Re-defining the role of government agencies in community transition — The Latrobe Valley Authority, a case study
The Latrobe Valley and broader Gippsland region in Victoria, Australia is facing a period of significant change on a number of fronts including changes associated with energy generation and a move away from coal fired power, climatic conditions including drought and bushfire impact as well as the broader global impacts of automation and digitisation of the economy.
Whilst this period presents significant challenges it is also a great opportunity to create long term prosperity for this region by building on existing strengths, ensuring sustainable employment pathways, and strengthening inclusion and vibrancy in our local communities.
The Latrobe Valley Authority is leading the transition of the Latrobe Valley economy and community through long-term work that continues the efforts of many people in the Latrobe Valley community. Through genuine collaboration important decision are being made now and for the future that will benefit all members of the community. On the ground, this collective work has already resulted in more than 2,500 new jobs and helped generate more than $99 million of private investment in the Latrobe Valley. These results were reflected in the September 2019 Latrobe-Gippsland unemployment rate falling by 2.5 percentage points since September 2016, with an additional 11,200 people in employment across the region. However, jobs figures are just part of the story. For true sustainable change, work on innovative projects that create long term investment and a vibrant and liveable Latrobe Valley, while ensuring everybody in our community benefits is critical. We want to ensure that pride and confidence in our future continues to grow and that we have the best conditions to grow our people and economy. With so much work underway it’s an exciting time to be in the Latrobe Valley.
We need to build on and support necessary and ongoing transition activities with system-wide structural change that will transform our economy and society and result in greater innovation and future resilience.
Regions around the world that are doing this really well build their futures based on collaboration and innovation across all levels of their ‘communities’ where collective benefit outweighs the individual and where cooperation and competition go together.
Building a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing will be key to future-proofing our economy. It will enable innovation, adaptation and diversification in Gippsland’s economy, which in turn will deliver the system wide change we are seeking.
Whilst change inevitably creates uncertainty, by working together we can ensure we draw on the knowledge, experience and potential of our community and work to ensure benefit to all.
By continuing to listen, learn and understand what matters locally and from other places and people our ability to collaborate and innovate will grow.
Karen Cain is the CEO of the Latrobe Valley Authority and has significant senior experience working across government, leading strategic innovation, and developing and implementing policy in the public sector.
Karen’s career in education as a teacher, principal and senior public sector manager in two states, Victoria and Tasmania, led to experience in working across communities to link and to build partnerships that harness capacity and growth.
These roles, particularly in regional areas has led to a strong understanding and commitment to role of public sector based on system leadership practice that involves and benefits those that it serves.
Her experience in developing and delivering on issues that reflect what matters to community and government has led to appointment as Chief Executive Officer at the Latrobe Valley Authority, which she has held since April 2017.
Karen is a fellow of Leadership Victoria’s Williamson Community Leadership Program and was also a member of the Gippsland Regional Managers Forum for six years. She was awarded the Institute for Public Administration Australia Victorian Top 50 Public Sector Women Award in 2018.
For the past 24 years, she has owned and operated a commercial beef farm with her husband at Boolarra South in South Gippsland Victoria.