased to 3.0 metres meant the performance verification of the playground surface was now an order of magnitude more critical. The ramification of a surface failing to attenuate a fall from a 3.0 metre fall were considerable worse than 2.5 metres both in the frequency and severity of injuries. He stated “Council’s that failed to test the as installed surface were playing a game Russian roulette – not testing the install surface is equivalent to driving a V8 with faulty brakes”.   [post_title] => Revisions on risk come to Playing it Safe [post_excerpt] => Play equipment safety standards tightened. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => revisions-on-risk-come-to-playing-it-safe [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-06 10:58:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-05 23:58:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 17998 [post_author] => 655 [post_date] => 2015-02-06 10:42:25 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-05 23:42:25 [post_content] => My mother Multidisciplinary ‘Severe Behaviour Response Teams’ will provide expert advice to residential aged care facilities that need assistance caring for residents with severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) under a new Federal Government initiative. The new model replaces the former dementia supplement paid to providers, which was axed in June last year following a 10-fold blow out in expenditure, and will be resourced under the previous supplement’s funding allocation of $54.5 million over four years. The response teams, which will assess the causes of a resident’s BPSD and provide care advice to staff, are expected to get underway later this year, following a competitive tender process. What are the response teams? Read Australian Ageing Agenda’s explainer here. The teams will initially “work closely” with the existing Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Services (DBMAS) in each state and territory but will ultimately be integrated with the DBMAS from 2016-17, the government confirmed. In addition to the new response teams, the government announced it will conduct a review of the $130 million worth of existing programs that provide support to people with dementia and their carers to ensure “national coordination, integration and effectiveness.” The response teams were one option put forward at the Ministerial Dementia Forum on 11 September last year, where more than 60 key stakeholders and experts were canvassed on the possible replacements to the axed supplement. Sector reaction There was mixed reaction from sector stakeholders to the government’s announcement. While a funded replacement to the former supplement was welcomed, consumers and providers were at odds over whether the response teams were the best approach. John Kelly, CEO of mission-based provider peak Aged and Community Services Australia, said the idea of response teams had merit but whether they could provide resources and expertise quickly enough to circumstances in regional, rural and remote areas would need monitoring. “If this is a city-centric fix to a large problem, it will disadvantage many people with severe behaviours all across Australia,” Professor Kelly said. Roaming teams of experts may work in the first instance but building capacity through a whole-of-workforce approach needed to be part of the future workforce development policy and funding, he said. Professor Kelly welcomed the review into existing programs but said the government also needed to consider further funding the appropriate internal expertise to work with residents on an ongoing basis, perhaps as a component of the national workforce strategy. Patrick Reid Leading Age Services Australia said it welcomed the government’s review of existing dementia programs but said it was concerned the new mobile teams would not help build long-term capacity within the industry. “There is a risk that the specialist response teams will simply be a quick fix with no enduring increase in skill levels for those dealing with severe behaviours,” said CEO of LASA Patrick Reid. Ian Yates Chief executive of Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia said the creation of the response teams was a positive first step in improving dementia care in the industry but ensuring the new teams worked closely with DBMAS in each state and territory would be critical to their success. “People living with dementia are core business of aged care and aged care providers have to do much better than most do now in responding positively to their needs,” he said. “Indeed many behavioural challenges are the result of provider failings rather than resident behaviours.” Mr Yates said the Federal Government’s commitment to review all existing dementia programs was also welcome. He said the government could also use its control over the allocation of aged care places through ACAR to direct priority to those providers with a solid track record in dementia care. Alzheimer’s Australia supports the new measure and hoped it would lead to a reduction in the use of physical and chemical restraints in residential aged care. The peak body’s CEO Carol Bennett said she welcomed the government’s acknowledgement that this was only one part of a longer term strategy to support people with dementia who experience severe behavioural symptoms. HammondCare, which provides aged care and palliative care in NSW and Victoria and manages the DBMAS in NSW, said it welcomed the new teams as a good first response, but it called for pain management education for care staff and more specialised care units. HammondCare CEO Dr Stephen Judd, who participated in the Ministerial Dementia Forum last year, said the DBMAS in some states found that more than half so-called severe and challenging behaviours were related to unrecognised pain rather than the underlying dementia. Environmental triggers such as noise intrusion were also a leading factor, he said. Dr Judd said the government’s review of dementia programs should include