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Tell us about the journey to your current role and what it this role entails?

With an academic background in tourism, public relations and marketing, a trade in journalism and a passion for economic and community affairs, it was inevitable a transition to public affairs and communication roles would follow in the NSW State and Local Government sectors and in industry. My current role as City Growth Coordinator at Broken Hill City Council plays a lead role in economic development for the City. The role is responsible for attracting funding and investment, city advocacy, economic and strategic analysis, project support, preparation of submissions and briefing papers for government and industry and supporting the community to achieve their vision of creating a liveable city and building a sustainable future beyond mining life. The role is varied and interesting and includes supporting the roll out of a Smart Community Framework, assisting with the development of regional economic development strategies, including strategic tourism projects, building business cases and screen and film industry liaison.

Can you describe a project you are working on or recently completed? What challenges did you face along the way and how were they overcome?

In 2016, Broken Hill started the roll out of a Smart Community Framework.

Council’s decision to invest in new technologies was guided by the
emphasis our community places on creating a liveable City and building a sustainable economy. There is an imperative to innovate, problem solve and create new opportunities to remain relevant in a global environment marked by rapid social and technological change. This was evident in consultations undertaken for the Community Strategic Plan, the Smart City Framework and Customer Satisfaction Surveys.

One of the first questions we had to consider was how to adopt what seems like big city strategies in a regional community surrounded by a remote landscape?

We could have said it was too hard with an annual budget ($32m) $8.8m less than the annual collection of Sydney City Council’s parking fine revenue ($40.8m). And, we could have given up when we initially struggled to attract Government funding.

But we created a dedicated budget and a position to assess funding opportunities and government strategies so that our projects had alignment with community and government priorities. We adopted a staged approach to delivering an experience that combines our rich past with the latest technology and this has secured $1.9m in funding in three years, including a Smart Cities and Suburbs grant.

Council also pursued a workforce cultural change – empowering employees to think about doing things smarter.

New technology includes an automated digital in/out board and “follow you anywhere” telephone system, online citizen services and an app-like website.

And …. our flagship project designed to activate the Central Business District, event spaces and the twilight and visitor economy includes lighting and projection on heritage buildings, free public Wi-Fi, smart parking and bins and solar and wind powered smart lighting and CCTV. The IOT technology infrastructure to support lighting, CCTV and future API integrations was also completed this year.

What did you learn from this project? What did it achieve?

For a little City in the middle of the desert, we learnt that we can meet our Council vision of “Pound for Pound – To be the most efficient and effective Council in NSW” by pursuing a strategic approach to rolling out Smart City vision.

When we started on the Smart Community journey in 2016, it was easy to get excited about all the potential gadgets that you could sink money into. Companies were keen to deliver sales pitches and offer solutions. We didn’t have the finances and we didn’t really understand what we wanted to achieve first. We discovered that to be strategic and competitive we had to become a resident in the smart city community. We became members of industry organisations, started to attend conferences, build networks and have conversations with other Councils and organisations.

The first message we took on board was to be citizen-centric. That took us back to the Community Strategic Plan. What was the community asking for? What did they need? What did they expect from us as a service?

Once we had that picture, we knew we had to dedicate some dollars. We started to get Government funding buy in once we had some matching dollars on the table.

We also learnt that some of the best solutions came from within our own workforce. Organic, employee lead initiatives have popped up such as automated job postings to LinkedIn and media release automations to publish, log, and add to scheduled EDMs while publishing to a community moderated sub-reddit. The library now has deployed self-service technology and community digital skills development programs.

What excites you most about the future?

Continuing to work in a community where challenges are opportunities. I have a passion to showcase the benefits of living in rural, regional and remote Australia and nurturing projects that improve the capacity of local regions, creates sustainable social change through individual and group action and builds on leadership opportunities and the diversity of regional communities.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone looking to further their career in government, what would it be?

Own your career. Build a suite of transferable skills. Continually assess your knowledge and skills base. Monitor changes in your chosen profession and in the Government sector as a whole. Say yes to learning and don’t be afraid to ask for opportunities to attend workshops, take on secondments, speak at conferences or in the community … anything that helps you to learn, grow and network.

Where do you look to for further education? E.g. articles, podcasts, news sources, online courses, university etc?

By continually working on a gap analysis you can work out what you need to do. I look for short university courses, conferences, workshops, listen to podcasts and read articles, particularly shared through my LinkedIn network. Sharing information with colleagues is also a great informal way to grow your brain. By building strong relationships with colleagues and in your network, learning can be achieved through shared articles and robust conversation.

What are you most looking forward to at the event?

There is nothing I enjoy more than being in a room with people who are sharing their ideas and learnings. One of the best learning opportunities you can have is to listen and learn from the experiences of other people. Often, you find a little golden opportunity that you can take back and help you and your community on their journey.