Pauline says farewell

Peter Kennedy | Bendigo Weekly | 13-May-2016

Pauline Gordon is moving on.

ONE of Greater Bendigo’s most popular and respected leaders leaves her role as community wellbeing director today, confident the city is headed in the right 


Pauline Gordon has taken on a new role as general manager community and leisure at Nillumbik Shire Council, in Melbourne’s leafy north eastern suburbs.

Ms Gordon has just completed a five year stint with the city, having previously worked at the City of Bendigo and City of Greater Bendigo in the 1980s and 1990s, and also at the Sunshine Coast Regional Council in Queensland.

Reflecting this week on her time in Bendigo, Ms Gordon said it was time for a new challenge.

‘’I think there’s been enormous growth and change in the community, and I’ve seen some amazing success stories or pieces of work that have come through at times and some challenges, over this past five years,” she said.

She said Bendigo had been very kind to her in her early career.

“Being able to come back and work with all the people that I know and love here, and the community that I’ve spent so much time in has been great.”

Asked about changes in our city she had observed during her time in Bendigo, Ms Gordon cited the launch of SBS radio in the library gardens which attracted about 30 people many years ago as a benchmark.

“If you look at things now, the diversity of our population has changed enormously, where we have a far greater culturally diverse community than we ever had five years ago, and that’s quite a rapid change for a city of this size.”

She said growth pressures out of Melbourne were manifesting here because Bendigo is such a fantastic place to live and work.

The community service sector across Australia is also changing at a phenomenal rate, but Ms Gordon said the growth must be strong as the demand for services is also increasing, and customers have a far greater knowledge of what they want and need.

Ms Gordon’s first local government role was in child care, at a time when council was heavily involved in the establishment of childcare in the 1980s. 

Where council was once the provider of almost 98 per cent of child care services, today it represents about nine per cent of the market.

“Life has changed a lot since then and the demands on families and their pressures on where they put their money has also changed,” Ms Gordon said.

Ms Gordon said this year’s introduction of rate capping by the state government would impact on councils.

“Without a doubt, rate capping has been imposed without an understanding particularly for areas outside metro Melbourne but also where in terms of the size of Greater Bendigo, we have costs that metropolitan councils don’t have.”

The outgoing community advocate and champion said she believed transport was one of the biggest single inhibitors of service delivery, and she will continue to push for improvements in this area.

Looking back on her time as community wellbeing director, Ms Gordon said an incident where a male staff member was spat on by a member of the public, during the time of the independent review, had been the low point of her time at Greater Bendigo.

“When a community member believes it is okay that someone in a council uniform deserves that sort of treatment made me really disheartened,” she said.

“That staff member was gutted because up until that day he had worn that badge with pride and it gave you a sense of the changing culture within our community that life was changing, there is a lot more anger.

“But it is not okay. Everyone has a right to freedom of speech as long as it is peaceful and respectful, and fundamental to that is that we treat everyone the way we want to be treated ourselves.

“There is a way for everyone to articulate their point of view, without personally attacking people, and that’s where I feel for elected representatives.”

Looking at her hopes for the city she will shortly leave behind, Ms Gordon said she hoped more people would step forward and get engaged in community issues and discussions.

She was high in her praise of chief executive officer Craig Niemann, adding she had been fortunate to be part of a dynamic team, probably more in the earlier years when there where a range of unexpected challenges.

“I think Bendigo is lucky to have someone like Craig in the role,” she said.

Her final comments centred around encouraging Bendigo people to better support local business and to commend her staff and the team she said she had been proud and privileged to be part of for the past five years.

Ms Gordon starts her new role at Nillumbik on May 23.


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