Managing rapid urban growth and developing Melton as a sustainable city is at the forefront of our council planning and will be for some years to come. Growth also provides us with the opportunity to build into our new communities, from the ground up, some of the Key Features of Learning Cities.
Sophie Ramsey, Mayor of Melton
Lifelong learning is an effective means of nurturing sustainable personal, social, cultural, economic and environmental development in the community – now and into the future. Sustainability is a priority for Melton City Council in its planning, particularly as the City of Melton is growing fast. This growth presents citizens with many exciting opportunities along with some major challenges. In order to best meet these challenges and take advantage of the opportunities, it is essential that learning takes place right across the community. As the following case study demonstrates, there is a strong political commitment to building a learning city in the City of Melton, and the city as a whole is benefitting from the learning city initiatives that have been implemented to date. As such, the city already demonstrates some of the Key Features of Learning Cities.
Melton believes that being involved with the Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC) will expose the city to current research and provide opportunities to share learning and best practice.
The City of Melton is a western suburb of the City of Melbourne in the state of Victoria, Australia. The City of Melton consists of several townships and communities and is one of the fastest growing municipalities in Australia: the city’s population more than doubled between 2001 and 2014, and it is expected to reach more than 241,000 by 2031 (forecast. ID, 2015). The city is targeted by the Victorian State Government as an urban growth area under the Plan Melbourne strategy.
Main issues to be tackled
Unfortunately, Melton’s high population growth has not been matched by a corresponding growth in employment. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data revealed that in 2011, Melton had only one job for every 2.9 white-collar workers and one job for every 3.7 blue-collar workers (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011). This was the worst ratio of local jobs to residents of all of Melbourne’s growth areas. The city has an overall unemployment rate of 7.2 per cent, but this rate reaches more than 10 per cent in certain suburbs. Youth unemployment is 13.6 per cent across the city as a whole, but more than 20 per cent in some suburbs (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).
Approximately 82 per cent of residents travel out of the City of Melton for employment, 65.8 per cent to known destinations and another 15.8 per cent to unknown destinations (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011). This has significant social, economic and environmental repercussions. For example, residents who spend more time travelling to work have less time for their families and spend more money outside the municipality. The high number of commuters, meanwhile, leads to traffic congestion and increased motor vehicle emissions. Thus creating local jobs is a priority for the City of Melton.
Another worrying development that needs to be addressed is children’s increasing disengagement from school. A recent study revealed that 14.7 per cent of 10-year-olds and 22.7 per cent of 16-year-olds are not in school (Morton, 2014).
Motives for becoming a learning city
The city’s Community Learning Board (CLB) has long believed that access to quality lifelong learning opportunities improves people’s lives and the community’s social and economic well-being. Furthermore, the City of Melton and its CLB recognize the value of aligning their goals and strategies to developments in other Australian and international learning cities. Melton believes that being involved with the Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC) will expose the city to current research and provide opportunities to share learning and best practice. This will make it possible to make further improvements to Melton as a learning city.
Learning city policies and strategies
Definition of a learning city
The CLB’s 2015–2018 Community Learning Plan defines a learning city as one that generates ‘lifelong learning opportunities to grow our community’s social, cultural, economic, environmental and personal well-being’ (Melton City Council, 2015).
In her foreword to Melton a Learning City: Community Learning Plan 2015–2018, the mayor of Melton, Cr Sophie Ramsey, stresses the importance of taking a place-based approach to community development, building infrastructure around community hubs with shared facilities and open spaces, providing learning and community spaces and entering into public-private partnerships.
Community Learning Plan priorities 2015–2018
Education and training provide citizens with the knowledge and skills necessary to gain employment and to develop, strengthen and attract businesses locally.
All members of the community have equal access to learning and opportunities to enjoy its benefits.
Families provide a supportive learning and developmental environment for children up to the age of 5 years.
All young people have support and opportunities to plan and pursue career pathways from school to vocational education, training, higher education and employment.
