A belief in community

Tari JeffersManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Shire of Manjimup community services director Gail Ipsen Cutts describes herself as "from and for" the region.
Camera IconShire of Manjimup community services director Gail Ipsen Cutts describes herself as "from and for" the region. Credit: Tari Jeffers

For Gail Ipsen Cutts, her passion is making sure other people’s passions about the community are addressed.

As the Manjimup shire community services director, Gail’s role is to lead a team of people who do their best to provide activity, excitement, vibrancy and culture to the community.

Born and raised in Manjimup, Gail comes from a family of group settlers and post war migrants.

“I think that gave me a really rounded way of thinking,” she said.

“My father’s family first settled in the Perup area in 1905 and my mother’s family came originally from Yugoslavia and then as post war migrants to Western Australia and Deanmill.

“I think it’s great, I’ve had that real European extended family experience about food and what it means to the family and the region.

“That’s part of who we are and helped shape what we are to Australia.”

From a long line of family who also helped the community’s growth, Gail said she found it ironic that it was her job to continue that legacy.

Growing up, Gail played “every sport you could think of” and was involved with various fundraising projects through school and family.

Her family was heavily involved with the Manjimup Country Club and Gail jokingly said she lived out there.

“We always had the foundation that, if you want change, you have a responsibility to be part of that process and to help facilitate that change,” she said.

“I love working with change-makers, those who are prepared to put themselves into a position where they can help grow or develop, whether it’s themselves, their group or the community.”

Gail left Manjimup at the start in 1983, returned at the end of 1992 and from 2001 started a combined role at the Manjimup Shire Council as the human resources manager and the community development manager.

She did the human resources role for about five years and said she would encourage anyone to take a position in that field because it was a minefield that taught a lot.

“Community development was my forte, in working with people,” Gail said.

“I’ve really been privileged to have come into this role when I did.

“It’s been grounding to see the community when it had hit rock bottom, because in 2001 when I came into the job, it was after the timber industry restructure and the feeling of doom and gloom was palpable.”

Gail said that as a team, the shire staff and the council agreed they needed to make a change and be leaders in that change.

“It was one of my roles to get good news stories in the paper, it didn’t matter what it was, but to really start building that energy,” she said.

“We had a council that was proactive and a team that believed in the community they lived in.

Gail said over time, things started lifting and they were lucky that the ducks started lining up, with the success of the Manjimup Futures Project and then the SuperTowns project.

“We were well positioned to argue to be part of that,” she said.

Gail was also involved in getting the Manjimup Regional Aquacentre built.

“Those changes are driven by people,” she said.

“The seniors housing here is a classic example, a petition of 998 people to council gave me a job for 10 years.

“But, it’s worth it.”

Gail said there were amazing people in the Manjimup shire and she was gobsmacked at how they all punched way above their weight.

In addition to working with people who are so passionate about what they were involved with, Gail said her involvement in getting the Manjimup Heritage Park to where it was, was one of her biggest achievements.

“It’s what it’s all about and what can be achieved,” she said.

“I’m also proud of the small part I’ve played in all the community projects, whether it’s in Walpole or Manjimup.

“I didn’t take a lead in any of these projects, but I was a stakeholder that may have guided or supported or provided advice — which is what my role is.”

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