education for nurses and carers in identifying and treating pain experienced by people with dementia. “A longer term response also needs to include the introduction more broadly of special care units for people with severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, such as units run by Southern Cross Care in Perth and our Linden Cottage at Hammondville,” Dr Judd said. National Director of UnitingCare Australia Lin Hatfield Dodds said the government had clearly understood the concerns raised at the dementia forum and that it was right to trial a new initiative to improve care capacity. “It is a positive step forward both for the people who need specialised care and for the services doing their best to provide that care with limited resources,” said Ms Dodds, who was speaking on behalf of UnitingCare’s provider agencies. She also welcomed the comprehensive review of existing dementia programs. Clinical psychologist and dementia educator Bernie McCarthy asked how the new response teams would differ to the work of DBMAS. “I can’t see how this will provide residential aged care facilities with anything different to what is currently available,” Mr McCarthy told Australian Ageing Agenda. “The DBMAS are supposed to have the experts so where are we going to find people to staff these teams?” [post_title] => New dementia care model [post_excerpt] => New severe behaviour response teams for dementia patients. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => new-dementia-care-model [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-06 10:58:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-05 23:58:53 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 17980 [post_author] => 655 [post_date] => 2015-02-03 10:38:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-02 23:38:07 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_17981" align="alignnone" width="300"] Don't make your next media release a yawn-fest.[/caption] Communicating the complex business of government in simple language is an important survival skill for public sector practitioners. Veteran TV news producer Steve Carey separates what cuts through ‑ and what hits the cutting room floor. Media releases... they have the power to engage, uplift, entice, explain and inform. On the other hand, they can bore people witless and deliver a stunning “own goal”. I remember a classic example from my days at the 7 Network. In a dispute over sports broadcast rights with the network, the Australian Subscription and Radio Association (ASTRA) issued a weighty three-page media release on the issue. The Seven’s Network’s response?  “ASTRA’s latest comments have bored us rigid. We’re so bored we can’t even raise the enthusiasm to reply.” This demonstrates that a short, sharp press release, which gets straight to the point, will usually win hands down. Unfortunately this is a fact lost, all too often, by those working in government and political circles and it’s simply because too many people use complex jargon to explain simple policy measures. During a 35-year career in journalism I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve ‘binned’ or ignored what some bureaucrat’s press office has sent me because it was almost unintelligible or just too boring. The example, sampled below, is from the Office of Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. It’s overly long, full of minutiae and has no chance of engaging the media, let alone the electorate. The abolition of 23 non-statutory advisory bodies including: the Social Inclusion Board; the Australian Animals Welfare Advisory Committee; the Commonwealth Firearms Advisory Council; the International Legal Services Advisory Council; the National Intercountry Adoption Advisory Group; the National Steering Committee on Corporate Wrongdoing; the Antarctic Animal Ethic Committee; the Advisory Panel on the Marketing in Australia of Infant Formula; the High Speed Rails Advisory Group; the Maritime Workforce Development Forum; the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing; the Insurance Reform Advisory Group; the National Housing Supply Council; the National Policy Commission on Indigenous Housing; the National Children and Family Roundtable…” Simple, everyday conversational speech is the key. Communication in plain English, whether verbal or written, should be a mantra of everyone in government circles… be they the Minister, the Minister’s media team right down to a department’s front office staff. The reason is obvious. How do you sell complex, often controversial, new policy initiatives and ideas to the electorate if voters don’t have the chance to grasp the concept? My advice to anyone distributing these messages: keep it simple. When I ran the 7 Melbourne newsroom, I always told my less experienced reporters to pretend that they were telling the story to a friend at the pub over a beer. For some reason, the idea of chatting to a friend in an informal setting really does help us distil messages into their most basic form. It doesn’t mean that we’re talking down to people; we’re simply engaging our audience on a level everyone can understand. And fully understanding a concept allows people to become actively engaged in the discussion. All too often senior public servants, politicians, and their advisors, forget that a conversation is a two-way-street. The dialogue will not flow if stakeholders and the general public need a dictionary of technical terms to begin the process. There’s also a mindset, which is changing, that the senior government official – the Premier, Party Leader or Minister, must be the ones to convey ‘big announcements’. On the contrary, at NewsFlash Media our independent research shows that the subject matter expert is the person most people want to hear from. They want to hear from someone who, with the right level of media training and confidence, knows what’s going on and can convey the big picture in simple terms. While the person signing the ‘political cheques’ should be centre stage, the