This month we speak with Sarah Cleggett, Social Planner at Adelaide City Council. Sarah speaks about the challenges for Adelaide, the impact of Climate Change and the Vibrant City agenda.
Hi Sarah, thanks for speaking with us.
What’s your current role, and what does it involve?
I am Social Planner at Adelaide City Council. Social Planning is about promoting social development in communities and responding to social issues and needs.
At ACC, I coordinate activities related to pursuing the outcomes of Council’s Access and Inclusion Strategy which includes facilitating the Access and Inclusion Advisory Panel and working with key projects across Council to reduce barriers to participation for people with disability.
I also undertake research and community and stakeholder engagement to ensure Council is aware of trends and State and Federal policy directions related to vulnerable groups such as homelessness and ageing.
I provide advice related to large development applications and development policy for the city.
Currently, I am supporting the development of a new Council run community space within Council’s new mixed use development the Ergo Apartments.
Where were you before and what attracted you to your current role?
I started my Local Government career at the City of Charles Sturt in community development and projects.
Previously I worked as a Social Worker in the not for profit sector and mental health sector. I had aspired to a Social Planning position since I graduated and when the position came up at Adelaide, I thought I would throw my hat in the ring.
The city had been earmarked for major infill development and offered the opportunity to work on projects that would have a greater impact to people who live, work and visit the city being a Capital City.
What is the most satisfying thing about working in Local Government?
At the Local Government level you get to see a more immediate impact of the work you do and get to work more closely with the community.
Having been a Social Worker, I got a good sense of the importance that local neighbourhoods have on people’s wellbeing through access to good transport links, shops, community centres and libraries and social support whether that be neighbours and friends or more formal support like doctors and other service providers.
Working at the Local Government level I get to be involved in urban and community planning that can lead to a good basis for supportive local neighbourhoods.
Speaking about your current role - What are the most critical social and inclusion challenges that come with Adelaide's residential growth?
Personally I think a key challenge is making sure that everyone is included in the journey Adelaide is taking regarding the vibrant city agenda.
I believe we need to take an active role in ensuring that marginalised and vulnerable people are warmly invited, welcomed, supported and acknowledged as contributors to the fabric of city life.
As part of that approach Government needsto ensure that a variety of people can afford to live in the city and have access to meaningful activities whether that is paid work, volunteering or participation in projects and programs.
How do you bring the community along in the journey?
Most people are happy to go about their lives and have some confidence that things at a Local Government level will tick along in the background.
For many people, the only contact they have with Local Government is when something goes wrong or they need support.
I think it’s important for Council to design their services and do business in a way that makes information and communication relevant and accessible.
I think it’s our job to break down the big issues into bite size pieces and provide people the opportunity to do business, get involved and contribute in a way that suits them which could be online, it could be at their local café, it could be through a gathering at the local pub.
Increasingly the opportunity to work alongside people is part of our approach, rather than just provide a service.
It’s important organisations create the room for staff to work collaboratively with the community and build trust over time.
What do you think will be the biggest influences on the lifestyle of city dwellers in the near future, and does Council have a role to play in assisting this?
Climate change will have a real impact on people living, working and visiting the city in future years.
The urban heat island effect is something Council will need to actively plan for and respond to in many different ways including street greening, support for vulnerable communities such as the homeless and elderly and everyday considerations like pedestrian and traffic management.
Adelaide City Council has begun this work and is being proactive in planning for climate change.
Personally, what’s the longer term plan – where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Social planning is a varied discipline and there are many things to get involved with especially given Adelaide’s role as a Capital City.
Therefore I anticipate that I will still be learning and getting challenged by my role as Social Planner.
I could be interested in project role opportunities if they gave me the opportunity to increase my understanding of different parts of the business in order to influence more people focussed planning.
Do you have an embarrassing "Local Government moment?"
I think security alarms going off in the middle of a community cinema event at the Woodville Town Hall,and losing power in the middle of an outdoor cinema event in Athol Park were both quite awkward moments but pretty standard in the life of a community development worker.
How do you spend your leisure time outside of Local Government?
At the moment, I’m planning a wedding so it feels like most of my spare time is spent booking things. Otherwise I like to spend time with family and friends, do yoga and look after the garden.