Adults in the community actively access learning for self-development, employment, leisure and social activities.
Learning plan and learning city infrastructure priorities are resourced.
Vision and objectives
Melton City Council’s Council Plan 2013–2017 states its objective of fostering ‘a proud community growing together’ (Melton City Council, 2013, p. 18). There is a clear intention to create conditions ensuring that everybody in the community can feel empowered, confident and connected.
Every three years, a Community Learning Plan is developed by the CLB to implement the City of Melton’s learning city strategy. The City of Melton’s 2015–2018 Community Learning Plan is its sixth since 1998. Its priorities are shown in the table on the left.
There are no specific regulations about lifelong learning for city or local government bodies. However, city governments are responsible for community strengthening, and policies about lifelong learning are generally linked to this area of council planning. Responsibility for regulation and governance is shared between the Australian Government and the state and territory governments. There is a range of legislation covering early childhood education, the school years, and post-compulsory and adult education. This section focuses on important legislation with regard to post-compulsory and adult education.
Vocational education and training (VET) is regulated by several Australian state and territory laws. These include the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011, which established the Australian Skills Quality Authority. The Standards for NVR Registered Training Organisations 2012, meanwhile, ensure nationally consistent high-quality training and assessment services.
The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011 (TEQSA) established TEQSA to, among other things, provide national consistency in the provision of higher education.
The federal government has a ten-year strategy – the National Foundation Skills Strategy for Adults – to address issues of functional literacy and numeracy among Australians of working age.
The 2008 Ministerial Declaration on Adult and Community Education (ACE) highlights the importance of ACE as a pathway for ‘second-chance’ learners.
In 2011, the State Government of Victoria published the Victorian Tertiary Education Plan, which investigates key issues such as increasing participation, improving equity and ensuring a diverse, high-quality system that meets industry needs. The plan emphasizes the importance of community education in providing a pathway to tertiary education (Dow et al., 2009). However, the emphasis is on employment outcomes rather than lifelong and lifewide learning as such.
Australian cities are part of local government systems and are regulated by local states and territories. The main roles of local governments include planning, community development, service delivery, asset management and regulation. Governing bodies (generally known as ‘councils’) determine service provision according to local needs and the requirements of state or territory local government legislation.
In the state of Victoria, the Local Government Act 1989 provides the purpose, objectives and functions of councils. Councils are required to have council plans. These plans link to other key documents such as strategic statements, operational planning, community plans and municipal public health plans.
In 1997, the City of Melton decided to develop a lifelong learning plan for the municipality. The first Community Learning Plan was published in 1998. In 2014, the city decided to lead the development of Melton as a learning city.
Governance and partnership
Responsibility for lifelong learning is shared across all three levels of government: federal, state and local government. At a national level, the Australian Department of Education runs the national education system and National Disability Coordination Services. Vocational Education and Training (VET), which is designed to deliver specific workplace skills and knowledge-based competencies, is an integral part of the Australian education system. The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) underpins the national system of qualifications in Australia. It covers higher education, vocational education, and training and schools. Adult Learning Australia (ALA) is a national body that promotes lifelong and lifewide learning in Australia. The federal government funds ALA as well as adult education programmes such as Adult Learners’ Week.
The City of Melton established the CLB to provide a governance mechanism that gives communities and organizations a direct influence on designing and overseeing lifelong learning strategies addressing social and economic issues.
The Victorian Department of Education and Training (DEAT) is the state government department responsible for providing educational services for all Victorians from birth to adulthood.
The City of Melton established the CLB to provide a governance mechanism that gives communities and organizations a direct influence on designing and overseeing lifelong learning strategies addressing social and economic issues. Members of the CLB are appointed for four years or for the duration of a Community Learning Plan. Current members of the CLB include leaders from the following sectors: business and industry; non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and not-for-profit organizations (NPOs); employment services; state and independent primary and secondary schools; universities and vocational education providers; adult education; mature age learning; early learning; the health sector; disability education providers; community representatives; and the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. A Melton city councillor, council’s chief executive officer and key council managers and personnel relevant to the implementation of Community Learning Plan goals are also members. The CLB is currently chaired by the mayor.