key to a successful launch is having the right expert on hand to respond with certainty and clarity. The other critical factor is ensuring the information is delivered in easily digestible, well-rehearsed ‘sound bites’. Again, this requires a level of skill and confidence that can be learned with the right advice, training and key messaging. Now there’s a new kid on the block revolutionising the way we communicate – social media. What a trap for the unwary that’s proven itself to be. How many times over the past couple of years has a high profile individual come unstuck because they tried to fudge the truth, hide the facts or refuse to answer the question only for the information to be made available online for everyone to see? That’s why I believe that open and honest communication is a far more effective tool in the PR wars these days than sugar-coated media messages and spun half-truths. A couple of years ago the Herald Sun even ridiculed the Brumby Labor Government in Victoria for having more spin doctors than any other state government in the country. “The Victorian Government is the spin king of Australia, with more than 700 of the nation's 3000 media advisers working for Premier John Brumby and his team. The Brumby Government and its agencies are employing hundreds of staff to manage their public perception at a cost to taxpayers of more than $70 million a year, a Sunday Herald Sun investigation has found.” In our media training, we teach spokespeople that controversy can be a great opportunity, but only if you have sound messages around the issue and the right people to deliver them. Governments and organisations that do this successfully are perceived as trustworthy by the public while earning the respect of journalists and commentators who are so often confronted with nothing but spin. In a recent interview I did with 3AW Commentator and Presenter Neil Mitchell, spin was his number one gripe. Worse still, excess spin just encourages journalists and media outlets to go harder to find the ‘real story’. Being clear, concise and honest is the only way to tell the story these days. You may lose a bit of bit of shine from the paintwork when things go negative, but with the right mix of transparency, timing and training, the house will remain intact. Steve Carey has 35 years TV experience. He is Founding Partner of Newsflash Media which deals in media training and crisis management. He is a former Director of News for 7 Melbourne, and former Supervising Producer of Today Tonight.     [post_title] => Cut to the chase [post_excerpt] => Don't bore when you communicate. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => cut-to-the-chase [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-03 11:23:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-03 00:23:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 17971 [post_author] => 655 [post_date] => 2015-02-03 10:05:32 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-02 23:05:32 [post_content] => LoveLockBridge This article first appeared in the August/September issue of Government News. Agencies should view the National Transition Strategy as a driver of better government services, cost savings and efficiencies, not as a compliance issue, Tim Lohman writes. As the National Transition Strategy (NTS) moves into the final six months before its December 2014 deadline, it’s timely to reflect on how the mandate to make government websites accessible to people with disabilities has progressed, and evolved to become a driver of better government processes. For those unfamiliar with the NTS, the policy was launched in 2010 as the Federal Government’s coordinated response to the need to make all government websites accessible to people with a disability. This was to be done by compelling agencies to conform to the international standard on website accessibility, the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0). The primary outcomes of the NTS are that all government bodies must meet the most basic level of WCAG 2.0 conformance (Level A) by 2012 or the middle level of conformance (Level AA) by the end of 2014. However, meeting the goals of the NTS has to date been something of a challenge. NTS compliance  The major litmus test available to test agencies’ compliance with the policy is the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy 2012 Progress report, which arguably paints an underwhelming portrait of non-compliance. For example, the report shows that at the NTS’s half-way point, compliance with any level of WCAG 2.0 conformance had grown from 5 per cent in 2010 to just to 26 per cent in 2012. As at 2012, some 46 per cent of government websites were reported as non-conforming. This perceived lack of progress has drawn the ire of advocates of web accessibility, however the figures in the Interim Report needs to be read within a wider context, argues former Australian Government chief information officer (CIO) and now ‎Research Vice President, Government at analyst firm Gartner, Glenn Archer. He says that the compliance targets set by the NTS were and still are aggressive. At the time of the NTS’s creation, there was also an under-appreciation of the volume of legacy materials on websites that agencies would need to drag to a state of compliance. “While agencies are well set up to support WCAG compliance for new websites they are building it is somewhat of a challenge to go back and retrospectively apply that to their old websites,” Archer told Government News. “In some instances that was almost impossible because the source documents no longer existed. In other cases it was arguably less valuable because the government program that website belonged to no longer existed or was no longer supported.” Archer adds that while the progress report may have created the perception that progress on NTS has been slow, this view doesn’t take into account the perspective that some agencies may also be playing the compliance long-game. “…Because Level A compliance was set for 2012 and Level