Jane Stanley

2 October 2012 — Working in Glasgow, in the 1970s when it was known as “the slum capital” of Europe was a life changing experience for Dr Jane Stanley.

Dr Stanley, who recently took up the position of director of People and Communities with the City of Ballarat, moved to the Scottish city after completing her PhD in West Africa.

The city’s mostly public tenement buildings were in decay, through bombing in World War II and through mining activities, and the government of the day had decided to knock them down and start again with new high-rise, high density apartments.

Tenants, mostly renters, and many elderly, were moved out to even worse conditions, homes that were damp with condensation and with a not surprisingly growing anti-social atmosphere.

After a while, forced to live in terrible conditions, but with work on the tenements stalled, the people started to vote with their feet, and moved back to their original homes, Dr Stanley said.

“So the government tried to make improvements to the tenements, and they failed. They handed it over to local government, and they failed.

“Then Raymond Young, an architect, started working with a tenants’ group and suddenly all  governments breathed a sigh of relief. I was employed by one of those tenants’ groups.

“Glasgow finally became known as the ‘cultural’ capital of Europe – it was an amazing program. And I was part of that.

“The tenants’ groups had no experience at all, and very low levels of education, but they were gutsy, and they learned what they needed to do. It was a very inspiring period of my life.

“And yes, it has shaped me. In my first job as a public servant I must have been a nightmare.

“I had seen what those people could do, and I was walking around looking at in-trays with documents in them, and asking ‘why don’t you just get it done’.

“I can’t understand people not just making things happen.”

Other career moves have seen Dr Stanley gain extensive experience in housing, community development, engagement and planning.

She has also served on Ministerial Advisory Committees, the Board of the Planning Institute of Australia and the Eastern Regional Organisation for Planning and Human Settlements.

Her international experience includes studying rural-urban migration and slum survival in Ghana, director of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and an international consultant for AusAID, the World Bank and the United Nations.

In Australia her career has also included working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Her most recent position, before Ballarat, was manager of the Advancing Country Towns initiative for the Colac Otway Shire Council.

While Dr Stanley’s move to Ballarat was for personal reasons, “my partner wanted to move to Victoria”, her interest in the city and job is obvious.

“In terms of heritage, I have always been interested in Ballarat,” she said.

“And the position is one that also interested me and receives excellent support from the management group. It’s a great place to be right now.”

Dr Stanley’s role will see her involved in myriad projects from building resilient and safe communities to encouraging tangible sustainability strategies in Ballarat and the region.

Under her portfolio are recreation, youth, community development, family and children’s services, aged and disability services, and municipal emergency management.

Emergency services includes a preventative role such as ensuring the community is ready for climate change and other major events.

“Food security is another issue and there is also some responsibility for infrastructure. Family and Children’s Services involves a lot of public buildings,” she said.

“And a major responsibility is the health and wellbeing plan. I certainly don’t get bored.”

Dr Stanley is also keen to work with the community to have the opportunity of affecting community attitudes as part of the sustainability discourse.

She believes the council’s idea of tangible changes is important to start the dialogue.

“Being able to see the low hanging fruit is important. And you build confidence in change from there.”