Brimbank Melton Local Learning and Employment Network provides school and career pathways for disadvantaged 10- to 19-year-olds. It is an active member of the CLB, the Economic Development and Lifelong Learning (EDLL) working party and the Social Inclusion and Lifelong Learning (SILL) working party.
Wesley Mission provides services such as disability support and employment services to disadvantaged groups in the community. Wesley is a member of the CLB and SILL and is active in the Work’s 4 Me Partnership, which promotes a collaborative approach to post-school transition for young people with disabilities.
The Inner Northern Local Learning and Employment Network’s Community Transition Support initiative provides careers advice for people with intellectual disabilities and delivers the Ticket to Work programme, which aims to ease the postschool transition of young people with disabilities. The Community Transition Support team is a member of SILL.
Djerriwarrh Community and Education Service is a registered training organization that provides training, adult learning and community services. It is a founding member of the CLB and a member of SILL and EDLL. Djerriwarrh Community and Education Service supports a broad range of CLB activities.
YouthNow provides pathways, career services and work experience for schools and young people. It is also an adult learning provider. YouthNow is a member of the CLB, SILL and EDLL and is active in the Work’s 4 Me partnership. It was also a project manager in Building Melton Together, a project that connects employees, jobseekers, subcontractors and other stakeholders in the City of Melton to employment opportunities in the building and construction industries. Building Melton Together is described in more detail as an example of innovation and good practice.
The University of the Third Age (U3A) provides active ageing and learning programmes. U3A is a member of the CLB.
Federation University delivers higher education programmes out of the city’s library and learning hubs. It is a member of the CLB and EDLL and is a Western BACE consortium member.
Provision of lifelong learning
Lifelong learning activities coordinated by the CLB are delivered to meet community needs identified in Community Learning Plans. Building Melton Together, for example, was implemented to address local employment issues by linking training to employment in the city’s growth industries. The Work’s 4 Me Partnership was designed to improve the participation, engagement and transition of people with disabilities into training and employment.
The CLB supported all of the city government’s primary and secondary schools in implementing the Developmental Management Approach to Classroom Behaviour (Lewis, 2008). This was done to address high levels of expulsions and disengagement of young people from schooling. The schools report positive outcomes, including improved studentteacher relationships and fewer expulsions.
The CLB also supported the schools in establishing Community and Learning Melton (CaLM), a programme that aims to create an alternative educational setting for young people who are disengaged from traditional schooling. CaLM has an annual enrolment of approximately fifty young people.
Several other initiatives are being supported by CLB, including youth engagement projects and homework clubs for indigenous people and refugees. These programmes are designed to keep young people in school, as a disproportionate number of indigenous and refugee young people disengage from schooling early.
The CLB publishes a Learning Directory four times a year to advertise lifelong learning activities in the municipality. Learning providers, individuals and groups can advertise their formal, semiformal, informal, leisure and social learning courses free of charge. The Learning Directory is available on the council’s website and is distributed in council facilities and by certain community organizations. It is also inserted into a local newspaper, which enables it to reach 34,500 households. Each edition of the Learning Directory carries an average of 154 advertisers and 485 courses.
Example of innovation or good practice
Building Melton Together
Building Melton Together (BMT) was developed by the Economic Development and Lifelong Learning Party of the CLB. The initiative was launched to address unemployment, particularly youth unemployment. Local research and consultation with business and industry along with education, training and employment service providers revealed a great mismatch between the training opportunities offered in the city and the skills that are actually needed in the industries where jobs are available. Given the City of Melton’s rapid housing growth and the fact that it is a targeted growth area by the Victorian State Government, construction was a logical industry in which to start linking training to the available jobs.
