CEO Quarterly Update September 2023

Kelly Andrews, CEO Healthy Cities Illawarra

Partnership and collaboration are terms that I hear all the time. Multi-sectoral partnerships, inter-sectoral partnerships, alliances, networks, coalitions… sometimes I feel that they are over-used and oversimplified. But there is a good reason why the UN Sustainable Development Goals are rounded out with #17 – Partnerships for the Goals – because they are only way to tackle such huge issues like poverty, climate change, injustice and inequality.

Healthy Cities Illawarra (HCI) is grounded in partnerships – we do them really well. Partnerships are not easy, nor should they be. They can be complex, but when governments, businesses, universities, public institutions, not for profits and charities work towards a common goal it strengthens our capacity to achieve them. HCI is a bit like a glue that can hold partnerships together. Google helped me understand this to be one who successfully bonds different pieces or several sides together to function as one unit, even when it’s not their role. As you read this, I hope you will recognise many examples of how HCI has a role in brokering intersectoral collaboration, bringing key stakeholders together to deliver outcomes for the community which benefit us all.

Firstly though, a favour. As you know, HCI is our region’s health promotion not for profit organisation; we work to ensure healthy environments that prevent chronic disease and promote health and wellbeing. We are currently working with many other community stakeholders to make active methods of travel safer and more appealing and have a short survey regarding community opinion regarding people who ride bikes; it should take 5 minutes and there are x3 $100 gift vouchers to be won!

Please give it a go:

It is also great to let you know that the Low Cost & Free Meals Directory has been updated; a resource of over 30 community organisations who provide food relief and support, such as breakfast programs, community kitchens and low-cost grocery solutions. Thanks to Wollongong City Council who provided the design and printing of the hard copy brochure, and also Shellharbour City Council, Kiama Municipal Council and University of Wollongong who worked with us through Food Fairness Illawarra to ensure this information is accurate and accessible to those experiencing food insecurity in our region.

On May 31st, we held our first Ride to UOW event to promote sustainable transportation, reduce traffic congestion and ultimately increase the number of university students and staff riding to campus. This can have a huge impact on reducing carbon emissions, but also improving individual health. Around 80 riders joined two guided rides, one from Towradgi and one from Wollongong Town Hall, and were met by HCI Ambassador and VC Trish Davidson with free coffee and breakfast on the main campus. It was also exciting to have the Destination Wollongong team involved as they launched their Bike Friendly Employer program.

We’ll be doing it all again on Wednesday October 18th in partnership with UOW and Wollongong City Council, but this time, we’re raising the stakes – adding Gwynneville and Keiraville Primary Schools to our partnerships to hold a Neighbourhood Slow Down Day. Keiraville and Gywnneville residents have a lot to gain by more people riding and walking to UOW and reducing the number of parked cars in their streets. Less cars on local roads are one thing, but we’ll also be raising awareness of the importance of slower speeds in local neighbourhoods to create a safer environment for children to walk or cycle to school. And on that note, in July, the NSW speed limit guidelines were updated to include official recommendations for 30km/h speed zones for the first time – congratulations to our colleagues at and Safe Streets to School Wollongong who have consistently advocated for 30km/hr to be the norm for local neighbourhood streets; this is a small step in the right direction to make our streets safer.

Upcoming Event! Rethink Addiction, Invest in Prevention is a Forum which will be held on Tuesday 12th September at Shellharbour Civic Centre to raise awareness of primary prevention and community connection to create protective factors to help reduce the likelihood of individuals turning to harmful substances. The Community Drug Action Team will bring together people with lived experience of drug and alcohol substance disorder as well as leading health professionals to talk about not only support, treatment and recovery but often overlooked preventative measures to curb the harm of substance abuse from the outset. We are lucky to have ABC Illawarra reporter Kelly Fuller to help facilitate the day, which is free and open to the whole community to attend Register:

A shout out to our Volunteers! Each week, we have around 20 volunteers who provide their time and assistance to our community programs, adding around 100 hours of human resources. Volunteers are such a critical part of our team, and like most not for profits, we could not have the impact that we do without them. In return, we are proud of the opportunities that we provide for volunteers, most of whom are at the very beginning of their careers in the health and community sector. Learning by exposure and experience is something not taught in a classroom, and for those volunteers who put themselves out there to learn and observe and ask questions and take initiative, our programs, like Active In-Betweens offer an eye-opening experience of all the things that go on in the background to produce a weekly program!

Another group of inspiring volunteers are our Board. In the last two years, our Board have been working hard on renewing all sort of governance initiatives at HCI and I am excited to introduce Dr Mary-Anne Land as a new Board Member. Mary-Anne is an experienced public health professional, having worked at global, national and regional levels in the field. Mary-Anne has particular expertise in food policy, and the prevention and control of chronic diseases.  She has managed the implementation of research projects, provided technical assistance to countries, worked closely with global and multi-lateral partners and provided strategic policy analysis at the highest levels of the World Health Organization.

Finally, when next I write on 1st December, the referendum to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution and enshrine a Voice to Parliament will be over.  A YES vote is something I’m passionate about.  You can read My View in the Illawarra Flame as well as HCI’s statement of commitment to the Uluru Statement of the Heart. Let’s hope we will be on the right side of history.

Thank you for taking the time to read my quarterly update.

Healthy regards,