Power to the people

Latrobe City Council wants to empower the community to take charge of its health and wellbeing.

The municipality’s Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2013-17 is heading into its final year and council is trying a different approach to combat the community’s health issues.

Latrobe City general manager community services Sara Rhodes-Ward said council was placing the power with the people.

“We have a history of telling people what they want to do. We need to stop being in this position of telling people what’s good for them,” Ms Rhodes-Ward said.

The document highlights the health and wellbeing challenges Latrobe City faces and identifies possible actions council could take in six key areas – being active, eating well, protecting our health, staying connected, feeling safe and skills for healthy communities.

An annual review of the plan was recently completed and highlighted areas of focus for the final 12 months – reducing the region’s obesity rates, bridging the gap between disadvantaged and advantaged communities and preventing incidents of family violence, all of which are above Victoria’s average.

Ms Rhodes-Ward said council would consult with the community to identify the best strategies in tackling these issues and seek advice for the development of its plan for 2017-21.

“When asked, the community will tell you what they can collectively do… we absolutely need to empower the community, build its capacity and relinquish control,” she said.

“We are here with the fundamental belief that the community will know what to do.”

While acknowledging there was still work to do, Ms Rhodes-Ward said the community had really come together following the Hazelwood mine fire.

“What’s been really nice most recently is after the mine fire we had staff doorknocking the community, asking how they felt,” she said.

“On average our community actually reported they are happier in their neighbourhood than the Victorian average.

“People are generally happy; they generally care about their neighbours and have a real connection within the community… I think that’s a really lovely thing.”