Future directions - By Candy Choo CEO, LGPro WA
Local government employees are reporting unprecedented levels of stress in the workplace.
Local Government Professionals (LGPro) Western Australia, CEO, Candy Choo said there was a trend in Western Australia of mounting pressure from both elected members and the wider community, and CEOs are working harder than ever to meet their demands.
“We are seeing a decline in the mental health of our CEOs and officers in local government.
“We are hearing all these anecdotal cases and situations among our member base.”
Ms Choo said understanding the factors influencing high level local government officials would allow the association to better support its members.
To evaluate the true costs of this intensification of work for CEOs, the sector, and the wider society, LGPro has commissioned the University of Western Australia (UWA) to research the mental health impacts of these stresses on the wellbeing of the State’s Local Government chief executive officers.
“What we really want to do is a state-wide study to understand how widespread the situation is, more importantly to tell us the health and wellbeing status of our members; also, what is influencing or contributing to their health and wellbeing in their role.”
Ms Choo said that it was important to know the state of the CEOs and officers’ health and wellbeing but more important to know what was affecting it and what could be done within the sector.
The research will be done through the new Public Policy Unit at UWA and will look broadly for signs of any systemic issues that changes to policy or legislation could address.
Focus groups, qualitative interviews and surveys will be used to collect the data.
LGPro plans to share the findings, not only with its members, but with the State Government.
“We can’t predict what the results will look like, however if we can see that it’s a state-wide issue or if there is something more than what we are aware of, we can go to the State Government while they are reviewing the Local Government Act, which is expected to be finished by early 2020, and have a look at what we can do that will help our officers in local government to have a safe workplace.”
Ms Choo believes that Local Government Minister, David Templeman has a genuine intent to make the sector a better workplace but adds that it ‘isn’t going to happen until we start looking at the fundamental issues about local government, for example the role of elected members’.
The research project will assess the extent to which the current organization of local government is associated with negative outcomes for local government professionals and service delivery.