Meet the community champions who make Melbourne tick

Melbourne is buzzing and ready to welcome you back with open arms.

As you enjoy life to the fullest, take a moment to appreciate the passionate workers who help make the City of Melbourne safe, beautiful, caring and connected, during the pandemic and year-round.

Here is a quick snapshot of just a few city heroes. Follow the links to read their full stories.

Animal management officer

From a snake on Spencer Street to a peacock on the run in Kensington, our animal management team has seen it all.

‘Lately I’ve rescued a staffy that was running around a construction site, rehomed a rabbit and waded in a fountain at the Carlton Gardens to rescue a distressed duckling,’ animal management officer Nicholas Pecipajkovski said.

‘The most rewarding part of my week is reuniting owners with their lost pets. Registration and microchipping are so important.’

While Nick’s job has many heart-warming moments, the animal management team performs a critical service.

This includes daily park patrols, responding to reports of barking dogs, animal welfare issues and dog attacks, and assessing compliance among pet shops, animal shelters and pet boarding establishments.

Nick and his colleagues work closely with the RSPCA and police, pursuing fines and legal action where necessary.

‘The animal management team is very hands-on and responsive,’ Nick said.

‘We are out there trying to keep the community and animals safe. We listen to feedback and, when issues arise, we always try to have positive conversations with pet owners.

‘As our city evolves, we will continue to work hard to ensure the community has good shared access to parks and public space, striking a good balance between people and pets.’

Please take good care of your pet, be considerate of others and renew your pet registration by 10 April each year. To learn more about responsible pet ownership, visit Pets.

A person holding a small dog in a park

Nick with local dog Mishka at Carlton Gardens

Read our full interview with Nick.

Library social worker

Thousands of people with extraordinary life stories pass through the doors of our city’s public libraries every week. For community members having a tough time, support is at hand amid the shelves.

Library social worker Erin McKeegan works with people experiencing multiple and complex challenges including, but not limited to, homelessness, addiction and trauma.

She also meets weekly with a network of agencies to connect patrons to the care they need.

‘The way libraries are used has completely changed. They are now one of the few public spaces that are free and accessible to all,’ Erin said.

‘Libraries are a safe place to come for people who are marginalised or sleeping rough.’

In recent weeks, Erin has helped a woman experiencing family violence to connect with a network of support, and assisted a man who hadn’t slept for several days after he found himself experiencing homelessness for the first time.

While Erin’s job involves listening to traumatic stories, she feels privileged to hear them.

‘I like to think that I am hearing people’s stories of survival and resilience.’

‘With a social worker on staff, the whole library team now has more tools and resources to support people in need. We also get referrals from other City of Melbourne staff, like the maternal and child health team.

‘This is a great network to have, and we will continue to listen and learn to improve our service.’

For more information on homelessness, and how you can help, visit Homelessness.

A person in a library

Erin at City Library

Read our full interview with Erin.

Graffiti removal worker

Tending to street art and keeping graffiti off city walls may seem like opposing forces, but graffiti removal expert Manu Parashar sees the beauty in each action.

‘I’ve got more than 100 different paints in my unit so we can match the colour of a door or the wall of a heritage building,’ Manu said.

Every morning, Manu patrols his section of the central city, both for illegal tags and damage to iconic street art. It’s street art that drew him to this job, and his favourite spot is Hosier Lane.

‘It’s full of beautiful art and the art keeps changing. I go there almost every day, looking for anything which shouldn’t be there, offensive words and that type of thing,’ Manu said.

‘We protect the street art by putting an anti-graffiti shield on the artworks.’

His favourite piece of street art – a portrait of a local dog called Jesse he once patted on his rounds – has long since been painted over. And yet the corner of Hosier and Flinders lanes serves as a reminder of the relationships he has built over time.

‘The best part of the job is that we get to talk to people. We listen to them, see how everything is going in their life. They share their stories. We talk to shop owners as well.’

Report illegal graffiti tagging and our rapid response team will get on the job fast.

A group of city cleaning workers in high-vis vests

Manu (second from left) with his clean team colleagues

Read our full interview with Manu.

Maternal and child health nurse

Give your baby a wonderful start in life with free support from our compassionate maternal and child health nurses.

The service offers 10 check-ups for children from newborn to school-age, new parents’ groups, lactation consultancy, counselling, and additional support for vulnerable families.

‘I love working closely with families to ensure they feel supported during the transition to parenthood,’ maternal and child health nurse Cloe Olive said.

‘Every family has such potential, and we are privileged to listen and observe, to wonder through the eyes of a child, and create a space where parents are encouraged to do the same.’

During the pandemic, our nurses continued to provide face-to-face support when needed. They also moved many services online and found new ways to provide flexible care, which will help us continue to enrich our services.

