A Triumph of People Power

The People Powered Communities Forum hosted by the Workforce Council in Cairns on 6th and 7th of August was by all accounts a great success, and provided an opportunity for local stakeholders to come together and discuss participatory planning approaches for the future of the Health and Community Services.

The event had been planned to bring together all levels of the Industry to discuss issues and solutions.  Throughout the event the Workforce Council heard first-hand accounts of what it is like to work in the health and community services in Cairns, and the challenges they are currently facing.

The Workforce Council hosted three events over the two days, the first being the Community Dialogue Groups exploring the following topics:

  • Employment Connections – Entry Points into the Industry
  • Strategic Workforce Planning
  • Our North Our Future: Australian Government White Paper on Developing Northern Australia
  • Participatory Planning in Place (Working with Other Industries)

The Community Dialogue Groups and the chosen topics were a result of consultations undertaken by the Workforce Council in early June 2015, to initially engage with local service providers, planners and government stakeholders in the area to identify and better understand common themes affecting the health and community services workforce.

A total of 54 participants attended the Community Dialogue Groups held on 6th August. Just some of the issues and opportunities identified throughout these robust discussions were:

  • The need for better collaboration both within the health and community service industry and with external industry stakeholders,
  • Clearly defined entry and career pathways into the Industry,
  • Better engagement with youth and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People to promote career opportunities, and
  • Workforce mobility and being a key stakeholder in planning and policy processes.


A community dialogue group facilitated by Isla Swan and Tamilyn Brennan, considering their topic, “Employment Connections – Entry Points into the Industry”

Discussions continued into the evening at the Workforce Council Networking Event, the second event of the two days. The strong connection and passion for their work was evident. While in a less structured format, the depth of conversation amongst the participants was evident, with much conversation continuing well into the night. It provided invaluable opportunities for services to form links and discuss potential future opportunities.


Belinda Drew and Anita Veivers at the Networking Event on day 1

The energy amongst the participants and the level of engagement to ongoing discussions was carried through to the next day at the third and final phase: the People Powered Community Forum.

On Friday 7th August, 73 attendees arrived to hear addresses from the Honourable Curtis Pitt MP, Treasurer, Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Mr Rob Pyne MP Member for Cairns, and Mr Doug Evans CEO Health and Community Services Workforce Council.

The panel discussion held during the forum focussed on the topic of Participatory Approaches to Economic and Social Development.  The panel was comprised of four local highly regarded experts:

  • The Honourable Coralee O’Rourke MP, Minister for Disability Services, Minister for Seniors and Minister Assisting the Premier on North Queensland
  • Tamilyn Brennan, Workforce Planning Consultant
  • Anita Veivers, CEO of ARC Disability Services
  • Professor Stewart Lockie, Director, The Cairns Institute

Throughout the two days, issues, themes and opportunities were captured as they were discussed and importantly, what role the Workforce Council could play in representing and assisting industry in addressing these.

Key issues raised during the forum included:

  • The need to value ourselves and the Industry
  • How the existing workforce can better champion the benefits of working in the Industry
  • Addressing difficulties in obtaining entry pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People
  • Increasing the ability within the Industry to think and perform strategically
  • Start thinking of our business models and organisations as “for purpose” and operate in a not-for-loss mentality. There is a need to shift the language and perception of “Not-for-profit” and how services are purchased from us
  • There is a need to increase the Industry’s knowledge of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, what impact the implementation of this will have and the improving distribution of information around this major reform
  • New strategies to remove employment and entry barriers for people coming into the industry
  • Ensuring that we have effective education and training that leads to real and sustained employment outcomes and pathways
  • Identification of characteristics and attributes critical to attracting quality staff as equally critical as formal qualifications
  • The unique needs of each region throughout Queensland must be recognised in our planning and all regional planning processes that impact upon our service delivery

As these issues were discussed, the role of the Workforce Council and how we may provide services and support to our industry stakeholders was explored amongst participants and included the following:

  • Leading the Industry in visioning the future for the workforce
  • Building connections
    • Providing linkages between industry organisations, peak bodies and other industry stakeholders outside of health and community services
  • Promoting the Industry to potential employees, benefits of working in health and community services, career opportunities etc.
  • Developing resources and providing potential learning opportunities to support industry in becoming more innovative and respond to systemic and business changes
  • Developing a range of resources for Industry to support decision making:
    • Current and updated research and data
    • Skills and workforce development reports
    • Provide statistics on training system, completions, employment figures, retention rates

They key takeaways from the event are the fundamental value of the community’s input and the multiple and sustainable benefits experienced by everyone who is part of a well-planned community.

The Workforce Council will continue to work with stakeholders in the Cairns area and will continue to investigate short, medium and long term initiatives that the Workforce Council can champion or support to address the issues identified as impacting upon the productivity and sustainability of our workforce.


Attendees at the day 2 Regional Workforce Planning and Development Forum