High Achievers - Kathy Parton Manager Community Wellbeing, Knox City Council
As Manager of Community Wellbeing at Knox City Council, Kathy Parton has helped implement a wide range of social and health initiatives and put Council on the path to preventing family violence in the community.
Starting at Knox in 1999, Ms Parton was drawn to local government because of the close community contact.
“I had previously worked in the not-for-profit sector, and state and federal governments in a range of positions within the Community Human Services areas,” she said.
“I was attracted to Local Government because of the ability it provided to directly impact communities: I could both develop municipal policy, oversee and participate in its implementation.”
Knox Councillor Jackson Taylor nominated Ms Parton as a LG Focus ‘High Achiever’.
He said Ms Parton strives for social equality and is always ready to help councillors.
“No matter what my question, the issue, [or] even the problem, Kathy is always on the other end of the line [or] email and will always have a way forward.
“Kathy has been heavily involved in leading the Council in a Family Violence Action Plan, which is a key issue we are tackling in the City of Knox.
“Kathy has also been very vocal and hard working to see our council deliver programs and services that respect gender equity, the LGBTQI community and general health and wellbeing of all residents.”
Ms Parton said the early part of her career was spent in family and children’s services roles. While working in this field, she took on a secondment within the Federal Government, which put her on a new path.
“It influenced a change in my career towards the planning of human/community services and infrastructure within communities to support people of all life stages, abilities and cultural background,” she said.
“Over time throughout subsequent roles I have lead and managed a variety of portfolios (including Emergency Management, Health, Community Development, Social Policy and Planning, Community Safety, and Family Support and Community Education) all aimed at enabling and strengthening community health and wellbeing within cities.”
The City of Knox is located in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs – between the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges and the wetlands of the Dandenong Creek Valley.
Ms Parton said she has a long history with the area: “I spent my primary school years living in Knox so it has been wonderful to come back and see the thriving city it has become.”
A key contribution she has made in her time at Council is working on a family violence prevention strategy.
“Family Violence is a serious and preventable issue,” she said. “Knox has had the highest rate of reported family violence in Melbourne’s Outer East for over 20 years.
“Local government’s leadership role in the prevention of family violence is critical as outlined in the Victorian Royal Commission into family violence.
“Council led the Preventing Violence Against Women In Our Community initiative – a three-and-a-half-year project in partnership with other Outer East Metropolitan Melbourne Councils.
“The project developed a whole-of-community approach to the prevention of violence against women.”
As part of the project, training and development programs have been introduced and social media and other awareness campaigns have been developed; an artistic project, ‘The Locker Room’, aimed to spark conversation about violence against women in the community; another project partnered with sporting clubs to help normalise gender equality.
Prevention of family violence has now been integrated as a priority into Council policy and significant strategic plans. A community-based support network has also been established.
Ms Parton said Council recently developed a Community Access and Equity Plan 2017-2022, which will help address access and equity issues as well as promoting diversity, access and inclusion.
“Every six months my team and I reflect on the achievements and challenges over that time – there are always many,” Ms Parton said.
A particular success has been a preventative health initiative that created healthier environments across schools, workplaces and the community.
“The initiative reached approximately 50,000 residents, established significant ongoing partnerships, implemented a range of community initiatives, influenced a positive decline in obesity, smoking and increased healthy eating rates in the city, as well as influenced Knox City Council to become a Health Promoting Organisation.”
A challenge of her role, Ms Parton said, is juggling resources and attracting ongoing funding: “The breadth of social/community health and wellbeing issues affecting people in Knox that my team are responding to is growing and changing within an environment of fiscal constraint.”
Some projects currently on the agenda for Ms Parton and her team revolve around: community grants; social and affordable housing; and community hub development.
Ms Parton said her future plans are open-ended: “My goal is to continue to work towards advancing health and wellbeing within cities. I’m open to all possibilities!”