Council Spotlight

An inclusive culture of innovation

Author: Careers at Council

Read time: 6 min read

Nestled in southwest Victoria, Colac Otway boasts diverse landscapes, including lush forests, and pristine scenic coastline. Positioned between Melbourne and the Twelve Apostles, it is a popular destination for tourists seeking natural beauty and adventures. It is also becoming a highly sought-after choice for people looking to create a better life in regional Australia.

Careers at Council recently met with Colac Otway Shire Council CEO, Anne Howard, and People and Culture Manager, Danny Milincic to discover more about living in such a unique location and building a career at Colac Otway Shire Council.

A true reflection of community

Welcoming, inclusive, and diverse, Colac Otway Shire Council’s workforce reflects the community it serves. With an impressive 16 cultural backgrounds represented in the council’s 350-strong team, the council is a truly diverse workplace.

Colac Otway Shire Council CEO, Anne Howard, comments, “Our cultural diversity is reflective of the community we work in. We have large employers in the shire who have attracted the skills of people from a wide range of countries; there is a cultural richness in our community that you do not get in other parts of regional Australia.”

Anne adds, “A recent interviewee from Nigeria reached out to members of our team asking ‘Is this a workplace and a community where my family and I would be able to settle and feel welcomed and integrated?’ Their feedback to her was unequivocally that she would have no issues within Colac Otway Shire, within the council, and within the community here. Everyone is amazingly welcoming and inclusive.”

The team here is not only culturally diverse; Danny Milincic, Colac Otway Shire Council’s People and Culture Manager, comments “We want every employee to bring their authentic selves to work. Our workplace provides opportunities for employees, irrespective of their own set of cultural and personal background influences, to develop their knowledge and skills that contribute to our inclusive culture.”

Apollo Bay Marriners Lookout

Inclusivity fosters innovation

Inclusivity in the workplace is crucial for fostering an environment where everyone feels valued, respected, and safe to share their diverse perspectives and ideas. When employees feel included, they are more likely to contribute their unique insights and experiences, which can lead to greater creativity and innovation within the organisation.

Colac Otway Shire Council wholeheartedly embraces this concept, and has worked hard to create an inclusive culture to tap into a wider range of perspectives, problem-solving approaches, and innovative solutions – ultimately driving success and better outcomes for the community. Anne comments, “I think that because people feel comfortable and willing to share their stories and experiences, this encourages our other employees to be curious and see that it is okay to ask questions: Where did you get trained? Where else have you worked? How did you do that there? Feeling safe to share makes people curious, and curious people are innovative people. That inclusion we have here has created a culture of innovation.”

Community connection

Living and working in Colac Otway offers a unique and deeply interconnected experience. That experience is amplified when you work for council. Your work takes on a direct and tangible impact on the lives of people you often know personally. This close-knit dynamic fosters a strong sense of responsibility and accountability, as the decisions made and services provided directly affect neighbours, friends, and family members.

It also allows for greater visibility and recognition of your contributions, enhancing both your professional fulfilment and community engagement. Anne explains, “So many of our team are locally based or connected, no matter the role you’re in, you can’t help but feel connected to community.” Anne adds, “One of our challenges here is our high fire risk. Our need to be well prepared is critical for our community – this does not just sit with the emergency management team, everyone in the organisation needs to be involved and prepared. When our community needs us, we roll our sleeves up and everyone knows that it is a part of all our roles.”

Beech Forest Hopetoun Falls

Improving everyday lives

Working at Colac Otway offers the opportunity to drive impactful change and shape the future of the place you call home. You’ll work on meaningful projects – big and small – that have a significant and lasting impact on the community’s well-being. Anne comments, “We’ve had success through partnership and advocacy. In 2022, we partnered with State Government to build and open a new kindergarten and maternal child health centre n Apollo Bay – this Early Years Hub is a critical piece of infrastructure for that community.”

However, Anne emphasizes that it is often the smaller projects that bring the most impact for the community. “The projects that I’m getting the most pleasure out of now are the smaller, more meaningful projects. Our community is not looking for bells and whistles – it is looking for things that help their everyday lives.”

One of those smaller projects that Anne refers to is ‘Small Halls.’ The Small Halls project focuses on revitalizing the community halls scattered across the shire. These halls serve as vital community spaces for social gatherings, including milestone celebrations like 21st birthdays, local meetings, markets, yoga sessions, and activities for residents of all ages, from mothers with infants to elderly individuals.

Over time, these halls have become tired, with aging infrastructure leading to damp and uninviting environments. Modest investment in renovations such as new roofs, fresh coats of paint, and upgraded kitchens will revitalize these communal spaces, ensuring that residents have access to welcoming and functional spaces where they can come together, celebrate, and build meaningful connections. Anne confirms, “It’s a small dollar-value project, but the real value is to communities across the shire.”

Colac Botanic Gardens

Collaborative, adaptive & resourceful

Collaboration is key here, with departments working closely together thanks to a strong community ethos. Every three months, the outdoor teams at the council come together for a breakfast session, with themes like ‘Safety Week’. And, twice a year, the entire organisation gathers to discuss goals and celebrate achievements.

There’s a real effort here to foster a sense of unity among the team. Anne says, “I see a lot of cross-department collaboration. I think that is because everyone is committed to working together to get those outcomes for our community. We think outside the box and find solutions, being adaptable and creative in the face of challenges and limited resources. No matter the problem – we’ll find a way!”

Be a part of something great

There are so many benefits of joining Colac Otway Shire Council. From the flexibility, with many employees benefiting from tailored flexible working arrangements, to the support to pursue further education through university study, traineeships, and apprenticeships.

Being a smaller regional council, it also offers an environment where you can gain a comprehensive understanding of local government, partnership-building, and innovation within just a few years. The diverse range of responsibilities provides exposure to various aspects of council operations, offering a more holistic understanding of how everything fits together.

Anne explains, “You will learn more about local government here than in larger metro Councils, because you are more exposed to all the different pieces of the puzzle. And, in so many instances, you will get a more visible reward in regional councils because you can see your work first-hand. Anne adds, “With so much diversity and so much connection, you can have a sense of family, a sense of team – and a sense of genuinely being a part of something great here.”


If you are ready to join an inclusive, innovative team and be a part of something great, why not check out the opportunities available at Colac Otway Shire Council.

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