Community Services

A powerful, positive and lasting impact

Author: Careers at Council

Read time: 5 min read

Introducing Lily Giles, Youth Services Coordinator at Ku-ring-gai Council

As well as overseeing the youth centres at Ku-ring-gai, Lily Giles designs and implements programs for the community’s young people. It’s a crucial role, and one with so much purpose and value. Read on and discover the powerful and positive impact Lily and her team are having on the future of this active and connected NSW community.

Q. Can you tell us about your background and what led you to this role at Ku-ring-gai?

A. After school I went to the University of Sydney and studied for a Bachelor of Arts Degree, majoring in Social Policy. I was really interested in communities and human rights – anything people-focussed.

At Uni, I was selected to go to the Tiwi Islands in the Torres Strait where we worked with the local council to design a youth council for the local community. They wanted emerging leaders to join the council and show young people a pathway to stay on the island. It was such a great experience and amazing insight into the structures of government.

I also went off to Indonesia and worked on a disability inclusion project, and went on an exchange to Copenhagen – looking at laws and values and how they impact different people in different areas of society.

These opportunities at Uni helped me understand that working with communities was my driver. So, when I was in the last year of my degree I did some work as a Youth Worker for Ku-ring-gai and I found that I really enjoyed working with young people. Once I’d completed my degree, I applied for a fulltime Youth Development Officer position at Willoughby Council where I worked for two years before moving back to Ku-ring-gai as a Youth Development Officer.

And now I’ve moved into the role of Coordinator here at Ku-ring-gai – overseeing all of the youth services for the community.

Q. What would you say to other graduates considering a career in Local Government?

A. Personally what I love, and what motivates me is getting to interact and engage with the community. There’s a variety and creativity in my role that I think would surprise graduates. I’m surrounded by young people and I get a real energy from them!

I’ve also been really lucky to have the right leadership who have given me amazing learning and development opportunities. When I was in my first role I was like a sponge, I put my hand up for everything that came my way. I think Council saw that I was so fresh and they supported me to develop my interests and skills. I did short-courses, went to conferences – just to get an idea of the sector.

The fact I’ve already been able to move into a managerial role really shows Local Government’s commitment to developing you and your career.

Q. Can you explain what your role involves?

A. On a conceptual level, my role is to empower and support young people in the community.

On a day-to-day basis that could be anything from liaising with local schools and building well-being programs, to networking with community stakeholders. Every day can be really different.

We have two youth centres that open in the afternoon and young people drop-in on a casual basis for a safe place to connect. We offer recreational games like Xbox and pool and these become soft points for our youth workers to connect with them and check-in with how they’re going.

Some kids just want to have somewhere to be that isn’t home. Others you can tell are needing a little bit more support – so we have a conversation with them over a game of pool and ask them how their time at school is going, how their housing situation is, have they eaten today? Then you can support them from a wellbeing perspective.

I also design programs for our youth centres. The programs can include a range of community stakeholders and my role is to coordinate and design these programs in consultation with youth and these community services. We’ve had a four-week graffiti course where we have brought in facilitators who spend an hour showing the kids what to do, and then the kids are able to practice doing something that’s positive, creative and accessible.

Another part of my role is writing grant applications. At my previous Council, I secured a community grant to fund an innovative new program I’d come across – Waves of Wellness. They combine learning how to surf, with supported mental health conversations in a group setting.

I organised all of the logistics involved in getting the program off the ground and promoted the program to local schools. Once a cohort of at-risk youth were identified, I’d drive them to the beach, sit in on their conversation with the mental health professionals from Waves of Wellness – and I also got to join in on the fun and surf alongside them each week too!

I loved that I was able to offer them something that was so different and innovative. Some of the kids would tell me it was the only thing they looked forward to all week.

Q. What skills and attributes do you think successful Local Government employees share?

A. You need to be a community focussed person, someone who is people-oriented. I’ve had to bring a lot of initiative to my role, so someone who can drive their own work. And, if you’re willing to learn and develop different skills, then you actually learn a lot about the challenges and successors of supporting local communities. For a young person, you need to have an open mind, there’s so much more than what you expect on offer here!

Q. What do you find the most rewarding about your role?

A. I’m involved in initiatives that have a lasting impact on the community. I have people come up to me and give me wonderful feedback – it’s a really lovely feeling.

That makes me feel a sense of purpose and value in the work that I do. If schools can’t offer it, if their families can’t offer it – then who can? The need doesn’t go away.

Is it time that you felt a sense of purpose in your work? Discover the community services roles on offer in councils across Australia here

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