AA compliance was set for 2014 they (agencies) decided that to correct the non-compliant aspects of their sites it was easier to aim for Level AA in 2014 than Level A in 2012,” he says. “Yes, that meant that they were non-compliant in 2012 but they had a more aspirational goal for 2014.” Then there’s also the fact that in the years since the NTS’s creation government agencies have been further stretched by the demand to focus on the mass adoption of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr, which can in themselves be difficult to make accessible. For accessibility advocates such as Media Access Australia’s Dr Scott Hollier, the progress towards compliance revealed within the report can be viewed with a different perspective. While he praises the creation of the NTS and the efforts of staff within agencies to progress web accessibility, Dr Hollier says that since 2012 and the passing of the Level A deadline there has been a notable change at the higher level of government towards the NTS. “It started to become obvious, as noted by the research that University of South Australia Associate Professor Denise Wood and I did among government workers, that there was a notable lack of resourcing and in-house training on some of the key accessibility issues such as PDF and document accessibility, how to audit websites and captioning videos,” he says. “Just prior to the release of the interim report there was an announcement at the OZeWAi (Web content Adaptability Initiative in Australia) conference that the government was basically accepting that there was no chance they would reach their Level AA deadline at the end of this year which was perceived as the government giving up on accessibility by the wider community.” Turning to the Federal Government’s current view of the NTS, Dr Hollier says that initial climate of support for web accessibility has changed significantly, particularly in light of the 2014-15 Budget. “In my view this is mainly due to the realisation that the first target largely went unmet, so that led to a defeatist view that the second target wouldn’t be met either,” he says. “Also, there’s the fact that there was no funding available to address the issues that could help around improved resourcing. “A less significant but still notable issue has been the slashing of the public service announced in the Budget. That has affected many of the people at the coal-face trying to make accessibility happen.” In light of this Dr Hollier says that political decision makers need to recommit to accessibility and reaffirm that all citizens have the right to access government information. “The Government also needs to be reminded that failing to commit to web accessibility means they are more likely to face discrimination-based legal challenges like that of Jodhan v. the Attorney General of Canada,” he says. “If you look at existing policies, like Digital First, the government generally accepts that the more information and services that are provided online the less there is that needs to be done elsewhere at potentially higher cost and less efficiently. If the government enables the one in five people nationally who have a disability the freer the government is to modernise its processes.” Web accessibility in transition More positively, the former Australian Government CIO Archer says that government agencies’ understanding of the benefits of web accessibility has matured in recent years. This can be seen in the understanding that the interests of government are broadly served by agencies making their websites and their online material as understandable and as accessible to as many of their citizens as they possibly can. “All organisations understand that [accessible websites are] an effective way of interacting with citizens or customers,” Archer says. “Designing websites to be as accessible as possible will drive take-up, satisfaction with the service and with the organisation and it benefits everyone. It is in their interests to look to leverage this approach and style of building websites. The former CIO adds that there has also been a broader shift in the understanding of web accessibility as benefiting older Australians, those with lower education levels and those from non-English speaking backgrounds. “There is sometimes a somewhat mistaken perspective that web accessibility is solely about people who have some visible disability,” he explains. “It is actually broader than that and is meant to include an understanding that websites need to be able to be read and understood by citizens more generally — that includes people who might struggle with English, or with reading generally, or who may have different education levels.” Because of this understanding of the value of web accessibility, Archer says that it will be likely that NTS compliance will likely be higher than many expect. “We’ll all look to see what the levels of compliance are [at the end of 2014], but do I think there is no interest in pursuing accessibility more broadly across government? No I don’t,” he says. “I think all governments have an interest in pursuing a digital strategy and providing services in an online world is a part of that. It is both valuable for their citizens as well as for their own operations.” However, that won’t stop accessibility advocates, including Dr Hollier in calling upon the Federal Government for a clearer articulation of its plans post December 2014. “A policy document indicating a positive plan for a post-NTS future demonstrating clear goals and target for web accessibility would make a big difference in letting people know that web accessibility is still on the agenda,” Dr Hollier says. The future of web accessibility As the NTS begins its inexorable march to a December 2014 completion, perhaps the greatest thing that will be said of the policy is that its true transition is one of perception. That is, that agency heads and frontline staff will have a new understanding that making their websites accessible to the broadest cross-section of the community is a major driver of efficiency, cost savings, citizen satisfaction and the delivery of higher-quality services. They’ll also recognise the value of investing in up-skilling staff in web accessibility and dedicating the funding for web accessibility projects. These benefits for agencies and citizens may well remain as fundamental drivers for website accessibility long after the NTS is consigned to the regulatory dustbin. Tim Lohman is a freelance journalist and currently works at Media Access Australia on web accessibility and other access issues. He can be reached at [post_title] => National Transition Strategy: Web accessibility in transition [post_excerpt] => Driving better government services. