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Mixing business and leisure

By Carolyn Rance

A council recreation manager works hard so Penrith can play hard, writes Carolyn Rance.

Recreation professionals play a key role in building strong, healthy communities.

"Every dollar spent on sport and recreation brings multiple returns, helping individuals, breaking down social barriers, reducing exclusion and anti-social behaviour and generating economic benefits," the recreation manager at Penrith City Council, Andrew Robinson, says.

The investment also buys a lot of fun for a lot of people. In the middle of the winter sports season, about 40,000 people a week use Penrith's sports grounds and many more attend the additional 600 casual events held there every year. There are also walking tracks, parks and a new outdoor gym.

"Penrith is really committed to developing all-abilities playgrounds that promote creative and interactive play that challenges the imagination," Robinson says.

He says that to understand residents' needs, local government recreation professionals must thoroughly integrate themselves into local communities. "I am involved with sporting clubs and their hard-working volunteers. You're as successful as the partnerships you create."

His team works with other council departments and regards external networking as important. Events organised by Parks and Leisure Australia provide a meeting point for professionals from both private and public sectors.

Robinson's career has included time in both and he was for many years involved in playing and organising amateur sport.

Born and raised in England, he combined studies for a degree in history and international relations with involvement in Reading University sporting teams and sports union.

"I did the usual round of holiday jobs - everything from driving a dump truck in a quarry, being a dustman at a time when garbage collectors still picked up bins manually and working in petrol stations," he said. "When I'd finished the degree I travelled for a year, playing cricket in South Africa and visiting Botswana and Zimbabwe."

By the time he returned, he knew the career direction he wanted and completed a master's degree in leisure and recreation management at Loughborough University.

His first professional recreation job was as manager of a new leisure facility being built and run on the Scottish border by a private company on behalf of a council. It involved marketing and building relationships with local sports groups, programming and staff hire.

His next job, with a leisure consultancy in Manchester, included feasibility studies, developing business plans and funding applications for organisations and sporting bodies.

A job as leisure development officer at Manchester City Council took him into local government and led to a secondment to the sports services section of the 2002 Commonwealth Games.


Published: 27 October 2012

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