Community - the heart of local government: a case study of the Glenelg Shire Council

Kenneally, A 2011, Community - the heart of local government: a case study of the Glenelg Shire Council, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Management, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Community - the heart of local government: a case study of the Glenelg Shire Council
Author(s) Kenneally, A
Year 2011
Abstract  The Glenelg Shire is a large rural shire located in remote far Southwest Victoria, and although relatively financially sustainable, is one of the most disadvantaged shires in Victoria. Council also performs poorly in the annual customer satisfaction survey undertaken by the State Government. As a senior manager of community services with Council, the focus of this research project was to improve life for the more vulnerable disadvantaged members of the Glenelg Shire, to develop the morale, confidence, and skills of the workforce, improve Council’s relationship with the residents and citizens of the Glenelg Shire and build my own professional practice.

The last 15 years have been fairly tumultuous for local government in Victoria. Subsequent interventionist State Governments have imposed significant and sometimes savage reforms on Councils. The role and purpose of local government is not well understood, and it is often portrayed in a negative light by the media. The ongoing tensions between development and conservation of heritage and environment have also played out with some poor planning decisions made by the Glenelg Council which resulted in an Auditor General review, a lambasting by the media, and an ongoing organisational siege mentality.

An insider action research approach was adopted for this research project. A feature of this approach is that the researcher is an ‘insider’ or a complete member of the organisation and can therefore make a significant contribution to the development of knowledge about organisations.
This research found that local government, especially in remote and disadvantaged areas is the face of all government in the eyes of the residents. State and Federal Governments have high expectations and compliance regimes, but local government has limited capacity and resources to effectively meet these legitimate demands and also respond to the demands of the local residents and citizens. The lack of financial resources is exacerbated by limited human resource capacity, especially in the Glenelg Shire, the 5th worst local government area in the state in terms of education and occupation.
Managing the tensions and balancing the often competing demands is difficult for any leader, let alone a senior female manager working in a conservative control and command style culture.
There is therefore a need to reconceptualise local government at both the macro level and the micro level. The role of local government needs to be clarified and officially recognised by both Federal and State Governments, with the local government taking the lead in the discussion. At the micro level, there is a need for more contemporary models of leadership – essential for a more skilled and qualified workforce.
Insider action research is challenging. Managing the dual roles of researcher and practitioner, thinking in the various realms and dealing with the ethical issues is difficult, but the personal development, increased confidence and improved personal practice can be rewarding.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Management
Keyword(s) Insider Action Research
Local Government
Women Managers
Local Government Culture
Change Management in Local Government
Local Government Leadership
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Created: Thu, 20 Sep 2012, 12:23:46 EST by Jeanie Pham
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