Council Spotlight

A connected, resourceful workplace

Author: Careers at Council

Read time: 5 min read

Ballina Shire, located along the picturesque coastline of New South Wales, is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, vibrant community, and rich cultural heritage. With its strategic position between major centres and pristine hinterlands, Ballina Shire offers residents and visitors alike a unique blend of rural tranquility and urban connectivity. In a recent interview with Careers at Council, Ballina Shire Council’s General Manager, Paul Hickey, and Manager of People and Culture, Fran Summerfield, shared insights into the council’s commitment to diversity, innovation, and its range of work opportunities.

Building a workforce reflective of the community

Ballina Shire Council’s 379-strong team comprises 289 full-time employees, 73 part-time, 10 casuals and three directly employed apprentices and trainees. With a 63% male and 37% female split, 3% identify as having a disability, and 2% from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island backgrounds, the council is working consciously to build a diverse workforce reflective of the community it serves.

Fran Summerfield, Manager, People and Culture explains, “We’re committed to increasing diversity. We have a supported employment program for up to 10 people with low to medium disability support needs. We encourage more female positions within the workforce by focusing on women in trade initiatives, and we’ve recently created a new role of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage and Partnerships Officer to build stronger relationships and partnerships with the First Nations communities that we have here in Ballina.”

Fran’s comments highlight the council’s proactive approach to addressing diversity gaps and ensuring equal opportunities for all members of the community. Paul Hickey, General Manager of Ballina Shire Council, underscores the importance of gender diversity and the council’s efforts to bridge the gap, saying, “In our office-based roles, there’s a majority of females, whereas in our field, more trades-based roles it’s a much smaller percentage. That’s definitely a current focus for us. Interestingly when we analysed our pay gap position, there’s a +5% positive pay gap favouring women because they make up more of our office-based professional roles.”

Clear career pathways

Ballina Shire Council is committed to providing ample opportunities for progression and career growth right from entry level. Fran highlights the council’s robust traineeship and apprenticeship programs, “We currently have and are actively working to increase these opportunities. We work with local high schools to promote our programs and to showcase the career paths that are available in council.” Fran says.

This commitment to nurturing local talent and providing clear pathways for career advancement demonstrates the council’s investment in the professional development of its employees. Paul states “As the largest employer in Ballina, we offer ample opportunities for career growth. So, if people are returning here from the big smoke, or shifting here for the first time, it’s the perfect place to look for opportunities.”

Addressing climate change challenges

As well as sitting at the mouth of the Richmond River, Ballina Shire is located on the coast and faces unique challenges related to climate change, including coastal erosion and flood risk management.

Paul comments, “There’s a lot of cross-over here between development and protection of the environment. Trying to strike a balance between development and environmental protection can be challenging.” Paul adds, “It’s key that everyone works together trying to balance environmental constraints with infrastructure delivery. Within council, we have different teams with conflicting outcomes. So, I always say we need to recognise that no matter what our role is, our main goal and objective is to deliver the best outcome for the community. We need to make sure we are all talking and all working together with that focus front of mind.”

A strategic approach brings diversity of work

Ballina Shire Council owns industrial land and residential and commercial property within the Shire. Paul explains, “We are involved in a lot of commercial activities which is quite unique to councils around here. We generate extra revenue through those entrepreneurial activities which not only help to fund some of our projects, but it also helps with the diversity of roles on offer as well.”

Ballina Shire Council has undertaken significant strategic planning work over the years to understand where their residential growth areas are. They now have 20-30 years of residential growth areas identified and are undertaking to build the infrastructure around those areas; swimming pools, new community centres, new pathways, new roading. Paul comments, “We’re trying to make sure that when the people get here, we have all of those facilities ready and waiting for them.”

From a $20 million expansion of a community and cultural centre, new libraries, a $60 million upgrade to increase the roading network to four lanes, to multimillion dollar projects to revegetate and improve the storm water facilities as a part of the coastal management plans – the scope and scale of projects here is impressive.  Paul confirms, “The diversity of work at Ballina is amazing. And best of all, we are not too big – you are not going to get pigeon-holed here, you are going to enjoy a wide variety of work.”

Ballina is also home to the third largest airport in NSW, behind Sydney and Newcastle. Paul comments, “There are opportunities for people to get involved in the management, maintenance and day-to-day operation of an airport here which is really interesting!”


Celebrating resourcefulness

Central to Ballina Shire Council’s success is its supportive workplace culture. Fran highlights the council’s strong leadership team and ingrained values, “Our values are talked about readily across the organisation, with a big focus on safety. New staff often provide feedback on the friendly and welcoming culture. We hear so often that it is a connected workplace, that we are listening to what’s going on, and the executive team are interested in what’s happening in the wider organisation,”

Fran adds, “One of the really great things here is that Paul knows all the staff. He gets out and about, he is visible. That is a highlight here. It makes a real difference.”

Paul reflects on the council’s values and what he believes makes Ballina Shire Council a great place to work, “Respect is the first thing – we respect the different viewpoints. Safety is the other big thing with us, you come to work here and we make sure you get home safely,” Paul adds, “People who are successful here are resourceful and proactive. They are not talking about what they do not have, but they appreciate what they do have, and what they can do with what they have in front of them. We celebrate resourceful people!”


Is it time to apply your resourcefulness to a new challenge in a beautiful location in Regional Australia? Why not explore the roles on offer at Ballina Shire Council today.

Related News