NSW, Victorian governments call on women to stand for council elections

By Shannon Jenkins

Thursday September 17, 2020

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The New South Wales and Victorian governments have been promoting campaigns to encourage more women to nominate and stand for their communities at the next local government elections.

While the NSW council elections have been postponed to September 2021, Victorians will head to the (postal) polls in just over a month.

The NSW government on Thursday launched a campaign to increase the number of female councillors serving on the state’s 128 councils, with local government minister Shelley Hancock noting that women represent just 31% of all state councillors.

“While we have made steps towards equality in other parts of society, the gender gap in local government is real and we can do better,” she said.

“To inspire a new generation of leaders, we’ve called on ten prominent women to share their passion for local government and encourage more women to make a difference to their community and run for council at the September 4 2021 elections. We’ve also secured $100,000 for a series of workshops and programs for potential female candidates.”

As part of the campaign, a series of videos feature former and current government leaders, including former Sydney mayor Lucy Turnbull, current mayor Clover Moore, Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain, Sydney councillor Linda Scott, Shellharbour mayor Marianne Saliba, and Moree mayor Katrina Humphries, who speak about their experiences in local government.

The NSW government has partnered with Women for Election Australia to run a series of face-to-face workshops and online webinars to prepare aspiring candidates to stand for the 2021 elections, according to the organisation’s CEO, Licia Heath.

“In particular, we’ll be focusing on running our workshops in regional NSW to encourage women, who are doing so much out in their community already, to consider doing that same work but as an elected member of their local council instead,” she said.

“Local government is a wonderful place to start your political career and is a role that provides an opportunity to do great things for your community.”

Leaders have also been calling for more women to stand for local government in the upcoming Victorian council elections with the state government-funded campaign, It’s Our Time.

Clockwise from top left: Carol Schwartz, Ruth McGowan, Claire Ferres Miles, and Mi-Lin Chen Yi Mei.

Female leaders have highlighted the need for gender equality in local government representation in a campaign video, featuring Sustainability Victoria CEO Claire Ferres Miles, City of Yarra councillor Mi-Lin Chen Yi Mei, Women’s Leadership Institute of Australia founding chair Carol Schwartz, and gender equality in local government expert Ruth McGowan.

Our Watch chair and former ambassador for women and girls Natasha Stott Despoja has also voiced support for the campaign.

“It’s almost 100 years since Victorian Women achieved the right to stand for Parliament (with the exception of Indigenous Women), so it’s definitely time for more women to run for office. It is also time for the diversity and difference of women in our communities to be reflected and represented,” she said.

“I encourage Victorian women to consider representing their communities on local councils and getting behind those who choose to stand.”

Women currently make up 38% of councillors on Victoria’s 78 councils, and the government has set a target of 50% representation by 2025. However, there has been concern that women may lose representation due to COVID-19 — which has disproportionately impacted women and may prevent them from standing for elections — and other issues such as sexism.

Candidate nominations opened this week and close on September 22.

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