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Now you are a Councillor

Now you’re a councillor

Tips, stories and wisdom from past and current women councillors

Newly elected women councillors, as with all new councillors, often need support to ensure their contributions are sustainable.  Learning from the experience of others is always helpful so we have sought the views of women councillors on how to survive and thrive in local government.

Australian women are under-represented at all levels of government.  Following the 2016 elections in Victoria, women make up 38% of local government councillors in Victoria.  Local government needs to reflect those it sets out to serve.  More women on councils will help to build a more robust democracy.

The VLGA maintains and updates this information and wishes to acknowledge all material generously provided by current and former councillors and others who work with local governments.

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Local Government – the most important tier

By Cr Jackie Fristacky, City of Yarra

Jackie Fristacky Photos.jpg

 Jackie Fristacky was elected in October 2016 and is a representative of the Nicholls ward. She is an independent Councillor.  Cr Fristacky has represented the City of Yarra since 2002, including serving as Mayor in 2005/06, 2012/13 and 2013/14.

 Sometimes local government is referred to as the ‘third tier of government’ or as a stepping stone to the other tiers - State and Federal.  I regard it as the first tier of government which grew out of communal needs. Indeed, local government developed before the creation of nations or states, including the Melbourne and Adelaide City Councils. 

 As someone who had a career in both Federal and State Governments, in law and public policy, my firm view is that local government is the most important tier of government. It is the tier closest to the community, to understanding and dealing with key issues and the tier that gets things done.  It is also the source of new ideas and policies that originate from community and community needs and aspirations. These are embraced by local government and articulated to other sectors through civic leadership.

Councillors, in engaging with and reflecting community need and in policy setting for Council, help to make Council respond to community expectations in a way that does not apply to the other tiers.  My 15 years as a Yarra councillor, including 3 terms as Mayor, has re-enforced the importance of this link with community as strengthening the democratic process from bottom up, as well as being a key means of re-invigorating the Council organisation.

 The diverse range of Council functions is summarised elsewhere on this website.  It should be noted that no other organisations have as diverse a range of responsibilities as Councils.  No private sector organisation, nor Federal and State governments compare with the complexity and range of powers and responsibilities of Councils.  Although Ministerial decisions on roads and planning get headlines, it is Councils who do the heavy lifting as the quiet achievers in the many areas of services to the public.

On top of the wide range of local government functions, there is the further major task of advocacy for communities.  This can occur on a whole range of levels  – on planning controls responding to the impact of social and other changes, public transport, affordable housing, sustainability, building regulations, or advocacy for those who are disadvantaged by decision and policies of federal and state governments.  It seems to me that a lot of Council work arises from policy failures at State and Federal level, where their policies serve sectional interests rather than the broader public interest.  This applies to big issues – the failure to address public transport and social housing deficits, and to respond to the imperative of environmental sustainability.  Our biggest challenge is how to prompt the other tiers of government to act in the interests of the whole community, rather than benefitting sectional interests.

 A fundamental role for local government is driving the agenda for other tiers of government.  There are many examples where Councils have led policy changes to the State. In my time on Council these include - bike parking in new developments, increased pensioner rate rebate, improvements in planning and public transport including new designs for accessible tram stops, and funding for the arts and social sectors.   

 Through engagement with citizens and representing community needs and aspirations, local governments are key to building strong and successful communities and sustaining democracy in our nation. 

 

 

 

 

The VLGA is committed to connecting communities and strengthening democracy

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