The chief objectives of BMT are:
• to increase local employment in the City of Melton;
• to align vocational training and skills development to industries where job opportunities exist in the city;
• to assist the building and construction industry in identifying its skill and recruitment needs;
• to assist builders and subcontractors in recruiting local skilled employees; and
• to help local building and construction industry subcontractors get contracts from volume builders.
Main target groups
BMT takes a holistic, cross-sectoral approach in brokering relationships between jobseekers (especially young jobseekers), employment service providers, volume and domestic builders, building subcontractors, education and training providers, and relevant NGOs and NPOs.
A working group was formed with key organizations that had the relevant expertise and an interest in leading the implementation of the BMT initiative. Melton City Council, Burbank Australia (a volume builder), YouthNow (a youth services provider), Brimbank Melton Local Learning and Employment Network, Tracy the Placement People, consultants from the Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), Lend Lease and Victoria University were the key partners in the implementation group. This group designed BMT and gained funding from the DEEWR to implement the first two phases. YouthNow, a not-forprofit organization, was selected as project manager due to its expertise in careers advice and skills assessment.
The implementation of BMT involved three phases. Phase 1 had two key objectives. The first was to increase awareness of employment opportunities in building and construction. The second was to broker jobs. During Phase 1, jobseekers received career counselling along with any necessary training before being referred to employers. In total, seventy people gained building and construction jobs in just eight months, and thirty young unemployed people returned to education or training.
Phase 2 focused on helping local subcontractors achieve preferred subcontractor status and gain contracts with volume and domestic builders. In addition, a business essentials training package providing guidance to tradespeople wishing to establish their own business was placed on the BMT website. As a result of Phase 2, forty-seven tradespeople were referred to builders, twenty young tradespeople completed the BMT training package and ten participants established their own subcontracting businesses.
The goal of Phase 3, which will be implemented between 2015 and 2018, is for BMT to become a regional initiative funded by local government together with the building and construction industry. Also during this phase, fledgling building and construction businesses will be incubated in the Western Business Accelerator and Centre for Excellence (Western BACE). This facility will be a training centre and will facilitate research into sustainable urban development, business attraction and business development, focusing on the building and construction, digital and services industries. BACE provides office spaces, workshop and warehouse spaces, shared training and meeting rooms, and IT infrastructure for fledgling businesses.
Mobilization and utilization of resources
Melton City Council provides one staff member to strategically coordinate lifelong learning and to act as executive officer to the CLB.
The CLB, Community Learning Plan and Community Learning Directory are partly funded through Melton City Council’s recurrent budget. However, as this budget does not cover all costs of implementing Community Learning Plan strategies, other funding and resourcing sources have to be sought. Over the last three years, funding in excess of 15,000,000 Australian dollars has come as a result of grant applications made by the CLB to state and federal government and philanthropic organizations. Another 21,000,000 Australian dollars were awarded as a result of city applications for a new library and learning hub. The CLB has also supported other organizations in gaining funding for initiatives that meet Community Learning Plan goals and priorities. It is estimated that in excess of 250,000 Australian dollars in funding and in-kind support has been realized for these organizations.
A number of Community Learning Plan projects share strategic objectives and resources with partner organizations. For example, the Work’s 4 Me project is delivered as a collaboration between the following organizations: Merrimu Services, Wesley Mission, YouthNow, Djerriwarrh Community and Education Service and Melton City Council.
CEOs of seven organizations have directly given at least one working day a month to the CLB and its projects. Another sixteen CLB and working party members at the manager and coordinator level have devoted one day a month to delivering learning plan strategies (more if they are working on a joint project).
Melton City Council provides one staff member to strategically coordinate lifelong learning and to act as executive officer to the CLB. The executive officer to the CLB is responsible for progressing Melton as a learning city. Administrative officer support is allocated to the coordinator, the CLB and its working parties.
Other City of Melton departments provide staff to work on learning city matters relevant to them. Departments that share goals with the CLB include Learning Communities, Community Planning, Economic Development, Children’s Services, Community Care and Inclusion, Family Services and Youth Services.
