This month we speak with Bronwyn Webster, Manager Customer and Community Services at the City of Charles Sturt.
Bronwyn tells us about her passion for the sector, her role at Charles Sturt, her involvement with the Community Manager's Network - and her plans post-retirement!
Hi Bronwyn, thanks for speaking with us.
What’s your current role, and what does it involve?
My current role is Manager Customer & Community Services at the City of Charles Sturt. I have responsibility for the Customer Contact Centre and organisation-wide customer service improvement initiatives. The community services part of my role takes in community care which provides service for frail aged people through the Commonwealth Home Support Program and community development which covers our six community centres, community development outreach, youth services, volunteer services and the Employment Works program.
In addition, within our portfolio we have the Social Planner and the Social Inclusion Coordinator.
How long have you been at Charles Sturt and where were you before? (i.e. what is your work background/career path so far)
I have been at Charles Sturt for just over seven years. Prior to starting here I was with the Commonwealth Office for Women in Canberra and prior to that in the ACT government and the South Australian government. All of my roles have been in the broad human services, including the community sector as well as seven years in my own consultancy business.
I have had lots of experience in all levels of government, non-government sector and private sector.
What attracted you to local government, and your current role?
When I came back to Adelaide from Canberra I was looking for a new challenge and this role came along. It fitted with my experience, but also with my passion for community services and offered the opportunity to make a difference.
What motivates you? - What do you find most interesting or exciting about working in local government?
The great thing about local government – particularly by comparison with State and Commonwealth government is the close connection with the community.
There is an immediacy about local government in many respects – feedback from community members is regular and there is also the opportunity to work more closely with elected members.
One of the most interesting challenges is to keep that feedback and those relationships in perspective, to be responsive whilst at the same time being creative and developing new approaches and initiatives.
Speaking about your current role - Manager Customer and Community Services - what are you most proud of since you've held that role? What initiatives or new ideas have you employed that might be very valuable for other councils to use or try?
I have the most wonderful teams of people working with me. They are creative, innovative, passionate and committed and make every day interesting and fulfilling.
A couple of things that I’m proud of include the Employment Works Program which provides opportunities for unemployed young people to learn skills while working on capital projects within council. This not only provides skill development to Certificate 2 level for the participants but also delivers savings to council – a win win!
One of the projects delivered through this program is the warehouse space for Youth Services at the Brocas – a heritage building on Woodville Road.
We have also designed and had built Charlie the Communicart – a trailer that goes out to local neighbourhoods as a kind of mobile community centre.
These initiatives and many more have all come about because of the hard work and dedication of staff who are involved.
You are also the Chair of the Community Managers Network. What would you say is the most rewarding aspect of chairing the network? What do you expect the group will achieve in the future?
Another great bunch of people! The most rewarding aspect of my involvement with the network is the wonderful level of discussion and debate that we share, together with the programs and events that we have been able to run over the years.
These are all very busy people but we all find the time to contribute to improving our sector which I think is fantastic.
Personally, what’s the longer term plan? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (If it's retirement - what do you think you'll miss most about local government once you have put your feet up? Or do you think it's in the blood and you'll continue to dabble?)
Well I’m actually retiring on 8 July!
Whilst I have a few nice retirement type things planned I’m sure I’ll be around and about ‘dabbling’ in community services of one kind or another. I will miss the people – both at Charles Sturt and more widely in the sector.
I’ve met some wonderful, quirky, interesting, weird people in my time in local government! You all know who you are!
With such a long and distinguished career in the sector - can you share with us an embarrassing ‘local government moment’?
Hmmm probably none that are fit for publication.
How do you spend your leisure time outside of local government?
Music, food, wine and friends – in any order and often altogether. Oh and walking the dogs…