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The collaboration between Deakin University and the Department of Human Services (Barwon-South Western Region) was initiated in 1998 following the identification of regional and rural public health needs, recognition of the potential mutual benefits to each organisation, and a desire to respond by building capacity to meet identified needs. A shared geographic region and similar professional and academic interests, as well as the need to operate within a shared environment of broader reform stimulated and directed the development of the collaboration.
A detailed Business Plan was developed during 2006 and 2007 through an extensive program of consultation and planning. The Plan represented a renewed effort to strive for a deep form of university-community engagement.
Community engagement is simply a different way of doing familiar things, including learning differently; working together differently; and making a difference. We have come to understand that the partnership was more than just a network for sharing information. Through the Partnership Deakin University and the Department of Human Services worked to bring together the resources of an entire community. To do this, we acknowledged the need to achieve several key outcomes. These included: moving from an opportunistic to a strategic way of working; developing a deeper sense of purpose; developing symbols for the relationship; and presenting a set of clearly articulated values.
The Business Plan proved to be very successful in developing a partnership focus linked to each organizations strategic objectives. Partnership members came to appreciate better the different core tasks that each performs: the Department of Human Services in developing policy and delivering health and human services; and Deakin University in teaching and research. Engagement and service to our communities, through education, research and professional practice, is the thread that linked both organizations.
Towards the end of 2009 the Deakin + DHS Partnership Executive team undertook a major review of priorities and direction for 2010, resulting in the development of a revised and enhanced model of collaborative engagement. As a result the Partnership has now developed into a wider Alliance that seeks to bring together the knowledge and resources of Deakin University with the newly formed Department of Health and the Department of Human Services in the Barwon South West Region. The Alliance remains committed to facilitating collaborative engagement for the benefit of people living in the region as well as for the mutual benefit of each organization.