Meet the Board - Josh Fergeus, VLGA Vice President

Monday, 28 August 2023

Born and raised in Monash, Josh has also lived in London while working on development of the National Health Service with local groups including the Haredi and Afro-Caribbean communities, and in Nepal while working with local women and children. 

Josh holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne as well as a Master's Degree in Social Work, and Bachelor's Degrees in Arts and Teaching.  His research focused on the critical role of foster and kinship carers in promoting positive mental health outcomes for children and young people in care. 

Outside of his duties as a Councillor, Josh is the Chief Executive Officer of the leading therapeutic horticulture charity Kevin Heinze Grow, a Member of the Victorian Mental Health Tribunal and an expert witness in child protection matters. 

Josh is a former Chair of the Eastern Alliance for Greenhouse Action and President of the Foster Care Association of Victoria. He is passionate about creating and maintaining a safe and nurturing environment for all children and young people, education, social justice, and human rights. 

Can you share a bit about your path to public service? 

My family are teachers, physiotherapists, nurses, and occupational therapists. My mother has been a foster carer for 25 years. I suppose you could say there is a family culture of service. However I was also aware of the many structural barriers there seemed to be for people who were trying to make things better. Individuals can only do so much. I entered local government with a desire to address the barriers wherever I find them. Councils can help cultivate a local environment where communities can be their best.  

What opportunities do you think Councils have right now to embrace change and be innovative? 

The new Local Government Act has created challenges but also opportunities. Rate capping continues to impose significant limitations. However, these circumstances also provide fertile ground for innovation in the local government sector. Passionate and creative Councillors and Council Officers can have a tremendous impact. I am particularly excited by the possibilities with respect to deliberative engagement. Local government is so well placed to involve their communities in decision-making in meaningful, substantive ways. The community engagement principles in the Act provide an excellent basis for Councils to embrace exciting new practices. 

What advice would you give to someone wanting to promote good governance in their Council? 

Lead by example. Think about the processes your Council uses to make decisions, and about how you as an individual Councillor can contribute to improvements. Remember that good governance is not only about how decisions are made but also about how power is being exercised. Councillors need to be aware of their position and influence within Councils and their community and act accordingly. Work respectfully with your colleagues, both Councillors and Council Officers, and try to work towards consensus where you can.  

With an increase in partisanship in local governments, what tools and strategies do you use to build consensus among you peers? What has been successful? What has been challenging? 

Our communities are diverse and the Councillors who are elected reflect that. It is our job to find ways of working together as best we can. During my first term I made a point of developing and moving a joint notice of motion with every one of my colleagues on issues ranging from renewable energy to pokies to active transport. This process served to build trust and effective working relationships between peers and demonstrated to me that it’s almost always possible to find common ground. I also try and stick to a ‘no surprises’ approach when working with Councillor colleagues and Council Officers.