Learnings from City of Darwin Community Wellbeing Officer – From Role Concept to Delivery (and everything in between)

This presentation will take audience members through the journey and learnings of embedding City of Darwin’s Community Wellbeing Officer into the library space. The presentation will explore the process of building and refining the role, and the programs implemented with the community and with staff to build capacity.
In 2020, the City of Darwin Library Strategy identified its role in supporting vulnerable and at-risk community members, with a particular focus on connecting and working with people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The homelessness rate in Darwin is 4 times higher (per capita) than the rest of Australia with young people and Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander people over-represented in the homeless population. Embedding our homeless community into the library’s strategic vision was a significant milestone, although it didn’t secure additional Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) positions from the council.
To pave the way for the creation of the Community Wellbeing Officer role, we underwent a comprehensive staffing restructure, centralising collections, and programs teams across our four libraries to improve efficiency. While the Library Strategy supported the establishment of this new role, it also underscored the limitations of library resources. We recognized the need to collaborate with other community service providers to maximize the impact of existing services. With the mandate to establish a new role to support vulnerable and at-risk community members, and connect with external services, in late 2020 City of Darwin employed its first Community Wellbeing Officer.
The presentation will use the lenses of connecting, listening, thinking, researching, doing, sharing, and refining to demonstrate the implementation of City of Darwin Library’s first Wellbeing Officer.
Connecting. With staff, internal stakeholders, and external stakeholders. Connecting with pre-existing network groups that exist e.g., Access and Inclusion Advisory group, Disability Network, NT Homeless groups. Connect with Social Workers in Libraries Community of Practice Group.
Listening. Listening to community services groups about where the gaps are in supporting at risk community members. Listening to staff about the needs of our customers in the library and understanding the supports that staff need for their wellbeing and to meet the needs of customers.
Thinking. How library spaces can help fill the service gaps within the remit of libraries, and what programs and services might look like across the libraries.
Researching. What programs exist across libraries in Australia and globally that are delivering in this space. Researching what training opportunities exist to support staff.
Doing. Embark on implementation. This has included learning programs for staff, delivering Homeless Link Up annual events in the library, establishing Community Support and Advice monthly drop-in sessions with key service providers, Job Club covering resume writing and mock interviews, and being the ‘go-to’ person for customers with challenging behaviours.
Sharing. Maintaining the connections, sharing experience, gathering feedback. Include staff from other teams to co-deliver sessions to share and increase knowledge across library services.
Refining. With feedback adjust programs to respond to feedback. Refine the focus of the role to ensure we are best meeting needs of the community.

Stacey Rosser

Acting Executive Manager Library and Family Services, City of Darwin

Author Bio

Stacey is the Acting Executive Manager Library and Family Services with the City of Darwin. She is also the Co-Convenor of the ALIA GLAM Top End Group. 
She wants delegates to learn the complexities from the City of Darwin experience of embedding a Wellbeing Officer into the City of Darwin library. This may help guide or inform delegates about how they might establish a similar role and programs in their library and help them avoid similar problems or challenges we experienced. They will learn that sometimes you need to bite off more than you can chew to work out what meets the community need the best.