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => national-transition-strategy-web-accessibility-in-transition [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-03 11:17:07 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-03 00:17:07 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 17966 [post_author] => 655 [post_date] => 2015-02-03 09:52:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-02 22:52:11 [post_content] => diet pills The article first appeared in the August/September issue of Government News. Continued recreational drug use in Australia presents an urgent challenge for local governments to show leadership to ensure all their staff have a safe workplace, according to testing expert Michael White. A recent United Nations report on worldwide drug use showed that, per capita, Australia has the highest rates of dangerous and illicit drug use in the world. In effect, Australians are the world’s highest users of Ecstasy, Ice and Cannabis, and many of those drug-using Australians work in local government jobs. The variety of potentially dangerous roles carried out by local government employees is of significant concern to Michael White, who says that local governments need to get serious about drugs in the workplace, and develop procedures and protocols to ensure local government worksites are drug-safe. “Council workers are driving trucks, operating heavy machinery, in charge of roadside mowers, bulldozers or forklifts and who are impaired bydrugs are not only putting themselves at risk, but are also seriously endangering their co-workers and communities around them,” said Michael. Many local governments and councils are now working towards creating a drug-safe workplace based upon education and workplace screening. So why is this important to government and council workers, what are the benefits of a drug-safe workplace, and what does being drug-safe actually mean? Firstly let’s look at some key facts about alcohol and other drugs in the workplace:
  • 25 per cent of workplace accidents are drug related;
  • 10 per cent of workplace deaths are drug related;
  • Almost 70 per cent of drug users are in full time employment; and
  • 80 per cent of workplace drug-related injuries involve co-workers or bystanders not drug users.
The use of drugs, even in small amounts can impair performance, judgment, coordination concentration and alertness. On a worksite this can result in mistakes, accidents and injuries, damage to workplace equipment, deterioration in workplace relationships, increased absenteeism and decreased productivity. The laws Under Occupational Health and Safety laws all government employers have a duty of care to their employees. The legislation varies from state to state but the principles remain the same: an employer must provide and maintain a working environment that is safe without risks to health and safety, as well as monitor the health and safety of all employees. Under the same legislation employees must take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that of others.  In effect, that means both employers and employees should not be affected by drugs or alcohol in a way that puts others at risk. Drugs in the workplace A working environment can be viewed as a snapshot of the wider community. Drugs that are consumed recreationally, often at weekends or after work, are more often than not transported to the workplace, not always knowingly. Many people think that consuming alcohol or using drugs out of work hours is private business.  Not true, said Michael, when the effects can have profound ramifications on workplace safety. “Many illicit drugs have effects that can last for many hours, even days and although workers can be using alcohol or drugs in private, many are still turning up to work many hours later impaired by hangovers or with drugs in their system,” said Michael. Common substances The most commonly used of all illicit drugs and subsequently the most commonly found in work place drug testing is marijuana or cannabis. As a result of hydroponics and cultivation the potency of today’s marijuana far outweighs the milder version of the 60’s and 70’s. Today’s high powered cannabis is so strong it can cause psychotic conditions such as paranoid schizophrenia. With effects lasting in the body up to six hours, cannabis presents a real danger in the workplace, with a greater risk of accident and injury, particularly if the employee is operating heavy machinery or driving a vehicle. Cannabis use also results in loss of energy and interest in employee tasks and overall poor performance. Ecstasy is growing in popularity, as it’s reasonably easy to produce, cheap to buy and widely available. Ecstasy is an amphetamine based stimulant or ‘upper’ that works within the user’s central nervous system. The short term effects of amphetamine based drugs include a ‘rush’ which includes speeding up of bodily activities such as heart rate, breathing and blood pressure, the mouth can dry up, sweating increases and fluid loss can cause severe headaches. Ecstasy users will feel more energetic and alert, have increased confidence, reduced appetite and tend to lower their inhibitions or drop their guard. In some people amphetamines will cause irritability, anxiety, depressive, hostile and aggressive behavior. Panic attacks can also occur. Coming down from an amphetamine high can involve violent behavior, tension, radical mood swings, depression and total exhaustion. Often the user will display shaking, sweating and feelings of nausea. Methamphetamine or Ice has become the biggest concern for the Australian police forces nationwide.  