Shared Experiences, Collective Progress: Elevating Risk Management in Local Government


In the sphere of local government, where the decisions made today ripple into the well-being of communities tomorrow, risk management is not just a necessity — it’s a key strategic tool. As protection against uncertainty, it’s an instrument that safeguards our communities, optimises resources and ensures that the ship of governance sails smoothly, even amid turbulent seas.

Enter CivicRisk Mutual — a community that understands the power of collective wisdom in navigating these complex waters. By fostering a collaborative environment, we not only equip councils with the resources to manage risk effectively but also empower them to evolve, innovate and continually raise the bar in delivering enhanced safety outcomes.

The Role of CivicRisk Mutual in Risk Management

CivicRisk Mutual operates on the frontlines of local government risk management, serving as an ally, guide and catalyst. In a world increasingly fraught with uncertainty, our role transcends the conventional insurance model, actively fostering knowledge sharing and driving innovative strategies to anticipate and mitigate risks. The experiences of our members illustrate the role our Mutual plays.

Risk Management Committee meetings and Claims Forums provide a non-threatening environment for member councils to share experiences, understand weaknesses and modify work practices for the better,” says Stephen Ray, Risk Management Coordinator at Burwood Council — emphasising our collective wisdom and the collaborative nature of our network.

We also offer support and resources that encourage innovation and continuous improvement. Conrad Webb from Hawkesbury City Council acknowledges the value of the resources available to our members. “I appreciate the opportunity to share experiences with other Councils, the fantastic information on the CivicRisk Mutual member’s portal, and the various guest speakers they arrange.

Successful Risk Management Initiatives

Innovation, collaboration and a commitment to safety are the keys to effective risk management. Many of our member councils have implemented impressive initiatives that have improved community outcomes and operational efficiency. Here are some of their stories:

Orange City Council, for instance, has made significant strides in its risk management strategy by developing and reviewing its Risk Management Framework. Shirley Hyde, their Legal & Property Officer, shares, “We’ve developed a Risk Appetite Statement to guide our Strategic and Operation Risk work with Council with the guidance of ARIC. We now focus more on out-of-tolerance risks.”

Hunters Hill Council, too, has taken a comprehensive approach to risk assessment, leading to a noticeable shift in its organisational culture. As Ian Harris, Manager of Risk and Compliance, explains, “I’ve been doing various risk assessments, and I‘ve already noticed a change in culture to be more risk aware of all activities staff are involved in.”

Shellharbour City Council took a distinctive approach in response to a specific challenge. Melinda Fitzgerald, Acting Risk and Audit Manager, recounts, “The inclement wet weather of 2022 had seen an increased incidence of bogged mowers and highlighted a need for a formalised process and appropriate equipment. Council developed a Bogged Vehicle Framework that included a safety induction video, procedure, risk assessment and incident reporting.”

Finally, Penrith City Council won CivicRisk Mutual’s Excellence in Risk Management award in 2019 for its Park and Street Tree Management Plan. Anthony Robinson, Risk & Audit Coordinator, shares, “The plan helps Council to keep its community safe through a disciplined, structured approach to tree risk assessments.”

These narratives reflect the diverse, innovative ways our member councils are effectively managing risks and improving their communities. They underline the vital role of a robust risk management framework, uniquely tailored to meet an organisation’s specific challenges and needs.

Staying Informed and Balancing Priorities

Keeping pace with a rapidly changing risk environment and effectively balancing competing priorities is a challenging task that all our member councils face. The strategies and approaches they adopt in this regard offer valuable insights into the dynamic nature of risk management.

Remaining up-to-date with emerging risks is a top priority for every council. Rod Chacana from the Blue Mountains City Council stresses the importance of varied information sources. He says, “Information is key to staying informed on emerging risks. The sources of this information can be varied, from various media sources to social media, claim analytics, etc … to conversations with stakeholders.

When it comes to balancing risk management with other priorities, councils turn to several strategies. For Burwood Council, risk appetite statements guide the allocation of resources. Stephen Ray explains, “Risks that exceed Council’s risk tolerances are prioritised for treatment over other risks.”

For Hunters Hill Council, performing risk assessments forms the basis for establishing all plans and priorities for the organisation, as shared by Ian Harris. Bruce Ferguson of the City of Parramatta Council believes in putting a risk lens on everything so that it influences outcomes — highlighting the need for risk management to be integral to all aspects of the organisation.

Staying informed about emerging risks and balancing priorities is a complex task. However, through a shared commitment to learn, adapt and evolve, our member councils continue to navigate these challenges successfully.

Sharing Insights and Advancing Risk Management Together

In the journey of risk management, no two local government organisations are the same, yet we all share common goals — to manage risks effectively and ensure the welfare of our communities.

Rod Chacana from the Blue Mountains City Council encourages organisations to stay informed and adaptable. “The world is changing faster than ever, and so are the risks we face. Staying informed and adapting swiftly is no longer a choice, but a necessity,” he says.

Ian Harris from Hunters Hill Council advocates for a proactive stance. “Don’t wait for risks to manifest. Identify them, evaluate them and manage them proactively. This is the key to effective risk management,” he advises.

Anthony Robinson from Penrith City Council emphasises the need for inclusivity. “Risk management should be a shared responsibility. Encourage everyone in your organisation to understand and play their part in managing risks,” he recommends.

Amidst these insights, Tanya Whitmarsh, Manager of Governance and Risk at Burwood Council, shares a timeless quote from Warren Buffet, “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” It’s a powerful reminder of the importance of knowledge and preparation in risk management.

As we look to the future, we’re inspired by the progress we have made together and are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. In the face of emerging risks and challenges, we remain confident that our collective efforts will enable us to enhance the resilience of our communities and achieve our organisational objectives.

If you’d like to learn more insights from our members and participate in the conversation, apply for CivicRisk Mutual  today. We’d love to hear from you!

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