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Published on 23 May 2023

Council collects accolades

City of Onkaparinga staff have been recognised for excellence in local government leadership, taking out two awards and placing as finalists in two other awards at a recent gala.

The Annual Leadership Excellence Awards, managed by Local Government Professionals Australia SA, recognise outstanding achievement and innovation in local government in South Australia. They were presented at a gala dinner at the Adelaide Convention Centre on 19 May.

Acting CEO Julia Grant said being recognised in the awards was testament to the council’s innovation, leadership and hard work. She congratulated all nominees, finalists and winners.

Onkaparinga’s Active Ageing and Disability team won the Cross Council Collaboration Award, with the cities of Marion, Holdfast Bay and Mitcham, for an Advanced Care Directive project.

As the Inner Southern Councils Advance Care Directive Collaboration, the councils created a new and sustainable model to raise community understanding of advance care planning, foster self-determination and establish peer volunteer roles.

The workshop program was co-designed with older South Australians and in the first 18 months was rolled out to more than 200 community members in the four councils. It is now being shared with other councils across the state.

“As a member of the project, I am most proud of the way in which so many people embraced these challenging conversations about life, living, death and dying,” said Onkaparinga’s Sustaining Independence and Wellbeing Project Officer, Judith Lowe.

“Every workshop allows older people to share their diversity of life experience and support each other in planning ahead. It is truly an honour to be trusted to be part of this with them.

“Advance care planning is important because it gives people a sense of control, peace of mind and clarity. It gives substitute decision-makers reassurance and it gives comfort to family and friends.”

Judith said that collaborating on the project was important.

“While the resources and staffing in each council vary, sharing knowledge and skills meant that the project has had a much larger impact,” she said.

The council’s Open Space Operations team won the Excellence in Environmental Leadership and Sustainability Award for its Urban Flower Meadows project. The project is an innovative take on creating ‘wild’ spaces in urban areas.

The project started in 2021 with the establishment of a wildflower meadow in Woodcroft’s Robert Wright Park. In 2022, a larger meadow was introduced into Thalassa Park in Aberfoyle Park.

The meadows are growing in popularity in cities around Australia as a more sustainable and colourful alternative to lawn in urban environments. They create an immersive and colourful experience in which people can connect with their environment, observe the lifecycle of flowers, and enjoy the insects, birds and other fauna that are attracted to the area.

Council staff were named finalists in two other awards categories.

Onkaparinga’s Team Coordinator of Open Space Operations, Thomas Ruzgar, was a finalist in the Emerging Leader of the Year Award. Thomas was nominated for his collaborative and inclusive workstyle, his willingness to contribute in areas such as enterprise bargaining and work health and safety, and his commitment to developing new leadership skills.

The Learning and Development and Work, Health and Safety teams were finalists in the Excellence in People and Culture Award for their Threatening Behaviour Training Program. The program comprises four tiers of training, including an online component, and offers a cost-effective way to give council staff the skills to manage aggressive, threatening and potentially violent behaviour.

Onkaparinga staff were earlier in the month placed second out of 17 teams competing in the 2023 State Management Challenge, runners up to the City of Marion. The Local Government Professionals Australia SA challenge was held 4 May at the Morphettville Racecourse.

Teams of five to six members compete during the day-long event in a simulation-type environment that draws on real-world local government issues. With the assistance of a mentor, teams have to develop written responses, role plays or presentations that demonstrate teamwork, strategy and creative thinking.

Onkaparinga’s team, 35° South, drew on the extensive learning and training its members had received over the previous twelve months, winning second place in what was a typical management challenge “pressure cooker” experience. 



Onkaparinga staff all smiles at the LG Professionals' 2023 Leadership Excellence Awards gala dinner.