Most public servants are consumed with working out ways to sidestep and deflect the problems and concerns raised by local residents. Not Pip Ditzell, the City of Sydney’s GLBT Project Coordinator.

If there’s something you want her team to do differently, she wants to know about it.

It is an absolutely crucial part of my job to maintain links with the community, Ditzell told Sydney Star Observer.

Which doesn’t just mean working with government organisations and non-government organisations like ACON and SWOP. It also means getting out there and getting to know the business owners and the licensed venue owners.

I try to make sure that I am familiarised with as many people as I can be and if anyone has any ideas about what they’d like to see happening or how they would like to see things done differently then I definitely want to hear from those people and to make sure that I am accessible to them.

To Ditzell, who came into her position two years ago after several years working as a social worker in the HIV sector, one of the great pleasures of moving into the role was the opportunity it offered to work with a wider cross-section of people.

It’s definitely one of the greatest parts of the job, to have the opportunity to work with and meet so many different people, although that can come with its own problems too, she said.

It can be very difficult managing to balance the different demands of all these different groups. Everyone has a different agenda and it’s about trying to balance out those various needs so that we are all working towards the same eventual goal.

Having just signed on to stay in her role for another two years, Ditzell’s main goal and ambition is to see through the Oxford St Safety Strategy being implemented by the City of Sydney.

Oxford St is definitely our biggest challenge right now, and I want to make sure by the time I leave in January 2010 that most of the strategies have been implemented so that residents feel a lot safer in the area, and so it is once again seen as a positive place for people to visit, she said.

At the moment I think people are feeling a little bit dislocated from the area. Homophobic violence is still occurring and people are feeling afraid to go out, so it’s our job to try to fix that and change people’s perceptions.

Even though people are feeling a bit defeated by it at the moment, I am really hopeful that we can change it because there is so much on offer here and, at the end of the day, I would say there is still a very strong sense of community along Oxford St, which is buoyant in this time of difficulty.

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