360 Review with Andrew Coulson, Australia

Posted on February 19, 2015

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Who doesn’t love a good ol’ fashioned performance review? ELGL loves them so much that we’re embarking on a “360 Review of Local Government.” We’re going to evaluate every single inch of the local government arena by talking to ourselves (a.k.a: other local government professionals), tech companies, journalists, professors, and anyone else who hasn’t blocked our email address.

Andrew Coulson (Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest) is a Team Leader – Community Engagement Projects for the DEWNR – Natural Resources SA MDB in Australia. He manages a team of three officers and oversees general community engagement projects.



What are you afraid of?

Local government is very much a third tier in Australia and could easily by swept away in a major reform, taking local power out of local governance.

Your hometown? 

The town I live in is Adelaide and is 5th most liveable city in the world

Which bands would play at your retirement party?

Probably the local school covers band who’ll do it for $50 and a slab of beer (but don’t tell their parents about the beer)

Best holiday gift that you’ve received? Given?

Memories. In both cases

Best part of working in the local government arena. Most frustrating?

Best part – I miss it now I’ve moved to state. Most frustrating – nonsensical middle management


Describe the current state of local government.
In South Australia, where I live, local government is healthyish. The larger councils seem to be relatively safe amongst economic uncertainty though I have witnessed privatisation of recreation services in one big area and cuts in other services like opening times, down sizing of community centre offerings and the selling of public land for housing. In recent elections turnout was mediocre to say the least however candidate numbers were up as people came out to challenge the stagnant few. The only major shock was the removal of Adelaide’s, pretty popular, Lord Mayor who lost only by a handful of votes to a candidate who plastered the city with his face. Amalgamation of smaller councils was a topic that was quickly dismissed.
Give us three areas in which local government is succeeding.shareasimage-1-e1417340200441

  • Social Media – going well in most metropolitan SA councils across multiple platforms
  • Dog Parks – for some reason this is something councils around here love to do and do well
  • Wetlands – water is important in Australia so the maintenance and upkeep of these natural resources has seen some councils recognised internationally, some even turning it in to profit.

Give us three areas in which local government needs improvement.

  • Collaboration – still lacking in its true form however some councils are getting good at involving. But they need to give staff that extra bit of freedom if they want to jointly make decisions with the community.
  • Multi-Culturalism – Australia is becoming more and more diverse with many cultures, many religions and many languages however local councils struggle with this when providing services and information.
  • Aged Care and Dementia – traditionally not something the local council has to much influence on with rising numbers of people over 55 services are not adapting fast enough

For local government, was there any good that came from the Great Recession?australian-moment-george-megalogenis_0

Not sure it really hit home in Australia however the ripples could still be felt. Some major car manufacturers are to leave Australia in 2015/16 and this could lead to a spike in unemployment and its side affects. How local government could react should be being planned now, I’m doubtful it is.
Evaluate whether local government is prepared for the ongoing wave of retirements.
I think recruitment in local government in Australia is pretty healthy however retention is not. Graduates are certainly not a target to fill the gaps that will appear.
Evaluate local government’s willingness to embrace new technologies.
On a council to council basis in 2-3 years time there will be gaps  which will impact on communities around them. However the LGAs do try to support the advancements so no one is left behind.
Wave a magic wand – what three wishes would you grant local government?MjAxMy01Y2UwZjNkYzE5YTg5NGVj_52abbe19733e3
As you Americans say ‘it’s all about the Benjamin’s’
Give a brief evaluation of your state government and the Federal government.
State government are trying hard, the Federal Government not trying hard enough.
What question(s) should we have asked?
Who in your state is a key emerging local government leader you think we should watch? Under 30? Over 30?

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