Ice stimulates the senses, increases the libido, over heats the body, removes any sense of conscience or responsibility, and makes the user believe that have super strength. Add in paranoia and a tendency towards extreme violence and it becomes one of the most dangerous drugs available. The most dangerous effect is that Ice keeps users in this state for three or four days followed by the worst hangover imaginable. A council worker using Ice is nothing but a danger to themselves and those working with them. Alcohol is the most widely used psychoactive or mood changing recreational drug in Australia, and when mixed with other illicit drugs the results can be disastrous.  Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, not a stimulant as commonly thought. Depending on various circumstances including the amount of consumed, alcohol can have some seriously debilitating effects including increased confusion, reduced coordination, slurred speech, poor muscle control, blurred vision. Heavy consumption of alcohol over time can cause permanent damage to many parts of the body including impairment of brain and liver functions. Creating a Drug-Safe Workplace programme Identifying alcohol and drug use in the workplace as part of an ongoing drug screening programme is relatively simple. “There are a variety of screening techniques and processes for testing including breathalysers for alcohol, and urine or oral fluid sampling for illicit drugs,” said Michael. “Workplace drug testing, combined with implementing alcohol and other drugs policies, developing staff induction processes, training workshops, drug awareness programmes and management courses, will mean that local government workplaces and communities can move toward being drug-safe,” he said. “Being a drug-safe work place has benefits for local government employers and employees alike. Not only are employers fulfilling their legislative requirements, reducing the cost of absenteeism and ensuring workplace safety, employees and their families can rest assured that the chance of accident or injury at work can be significantly reduced,” said Michael. Here are some simple steps to creating a drug-safe workplace:
  1. Engage a NATA accredited, on-site organisation that can assist you with a full spectrum of options and solutions.
  2. Ensure you have a good and legally robust alcohol and other drugs policy that spells out the details in easy to comprehend language.
  3. Conduct alcohol and other drug education and awareness workshops where you can introduce the policies as part of the discussion process.
  4. Introduce a new staff and contractor d  rug-safe induction process to ensure that no bad habits can be recruited into the organisation going forward.
  5. Train WHS managers or supervisors to conduct alcohol and drug tests as part of a return to work process for those employees who may have been identified as drug users and need to take some time off to clean out their systems.
  6. Conduct a blanket screen of all employees to establish a base-line to measure performance and identify hot-spots that need focus. This allows an affordable sensible random screening schedule that concentrates on the areas of highest risk.
  7. Review reports and manage the program over time to ensure the original objectives are being achieved.
Case study A NSW North Coast council office received reports from colleagues and local community members that workers were behaving dangerously and erratically. The incidents were overlooked until a worker drove through a built up area with a cherry picker in an upright position, bringing down power lines and blacking out several streets. Upon investigation it was found that the crew was cultivating and using marijuana within their workplace, out of sight of the management. The GM introduced a Frontline Diagnostics drug-safe workplace programme which identified 100 per cent drug use within the crew who were stood down until they could show they were clean and could return to work. After four months of education workshops, blanket screening and introducing an induction process, the staff have no drugs at all in their system. Absenteeism and productivity has greatly improved and there are no longer risks of drug-related accidents. Michael White established Frontline Diagnostics, Australia’s largest workplace drug testing agency, in 1999 to provide Australian industry with a complete solution for the detection, management and control of alcohol and other drugs in the workplace.   [post_title] => Staying drug-safe at work [post_excerpt] => Drug testing at work. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => staying-drug-safe-at-work [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-06 11:03:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-06 00:03:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 17919 [post_author] => 655 [post_date] => 2015-01-23 16:50:43 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-01-23 05:50:43 [post_content] => heart-brain-vector-23980829 Knowing when and how to show your feelings as a manager is not only an important skill that can be developed and put to use, it’s also a marker of leadership potential. Dr Marianne Broadbent puts emotions to the test. Have you ever had a boss or a work colleague who just did not seem attuned to what was happening around them? Perhaps you have experienced a work colleague that just did not pick up on the ‘cues’ that others were giving, or some peers who did not understand or appreciate their impact on others. In these situations, it is likely that the individuals concerned had a few gaps in their Emotional Intelligence (EI). While the notion of EI really started