Suzie, 37, is the manager for Social Policy and Programs for the City of Sydney council. She manages a diverse and multidisciplinary team that provides policy and strategic direction for the City of Sydney on how to respond to the issues and needs of its community. They work with key target groups such as youth, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, and culturally and linguistically diverse populations. They also work on key issue areas including crime, illicit drugs, alcohol, the sex industry and public housing.
I have a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of New South Wales. I think this degree is a great all-rounder for policy and project management in the public or NGO sector. Having said that, whilst some of the policy, research and social administration components of this degree were useful, most of my skills and areas of content knowledge have been learned on the job. I think on-the-job learning is really important – a degree gives you some tools but nothing beats learning how to apply those tools to real life.
I may be the only person to ever admit this publicly, but I love working in local government! It is the tier of government that is closest to the community and has the capacity to respond directly to the needs of that community. I like working in a large city like Sydney as the issues my staff and I deal with on a daily basis are complex, occasionally challenging and always extremely interesting. My work is never dull and there is always something new to learn about the city.
My area of work can be very reactive, especially in summer when there are more people in the city (and more crime). This can involve a lot of time and resources to manage an issue that has flared up in the community. I don’t mind the reactive work, but it diverts my attention from the longer-term programming that will help to stop these reactive issues occurring.
This is a difficult one to answer as I find most of the projects my staff and I work on interesting. One example is my involvement with establishing the city’s syringe management program.
When the City of Sydney changed its boundaries and amalgamated with another council a few years ago, I started to receive numerous complaints from residents about discarded syringes. This was interesting as it was a content area that I knew very little about. I researched the issue, identified hotspots, wrote a Syringe Management Plan, educated the public on what they can do when they see a syringe and established the city’s network of community sharps bins.
In local government, this issue would usually be managed by waste services. Due to the complexity and scale of the problem in the city, a social policy response was essential in setting a good foundation. Now that this program is running smoothly we have handed over the operational aspects to our waste services people.
Management is a new area of learning for me, and I enjoy picking up new skills. I also love policy and finding solutions to complex problems. I am really happy doing what I am doing now, but in the future I’d love to apply my skills in an international setting.