‘Being a new parent is an emotional roller-coaster, with a great exploration of many themes alongside parenting, including the importance of infant and parent mental health,’ Cloe said.

‘Resources on social media and online can be overwhelming and contradictory, so it’s important for us to provide evidence-based information to help families feel more confident.

‘The journey into parenthood is also a great opportunity to break down an individual’s notion of perfection and inadequacy. After all, there are no perfect parents, and there are no perfect children, but there are plenty of perfect moments along the way.’

For more information, visit Maternal and child health or call 9340 1444.

A person holding green book and smiling

Cloe with the handy green guidebook given to new parents

Read our full interview with Cloe.

Gym instructor

Boost your physical and mental wellbeing in the welcoming surrounds of your local recreation centre, supported by staff who love what they do.

‘I spend my days running classes like high-intensity interval training, stadium circuit sessions and prime fitness classes for our energetic members aged 60 plus,’ passionate gym instructor Bill Mooney said.

‘I also show potential members the gym and write programs for people to help them achieve their goals. Someone might want to run 5kms, and another might want to hike in Machu Picchu with ease.

‘It’s such a feel-good time when we see people achieve their goals. We are as excited as they are.’

Even if you have never been to a gym before, Bill welcomes you to drop by for a tour of North Melbourne Recreation Centre, where he works, or any of our City of Melbourne recreation centres.

We offer world-class facilities and best-practice programs for people of all ages and abilities across our recreation centres, to empower local people and promote community connection.

‘Fitness is a continuous journey,’ Bill said.

‘Ultimately, our job is trying to improve people’s lives and this isn’t just a physical thing, it’s a social thing. It’s great to see people who train together becoming friends and going out for coffee.’

To find out more about our recreation centres and plan your new fitness routine, visit Active Melbourne.

A person in a gym holding a medicine ball

Bill at North Melbourne Recreation Centre

Read our full interview with Bill.

Parks supervisor

Biodiversity gardens are springing up throughout Royal Park, increasing the variety of local plants and attracting even more native wildlife, including insects, birds and microbats.

‘There aren’t many places in Melbourne where you can see the sky without being blocked by buildings and trees,’ Royal Park supervisor Chris Nicholson said.

‘The grass circle is one of my favourite places.’

You won’t find many deciduous trees in the park, which was redesigned in the 1980s and ’90s to ‘evoke the original landscape’ of bush and grassy woodland tended to for thousands of years by Traditional Owners.

River red gums are among the eucalypts now planted in the park to gradually restore the local population, and two dedicated gardeners have been establishing new biodiversity gardens.

‘It’s all about increasing the palate of plants in the park, and in turn the palate of birdlife, lizards and skinks.’

Over the past two years, the team has planted natives such as kangaroo grass, juncus reeds, acacias, wattle and banksias. The Friends of Royal Park have been busy too, planting shrubs and replenishing the understorey.

Tread carefully on your next walk around the park. Kneel for a closer look at the new groundcover and find ruby saltbush in flower, and tiny native bluebells that attract more than 200 species of native bees.

Whether you have a big backyard, a green rooftop or pot plants on your balcony, everyone can help promote urban biodiversity. To request a visit from our team, visit Gardens for Wildlife.

A smiling person in a parkland, giving the thumbs up

Chris in Royal Park’s grass circle

Read our full interview with Chris.

Creative technology activator

It’s time for tech to shine at a pop-up library and make-it space opposite the Queen Victoria Market, where you can print a plastic octopus and turn a banana into a space bar.

It took just two months for creative technology activator Nathaniel Bott and their team to fill an empty Chinese restaurant with cool gadgets.

‘Each piece of equipment on its own is expensive. Too expensive for many to own. So we bring it all together in the pop-up space and make it free for anybody to use.’

The badge maker is strategically placed at kid level, so they can obsess over designing a new superhero badge after the family’s weekly market shop.

More complex machines – such as the sewing machine, 3D printer and obelisk-like laser cutter – are kept around the corner and away from little fingers. All of it is free to use, and Nat is on hand to help.

‘I’ve found a creative job that matches my weird and varied skillsets,’ Nat said.

‘People ask us when the pop-up is ending and I tell them that there will be a new library in the area soon, and it will have a bigger makerspace.’

We are developing a new community library at the Munro site, in the Queen Victoria Market precinct, featuring a creative makerspace, library and children’s library, family services and a rooftop terrace.

Visit the Elizabeth Street Pop-up Library at 510 Elizabeth Street.

A person in an apron, looking out a window

Nat at the pop-up library

Read our full interview with Nat.

To find out what we are doing to support people and businesses as we welcome people back to the city, visit Reignite Melbourne.