This month we speak with Terra Lea Ranson, Manager of Community Capacity at the City of Onkaparinga.
Terra Lea speaks about her career so far - and what's in store for the future.
She also speaks about her role as Chair of the Community Manager's Network and how the network can assist councils to navigate the changes on the horizon for community services.
Hi Terra Lea - thanks for speaking with us.
What’s your current role, and what does it involve?
My current role is Manager of Community Capacity at the City of Onkaparinga. It involves developing strategic direction that enables the City of Onkaparinga as an organisation to build the capacity of our residents to create strong vibrant communities. I am responsible for leading the coordination and implementation of recreation, youth, arts, disability, active ageing and community development programs and centres in accordance with relevant Council policies, plans and strategies.
Where were you before? What is your work background/career path so far?
I began my career as a youth worker in the not for profit sector. My interest was in developing opportunities for young people to grow, develop and thrive.
My desire to create opportunities led me into management and business development roles with a focus on young people, their families and communities.
What attracted you to local government, and your current role?
I was attracted to local government because I wanted to work with local communities around leadership development, engagement and volunteering. My first role (10 years ago) at the City of Onkaparinga was as a senior project officer developing programs, frameworks and guidelines that build the capacity of local residents to have a voice, lead and participate.
What motivates you? What do you find most interesting or exciting about working in local government?
I am excited about fostering community connections, initiating collaborative approaches and supporting community led innovation that builds the capacity of our communities to create places and spaces to connect, learn and recreate.
You’re the Chair of the Community Managers Network. There are huge changes in community services in councils, especially with the new health reform agenda, including consumer directed care. How does the network assist participating councils manage these massive changes? What’s your vision for the network for the coming year?
The Community Managers Network shares information, monitors trends and identifies opportunities to resource the sector and advocate for change.
To that end we:
- meet regularly to share information.
- run forums, conferences and events that inform the community services/community development sector. For example we held a ’standing room only’ workshop in February about the impact of NDIS on Local Government.
- develop learning materials that build that capacity of the sector. For example we have developed an induction program for workers new to community development in Local Government which we offer three to four times a year (depending on need).
- won funds from the LGA Research and Development Scheme to fund the Valuing Social Outcomes (VSO) research project which aims to help councils make evidence-based decisions regarding investment into social programs and services.
- work with the LGA to understand how best to respond to the health reform agenda.
My vision for the coming year is that as a network we provide opportunities for local government community development/community services to grow develop and thrive in a changing environment, advocating for our communities and our sector.
As well as networking between councils - how does the Community Managers Network facilitate networking with other levels of government and private organisations? Can you elaborate on this?
We are active in seeking to work with state, federal government and private organisations. We engage and advocate when we are concerned that changes or lack of response to emerging issues may have a negative impact on the communities we serve.
For example at our NDIS forum we invited representatives from all three layers of government, private consultants and not for profits engaged in the disability sector. We have been active in understanding and advocating for positive improvements in the aged care and health sectors..
In your role at Onkaparinga, Manager of Community Capacity; in 2 years' time, what do you think you will look back on with a sense of achievement?
We are reviewing the provision of our community facilities and services and programs. I want to look back and see that the changes we have made have improved the life of our citizens, particularly those that are vulnerable, have enabled them to have a voice, influencing the decisions that are important to them and that we contributed to the development of their capacity to work with us to deliver on our goal of strong vibrant communities.
How do you spend your leisure time outside of local government?
I enjoy spending time with my family, particularly my grandsons who remind me how delightful life is. I live in the City of Onkaparinga and enjoy our beaches, walking trails, local food and the McLaren Vale wine region.
I like to travel and experience different lifestyles and cultures.