to be articulated more than 25 years, it has progressively been seen as an important factor in human performance and development potential. We use a well-recognised EI assessment approach and tool in all of our executive and team development work and most of our executive search work*. This can provide a rich source of feedback to individuals, particularly to executives and managers, as EI is a set of attributes you can actually work on and improve. Emotional Intelligence is a Set of Skills Emotional Intelligence is a set of emotional and social skills that influence our behaviour. This includes the way we perceive and express ourselves, the way we develop and maintain social relationships, and the way we cope with challenges. It is also about how we use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way. EI is seen as something of a predictor of success in life and work. Think of its impact this way: you might know many really smart people, who appear to have high-ish IQs; but they might not be very effective or contribute as much as those whose raw intelligence is a bit lower, yet have a well-developed set of emotional and social skills. When an individual has both high-ish IQ and high EQ they are more likely to have the development potential for senior leadership. Think of executives you know who ‘get it’ with people and relationships ‑ and also hold their own intellectually. They’re probably easier to work with, and reason with, than those who do not have that combination. It is important to understand though, what makes up the EI skill set, and how the different attributes – particularly some highs and lows – Emotional Intelligence has Five Aspects So what are the specific attributes that comprise EI? The MHS EQ-I Model that we draw on has five distinct aspects of emotional and social functioning. There are three attributes within each of those five aspects. The first aspect is Self-Perception and encompasses understanding your own emotions through your self-awareness, your self-regard or confidence, and your self-actualisation, or the extent to which these focus on continuous development. Understanding and valuing yourself is usually part of the fabric of good leaders. Self-Expression is the second aspect and includes assertiveness, independence and emotional expression. Assertiveness is about how you stand-up for yourself and independence is about how you ‘stand on your own two feet’ or the extent to which you need others to tell you what to do. A good level of initiative is critical for leaders. However, a combination of very high assertiveness and independence might make it harder for a person to be a real team player, as they might not take into account the views of others to the extent that they should. Emotional expression is about how you present your feelings to others, and is an attribute that is harder to comprehend than others. Think of it this way: some of us have been brought up not to show our feelings or be demonstrative in any way. This can have a negative impact on how we lead others, as our appearance to others will show little variation. If we are particularly happy or rather angry, we won’t give out many clues. Having a reasonable level of emotional expression helps us to appear to be more authentic and often more influential with others, as we are able to put some emotion behind our words. But, as with most aspects of EI, an exceptionally high level of emotional expression might mean you present to others with too much by way of extremes. This is where your self-awareness comes in – to judge when, and how, to show and use your emotions effectively. Decision Making is the fourth aspect, and includes problem solving, reality testing and impulse control. The problem solving attribute can be a bit misleading as individuals often believe they are good ‘problem solvers’. In EI terms though, it is about effectively managing your emotions when solving problems; for example, separating out the personal and professional (and also articulating to others that that is what you are doing). Reality testing is about checking that you see things as they really are. We all know people who we might say ‘have a poor grip on reality’. That is, they might leave a meeting thinking things went well, but they were really a bit delusional about that. For those people checking that what they experienced is what others also experienced is a very useful and simple technique. Regarding impulse control, some of us have a tendency to react to a situation more quickly than we need to. Think of the time you might have replied in haste to an email, or were too quick to assume bad intent and comment on potentially negative behaviours of others – without fully understanding their situation or the circumstances. You might know people you would describe as ‘considered’ who will think things through before reacting. They are likely to have a higher level of impulse control than some of their peers. Stress management is the fifth aspect of Emotional Intelligence and includes flexibility, stress tolerance and optimism. Flexibility is about how effectively you adapt to change, and can also include how well you deal with ambiguity and uncertainty. Stress tolerance is about how successfully you cope with stressful situations. Optimism is about having a positive outlook and usually an important ingredient of effective Interactions of Different EI Attributes  One of the most useful aspects of understanding your own EI is knowing your ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ areas are and the implications for your behaviour. This is because you can modify it when and where appropriate. For example, a high level of stress tolerance with concurrent low empathy is likely to mean that you can deal personally with difficult situations, but you will not understand why others cannot do the same. If that is also matched with lower impulse control your behaviour at times might look like ‘bullying’ or at least ‘badgering’ to others. You are likely to ‘sound