annekaApplications for LG Professionals Australia first annual International Professional Exchange Program closed recently. Consisting of a two-week placement in a local government office in the US and also hosting a US local government professional here for two weeks, the exchange is a unique opportunity for local government’s emerging leaders to take that next step, both in their careers and personally. Nationally we received 25 impressive applications, and the Australian recipient of local government’s most valuable scholarship is Anneka Ferguson, Community Projects Coordinator, at Dorset Council in Tasmania. Congratulations Anneka!

Dorset Council is located in north­-eastern Tasmania, covering an area of just over 3,000 square kilometres with a population of around 7,000 people. It is a rural municipality, previously dominated by agriculture and forestry, but is now actively developing itself as a tourist destination, with the world­-class Blue Derby mountain bike trails, and hosting a round of the Enduro World Series in 2017.

However, with the community facing socio-­economic challenges, an ageing population, unemployment running substantially higher than the national averages, and limited employment opportunities, Dorest Council and its employees still has plenty of challenges.

According to Anneka, she hopes to, ‘see the best approaches and methods being used by other local governments that can be applied at Dorset Council. With the face of local government changing, it’s critical we understand and embrace the changes expected by our communities. At Dorset, we have a particular focus on supporting our community through projects that will stimulate our local economy and generate jobs, such as the new mountain bike trails. I applied for this exchange because I want to see how other local governments address issues such as high unemployment with a low socio­-economic demographic, and whether we need to be thinking more broadly than our current focus.’

‘The same applies for an ageing population and how councils work with and support communities to embrace their unique opportunities and situations. Dorset Council took over our local aged­ care facility to prevent its closure, with the intention of it being self-sustaining in the longer term. Perhaps approaches implemented elsewhere to embrace an ageing population and coordinate primary health care could potentially be applied here. Communications and data management are also areas of interest where we may well be able to learn new approaches to improve our current practices.’

Prior to joining Dorset Council, Anneka obtained a Bachelor of Science (First Class Honours) from UTAS before working in the private sector for several years as an environmental scientist, a botanist and an ecologist. As the Dorset Council Community Projects Coordinator, Anneka does
research, analysis and reporting for projects and funding applications on behalf of both Dorset Council and community groups; organises and coordinates community events and forums with a range of community groups. She also handles communications for the council website, newsletter and the media; and oversees a caravan park and a visitor information centre, among other things.

‘I have a sound understanding of developing and coordinating multi-disciplinary projects . . . I am enjoying contributing to the advancement of the Dorset community in my current position, and am keen to expand my career within local government.’

As this is the first year we have run the International Professional Exchange Program, we know some of you were caught a little off-guard and didn’t have time to apply this round. The success of this program means that we will be better planned for the future round of applications so stay tuned.