Monitoring and evaluation
A participative action research methodology was taken by the CLB to evaluate the 2011–2014 Community Learning Plan. The evaluation report Melton a Learning City: Community Learning Plan Evaluation (2014) summarizes findings from the past four years and makes recommendations for the 2015–2018 Community Learning Plan.
A recent review of how the City of Melton has undertaken its monitoring and evaluation of its learning city initiative demonstrates that the evaluation methodology has evolved over time (Wheeler et al., 2015). In 1998, for example, learning plan evaluation consisted mainly of some very basic consultation. In 2006 and 2010 the CLB began to measure the strength of its partnerships. In 2011, not only partnership strength but also the collective impact of those partnerships was measured.
A valuable addition to the evaluation process has been the development of the Measuring Collective Impact tool. This has been designed to measure and track the impact of the delivery of Community Learning Plan goals and strategies that utilize community and business partnerships. The tool measures the strength of partnerships and the level to which measurable goals have been met, and it plots the impact level on a graph.
Impacts and challenges
Building a learning city has had three main impacts. Firstly, spaces have been created where lifelong learning can take place close to where residents live. Secondly, people and organizations are available to provide lifelong learning activities that residents can readily access. The Learning Directory informs residents of Melton that these lifelong learning opportunities are available and accessible. Over the next four years, the city plans to gather baseline data on actual participation rates in the activities offered. Thirdly, community organizations are collaborating with the city to address long-term social issues through learning. One goal identified for children in the Community Learning Plan 2011–2014 was to increase the proportion of kindergarten enrolments from 85 per cent to 90 per cent within three years. There was an increase in kindergarten participation from 85.6 per cent in 2009 to 91.8 per cent in 2012. The percentage of young people entering higher education, apprenticeships, training and employment improved by 0.27 per cent. This fell well short of the city’s target of 3 per cent a year from 2011 to 2014. Work will continue in this area in the 2015–2018 Community Learning Plan.
The lack of employment opportunities, lower-than-average education levels, comparatively low socio-economic levels and high population growth still combine to create significant economic and social challenges for the City of Melton. The 2015–2018 Community Learning Plan will seek to remove some of the consequent obstacles to full civic participation by focusing on certain priorities. Firstly, the city needs to secure state and federal government funding for schools, kindergartens and community infrastructure in a timely manner. Given Melton’s growth, it requires approximately two primary schools to be built every three years. Secondly, the City of Melton needs to provide facilities to deliver higher education and employment skills and business development. Thirdly, the city needs to enhance young people’s opportunities to plan and pursue career pathways from school to vocational education, training, higher education and employment. Fourthly, it wishes to improve access to learning for all adults, but in particular Indigenous Australians, refugees and people with disabilities. Other priorities include building new and upgraded community infrastructure that incorporates learning, play and opportunities to meet; increasing families’ capacity to provide a rich learning and developmental environment for their children; and developing council policies that articulate across all council departments what it means to be a learning city.
Lessons learned and recommendations
Strategic leadership must ensure that plans are implemented, that growth can be accommodated and that community relationships and partnerships are nurtured.
The continued support of the city’s decision-makers is critical. Strategic leadership must ensure that plans are implemented, that growth can be accommodated and that community relationships and partnerships are nurtured. The city council, its councillors and the executive leadership team steer the direction of the city and require highquality evidence and information on which to base decisions. The CLB provides a governance structure and gives the community a voice with regard to learning city matters. It is essential that it is maintained as an advisory committee to the city’s council.
Successful Community Learning Plan initiatives may grow and require expansion. This has implications for staffing, budgets and decisions about who takes operational responsibility. These implications must be identified early and planned for in order to ensure sustainability.
Maintaining relationships with stakeholders and being able to broker and manage partnerships in order to achieve agreed community objectives is essential.
Evaluation needs to be ongoing. A participative action research approach has been adopted as a key element of evaluating the delivery of the Community Learning Plan. There needs to be a good evidence base to inform decision-making and to evaluate success.
Lifelong Learning Coordinator
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