Inspiring the next generation of local leaders

By Angela Dorizas

Young people working in local government will be challenged to consider a long term career in the sector at an emerging leaders’ forum in Wollongong next week.

Organised by a team of young professionals at Wollongong City Council, the second LiveWire leadership forum will provide an opportunity for industry experts to share their knowledge and experience with the next generation of local government leaders.

Wollongong City Council cadet and LiveWire member, Zach Kitschke, said the forum would help create a broader network of young local government professionals.

“We’re looking beyond the forum towards setting up a regional, state and possibly even national network of young professionals,” he said.

“We’re really hoping to build on the momentum around this event.”

He said the two-day forum would allow delegates to exchange ideas with other young professionals and forge new relationships.

Mr Kitschke, who works full time at the council and studies part time, said the greatest benefit of working in local government was the diversity it offered.

“There is an opportunity to develop a career path in local government,” he said.

“But you can also have a career change without leaving the sector.”
Wollongong City Council general manager David Farmer said the organisation had positioned itself as an employer of choice for young professionals.

“We’re really focused on being a learning organisation and creating opportunities for our younger professionals,” Mr Farmer said.

“It’s really about trying to keep the best and brightest in our industry and encouraging them to aspire to opportunities that they may not have thought about.”

Mr Farmer said local government faced the ongoing challenge of a high turnover of young employees.

“Our younger workforce is far more mobile and far more likely to skip in and out of our industry and into other areas of government and the private sector,” he said.

Mr Farmer said the LiveWire forum would help capture the “energy and potential” of young professionals and inspire them towards leadership opportunities. He added that it had already attracted delegates from as far away as New Zealand.

The forum will feature presentations from a range of industry experts, including Ross Woodward, chief executive of the Division of Local Government at the Department of Premier and Cabinet; Monica Barone, chief executive officer of the City of Sydney; and Graham Sansom, director of the UTS Centre for Local Government and the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government.

Mr Sansom said he will challenge delegates to consider the changing role of local government in the Australian system of government; the current state of play in local-federal relations; and the shift towards community governance.

“Local government sees itself much more as a partner with other players at the community level,” he said.

“What does that really mean for the role local government plays and how it organises itself?”

Mr Sansom said it was important for young professionals to develop their own ideas about how the sector should evolve.

“We don’t want to straight-jacket them with ideas from the past and with what middle-aged blokes like me have to say,” Mr Sansom said.

“We need to give them some thought starters about the contribution they might make to a changing system of local government, and therefore what new ideas and perspectives they might bring over the years.

“That to me is what talking to a new generation of professionals is all about.”

The LiveWire emerging leaders forum will be held from September 22-23 at the Novotel Wollongong Northbeach.

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