The New South Wales government is calling on people from a range of backgrounds to take part in the September council elections as part of a new campaign to increase diversity in local government.
Local government minister Shelley Hancock said the ‘Stand for Your Community – Diversity Counts’ campaign aimed to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, members of multicultural communities, women, and young people to consider nominating for the elections.
“Strong and effective councils are those that reflect the diverse communities they serve. That’s why we must do all we can to encourage and empower people from diverse backgrounds to stand for their community,” she said on Sunday.
“There’s nothing more rewarding than serving in the level of government closest to the community.”
Women represent less than a third of NSW’s 1,293 councillors, and just 24 councillors identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, according to state government figures from 2017. Linguistically diverse people make up just 8% of all councillors, despite more than one-quarter of households in NSW speaking a language other than English. In regard to age groups, under 30s are the most under-represented, with only 4% elected as councillors. Just 2.7% of councillors identify as having a disability.
A social media campaign showcasing inspiring videos of current councillors from underrepresented groups will run for four weeks. Councillors Rachelle Harika (City of Canterbury Bankstown), Reena Jethi (The Hills Shire Council), Ben Mitchell (Maitland City Council) and Alfie Walker (Goulburn Mulwaree Council) feature in the campaign.
Harika was elected as a councillor in 2017 at the age of 23, while Mitchell was elected that same year at the age of 25, making him the youngest councillor in Maitland’s history. Jethi was the first Indian-born councillor elected to The Hills Shire Council, and in 2019 became the first Hindu deputy mayor of the council. Finally, Walker is a proud Yuin and Wiradjuri man and an Aboriginal leader in his local community. He was elected in 2012 and later served as deputy mayor.
The Office of Local Government has also launched an online training tool and new guides for aspiring councillors, including on running for election, and roles and responsibilities, Local Government NSW president councillor Linda Scott noted.
“If you have a strong sense of community and are keen to make a difference in your local neighbourhood, you should nominate yourself for the upcoming Local Government Elections,” she said.
“Local government offers an exciting and rewarding career working with local residents and businesses and making a real difference to your local community.”
Election day will be held on Saturday, September 4. Candidate nominations will be open from July 26 to August 4.
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