There's More to the Gold Coast than Meets the Eye

Having grown up on the Gold Coast I’d say I know the city well, but one of the reasons I applied to become a Mayor’s Student Ambassador was to gain a better understanding of my hometown while building professional networking opportunities. The Civic Workshop I attended last week gave me the opportunity to do both.

The Civic Workshop is one of the many experiences run through the Mayor’s Student Ambassador Program and is run by the staff from the Mayor’s Office. The session began with all of the Ambassadors filing into the City’s Council Chambers with each Ambassador taking a seat usually reserved for the City Councillors – this is where all of the big decisions are made regarding the city’s policies and its future direction, so it certainly felt like the most appropriate place to discover how the city is run. It also felt a little imposing!

The team from the Mayor's Office provide insights into how the city is run

The workshop is essentially a series of presentations from the various members of the team from the Mayor’s Office with key city staff also joining in to enlighten us on their area of expertise. Throughout the morning we learned about the history of the city, its governance, and the future with the City’s Strategic Plan providing a blueprint on how it will manage its growth.

Crunching the numbers

As Australia’s sixth largest city and one of the fastest growing regions in the country we found out that the Gold Coast’s GRP (Gross regional Product) was worth $39.12 billion dollars (as of June 2021) with the city achieving 2.3% growth since the pandemic, which was considerably higher than the state, with Queensland recording 1.8% growth.

Traditionally tourism and construction have been the big drivers of the Gold Coast economy, but in recent years the has diversified in areas like health and the film industry, which is now worth $590 million per year. The Gold Coast is often referred to as ‘The Small Business Capital of Australia’, but I have to admit I was amazed when I found out that there are 71,000 SME’s (small to medium enterprises) registered here – that’s a lot for a city of this size.  It was also surprising to discover that the Gold Coast has a substantial manufacturing industry that is continuing to grow – not something that the city is known for.

After the workshop the Ambassadors toured the city art gallery at HOTA

Community engagement

Other areas of interest for me were the many programs that city operates, like the Active Healthy Program. Often we never give much thought to these things, most people just take them for granted. Even though I’ve participated in outdoor community events before I’d never really considered that the City of Gold Coast had put them on or why they run these programs. I was also impressed by the level of support the city provides for disadvantaged people, like the provision of rubber mats to allow wheelchair access on the city’s beaches and their Safer Suburbs initiative.  

In many ways the Civic Workshop was about everything that happens below the surface. Of course everyone knows that the Mayor is at the top of the tree and most people would know who their local councillors are, and while these people are the public faces of the city it’s the Council employees that make it all happen. Every initiative and service is delivered through a complex structure from the Chief Executive Officer down through the various local government department heads, right through to those who are working directly with their communities all over the city. Without them our city couldn’t function.

Adam Skawinski

*Adam Skawinski is a Year 12 student at The Southport School.