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Portrait of Julie Burton

Here, Julie reflects on her career, experience working in regional local government, and talks about what’s next for the Shire of Boddington.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m WA born and bred and have spent most of my life in semi-rural settings in and around the Peel region. I have worked in the local government sector for 15 years. Most of that time at the Shire of Murray, and in 2019, I was successful in gaining my first CEO role at the Shire of Pingelly. I have recently been appointed CEO at the Shire of Boddington.

What was it that attracted you to the role of CEO at the Shire of Boddington?

Firstly, the environment is spectacular, a stunning river foreshore, jarrah forests and the beautiful colours of broadacre farming. I feel there is a lot of opportunity to showcase Boddington to WA and beyond. There is so much to see and do, with some amazing events like the Rodeo, Live Action Role Play (LARP), Medieval Festival and more. With two major mining companies in the area, there is also an opportunity to showcase large industry as a part of the tourism product. The mining industry, while posing some challenges, also provides an interesting element to the demographic, with a large number of drive in drive out workers.

I am always attracted to serving the community and continuously improving, so local government is a great fit for me. It is increasingly challenging, and while there is a challenge, I’m happy!

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

I hope to achieve community trust, through participation, engagement and great outcomes. In addition to increasing services for Boddington, which will come through advocacy, long term planning and increased visitation. Strong support for local business is also a priority for the town and I am committed to listening to the community and planning for priorities in a collaborative manner.

Within my team, I aim to build a professional, cohesive, proactive and emotionally intelligent group, who don’t mind going the extra mile.

What is something you have learned during your time working in regional local governments?

You need to be prepared to pitch in and do anything. Local government is so multi-faceted, and when you combine this with a small level of human resources in the smaller local governments, you are literally doing five or six (or more!) roles. This is relevant at all staffing levels, and as a CEO, while you might like to be totally strategic, it just is not possible. This does offer a huge learning opportunity and builds respect within employees if they see you are willing to do your share and more.

Another learning for me is the difficulty of skill building. Getting regional local governments access to training is an ongoing frustration of mine. At the moment, the cost of training is higher for smaller than larger local governments, due to the travel and accommodation requirements that come with even a one-day course. This does not help in building a strong sector in the regions. I have advocated for access to live streaming (one of the positives to come out of Covid!), and lower training costs for the local governments who are geographically disadvantaged.

The other is the importance of partnerships. When a local government can partner with another one or two local governments, or an active community group with volunteer resources, it makes a massive difference in what can be achieved.

What are the key community challenges and opportunities at the Shire and how are you approaching these?

The key challenge is about achieving balance and long-term sustainability for the town. Boddington is a mix of rural, mining and residential and this has many advantages for the town. It also creates some challenges in terms of an ‘unnatural’ population increase for the life of the mines. While the life is long term, the community needs to be planning for a post-mine era and put in place some sustainable economic and community mechanisms.

Tell us about something great your Shire is working on and how it is delivering for your community

Aged accommodation is a significant issue for the community, both in Boddington and throughout regional WA. The Shire is developing options for aged accommodation to explore the possibility of having an aged care facility in Boddington to service the surrounding district. This is based on community drive to allow older residents to age in their hometown, rather than be ripped from their community and families to locations as far away as Esperance. At this point there is no choice — residents just go wherever there is a bed. It is a huge social issue that needs to be addressed, and Boddington is actively looking at ways to achieve a great outcome.

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given and look forward to serving the sector for a few years yet!

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Page reviewed 07 September 2021