What does success look like for a regional city, such as Ballarat? Is it population growth? Is it being a place that welcomes new ideas, creativity and activity?
Is it helping each other to do better, be better and be more courageous? Is it caring for people, being compassionate, being respectful and being inclusive?
Or is it simply celebrating what we love about Ballarat and its people?
We believe that Ballarat's success is defined by all of these elements.
At the City of Ballarat, we have a long-term, evidence-based strategic plan for Ballarat's success.
It's a plan that is about a bigger, bolder and better Ballarat.
First, let's take a look at "bigger". After two decades of consistent growth, our population now sits at 107,000, with projections showing this growth continuing well into the future.
We are going beyond just managing our growth to actively shaping it. This means being ahead of the game to shape when, where and how our growth takes place.
With more people, brings more opportunity, particularly for our business community. This leads us to "bolder".
"Bolder" is about being courageous, it's being prepared to do something different. It's about being a clever city brimming with knowledge-based industries and innovation.
We are focused on delivering a better now, but we're also planning for a better future.
It's also about making some hard decisions. It's about calling out behaviour, actions and projects that are wrong or are simply no longer working.
We continue to look internally, within our organisation, to improve the way we function. We implemented our Gender Equity Action Plan and we endorsed the Community Charter for the Prevention of Violence Against Women.
Recently, we made the difficult but necessary decision to cease our service agreement, and $2.7 million annual spend, with Visit Ballarat.
We were confronted with statistics that showed international visitor growth had not kept pace with other regional cities and our share of overnight stays had tailed off.
As an organisation, we continue to review each and every area of our business to ensure we're providing the best value to our residents and ratepayers. We made the decision, one not taken lightly, that the City of Ballarat will resume operation of tourism services.
Soon we will officially start the consultation for our Ballarat is Open strategy - a vision to enhance the Ballarat experience for visitors and residents alike.
This dynamic strategy will market everything we love about our city to a broad audience.
Several years ago, the City of Ballarat committed to one of its biggest pieces of public engagement - the Ballarat Imagine campaign. The campaign received 6500 community responses which we used to inform Our Vision for 2040 and the development of Today Tomorrow Together: The Ballarat Strategy.
This resulted in initiatives such as the revitalisation of some of our city's streets, the $26 million redevelopment of Mars Stadium, bringing AFL football to Ballarat, through to major investment at Lucas, including the development of the Lucas Community Hub.
Ballarat is Open is the Ballarat Imagine Strategy, but for businesses - and all businesses in the community, not just tourism.
"Better" is our aspirational approach. We want to be a better city - one that is more diverse, inclusive and compassionate. This is what drives our intercultural programs and our work with the Koorie Engagement Action Group and others.
We want to be better - we want to put people at the centre of everything we do, and we want their health and wellbeing, their education and their employment outcomes to be our priority.
We want Ballarat to be a beautiful place that our residents are proud to call home.
A place where people can live long, healthy and happy lives.
Every day we provide 80-plus services to residents, from collecting waste and recycling to maintaining our roads and footpaths, delivering aquatic facilities, maintaining our parks and gardens through to delivering library services and maternal and child health.
We are focused on delivering a better now, but we are also planning for a better future. A future with premier sporting facilities that are also female-friendly, restored assets such as the Civic Hall and Her Majesty's Ballarat, a revitalised Bakery Hill and Bridge Mall precinct and showcasing major drawcard events, such as White Night and Spilt Milk.
Walk with us on this journey. Through Ballarat is Open, we will make Ballarat bigger, bolder, better.
Cr Samantha McIntosh is Ballarat mayor and Justine Linley is the council's chief executive.