off’ at why others can’t deal with things the way you can. Reviewing levels of assertiveness and empathy are important in any negotiating situation. We worked with a group of 20 very senior Project Directors. They were each leading part of a major business systems implementation (in the range of $300m+ over three years). On average, as a group they had a high level of assertiveness with low levels of empathy. They wanted to just ‘get it done’, but had to bring others along with them, including members of the executive team. Just sharing with each of them their individual EI scores and then the aggregate as a group, had a profound impact on their understanding of why they were encountering resistance. In working with their external consulting ‘integration partner’ also they wanted to ‘win’ every encounter and negotiation, rather than really understanding what their partner’s issues and pressures were. On the other hand, where you have a combination of lower assertiveness and higher empathy, you might just ‘yield’ in any difficult negotiation. You really empathise with those with whom you are negotiating, and are not so good at standing up for yourself, your viewpoint, or your part of the organisation. Work on Your Emotional Intelligence  A person’s EI will change over time. It will usually improve as you get older and then stabilise. The key aspect is to understand the different elements of EI and our natural tendencies – some of which relate back to how we were raised and our life experiences. At NGS Global (formerly EWK International) we use it to help establish the need for targeted individual and then team development, including at the highest levels of public and commercial sector leadership. The feedback and advice can be challenging, and it also provides some good indicators of those who want to enhance their own development and contribution. We have seen it lead to significant increases in personal performance and in interaction with and impact on others – all of which enhance an individual’s leadership attributes and ongoing potential. *For further information on the Emotional Intelligence approach in which NGS Global / EWKI Partners are trained and use, see Dr Marianne Broadbent is Managing Partner with the Leadership Consultancy of NGS Global, (EWK International has rebranded as NGS Global) [post_title] => Getting to the heart of emotional intelligence [post_excerpt] => Boosting your EI. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => emotional-intelligence [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-03 10:51:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-02 23:51:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 14 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26493 [post_author] => 655 [post_date] => 2017-03-21 10:33:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-20 23:33:28 [post_content] =>     More than 100 of Australia’s local government authorities have so far participated in the new local Government Digital Maturity Index, a Government News initiative. Next week is your council's last chance to take advantage of our survey, which is open until Friday March 24.  All participating councils will receive a tailored benchmarking report, quantifying and comparing their digital maturity with those of their peers. Participation is via completion of a 20-minute survey, which can be accessed here. It costs nothing and is available to all local government authorities in Australia and New Zealand. The more councils that get involved, the more valuable the data will be. “It’s the first time these metrics have been used in Australia,” says project leader Graeme Philipson. “It will be extremely useful for the councils that take part, but its real value will be to the wider local government sector, which for the first time will be able to gauge the extent to which Australia’s councils are adopting digital strategies and practices.” Preliminary findings have already highlighted some valuable insights into the digital profiles of Australian LGAs:
  • Two-thirds of councils are using web site metrics to measure the effectiveness of their online presence – but less than a quarter of them are measuring the effectiveness of their overall digital strategy.
  • One quarter of councils have a mature cloud computing strategy, and another quarter are experimenting with cloud. But that means half have yet to move.
  • Two-thirds of councils allow rates to be paid online, but only one third allow parking fines and other infringement notices to be paid online.
  • Over 60 percent of councils offer at least some Wi-Fi in public places.
“The final analysis will be substantial., says Mr Philipson. “It will provide both an overall snapshot and individual ratings.” Councils can participate in the project until the end of March by clicking on the survey link. The results will then be collated and analysed, with a market analysis report containing the overall findings released in May. Participating councils will then receive their individual benchmark reports. “It’s a cooperative project, a kind of crowdsourcing exercise,” explains Mr Philipson. “Every council that participates gets to see where they are on the digital journey, and the whole local government industry gets a detailed analysis of the overall level of digitisation in the sector.”   [post_title] => Final day for free local government digital maturity survey [post_excerpt] => More than 100 councils have responded so far. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 26493 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-03-24 10:31:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-03-23 23:31:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 2870 [max_num_pages] => 205 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => 1 [is_category] => [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 0df464b2fa1256161fe3ca0889873825 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 1 [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )