In each edition we feature the views of a Local Government Association president. The following is from Mayor Felicity-ann Lewis, President of the Local Government Association of South Australia (LGASA).
The health and wellbeing of children in our communities is becoming an increasingly important issue, in busy lives dominated by technology.
Traditionally Health Ministers actually looked after ill health, until more recent and enlightened approaches. Today it is recognised that sound minds and bodies are created outside of the health system and are not just the province of health professionals.
Keeping people healthy and preventing ill health is the job of all governments and Local Government plays a vital role in supporting the wellbeing of our communities.
Local Government’s traditional role has been about immunisation, food safety and environmental health. It is now well understood that the social determinants of health are central to community wellbeing and councils impact these through their activities, for example, land use planning, bikeways, open space and playgrounds.
In South Australia, six Councils have partnered with the State Government to deliver the Obesity Prevention and Lifestyle (OPAL) program, reaching more than one third of our State’s children.
Not only will it teach them healthy eating and healthy exercise regimes but it will look at the impact on the local community in enabling children to live healthy lives.
State and Federal Governments are realising that health needs to be dealt with across all policy areas and across all spheres of government. One of the main ways of maintaining healthy communities is through recreational and sporting activities at the local level.
Traditionally, State and Federal Governments have tinkered around the edges of local recreation and sport, throwing small grants at sporting groups, for uniforms and equipment, when the biggest funding challenge for councils and sporting groups is managing the assets used by the clubs and in most cases owned by Council.
Mum and dad supporters of their children’s local teams are not asset managers – they are parents who brave all weathers to watch their kids play, staff the canteen, sizzle the sausages and coach the kids.
Local Government is the largest sponsor of grassroots sport in Australia – in South Australia councils spend more than $140 million in operating expenditure a year and more than $40 million on capital. It is at this local level that the health of our communities is established.
The Crawford Report clearly stated that the Federal Government should spend more money on sports at the local level to rebalance its heavy focus on elite sports.
Many councils spent Regional and Community Infrastructure Program funds on sporting facilities – based on local choices rather than national leadership on sport and recreation. The LGA SA will be looking in detail at this area as it implements activities under the new Commonwealth Local Government Reform Fund.
Councils in South Australia are highly conscious of the need to support sport at the local level and we hope that, with a Federal Election in the offing, the Commonwealth will look closely at providing additional funds in a way that addresses the big resource challenge for grassroots sport: infrastructure.