VLGA calls for State Government funding to create safe work environments for women councillors

Thursday, 27 July 2023

The Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) points to the latest research paper produced as part of an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project which is being undertaken by the VLGA in partnership with LaTrobe University and the University of Melbourne - ‘Women in Local Government: Understanding their Political Trajectories’.

The paper by Professor Andrea Carson (LaTrobe University), Dr Gosia Mikolajczak (The Global Institute for Women's Leadership at the Australian National University), Professor Leah Ruppanner (University of Melbourne) and Emily Foley (LaTrobe University): From online trolls to ‘Slut Shaming’: understanding the role of incivility and gender abuse in local government surveyed more than 200 councillors from all 79 local councils and found that 56% of women councillors who stated they were unwilling to recontest the next election had been subjected bullying and harassment during their time on council. 27% of men reported the same.

“The results of this research are disheartening”, says VLGA CEO Kathryn Arndt, “however they highlight the important role the VLGA has in providing resources and delivering programs that encourage and equip councillors to uphold the highest standards of civility and respect in how they carry out their duties and interact with each other and community members. The results also highlight the need for more robust and effective remedies when discourse breaks down

Local councillors are community leaders who play an essential role in delivering services and infrastructure to our diverse local communities. In working to achieve gender parity in local governments, the Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) is calling on the State Government to fund programs and implement remedies to combat the incivilities experienced by women councillors, as reported in the research undertaken.

“This report provides valuable insights into the experiences of women in local government across Victoria. It highlights the importance of implementing adequate support mechanisms and systemic remedies (such as those tabled by the VLGA and others in response to the “Local Government Culture Project”) to ensure a safe working environment for all councillors,” says VLGA CEO Kathryn Arndt.

“The VLGA is committed to encouraging women from a diverse range of backgrounds to stand for a spot on their local council and using the findings of this report to assist facilitate their retention once elected.”

“State government investment must continue for recognised programs which support women councillors specifically, such as the VLGA’s Local Women Leading Change program, as well as broader professional development programs which educate, support and equip all councillors with the tools they need to do their job safely.”

VLGA members across metropolitan, regional, and rural Victoria have access to crucial resources and forums during their time as councillors, such as governance training, professional development programs and access to peer-support networks. These tools encourage and equip councillors to uphold the highest standards of civility and respect in how they carry out their duties and interact with each other and their community.

Further findings from the latest councillor survey conducted as part of this research project will be released in coming weeks.