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WomenCan

Women Can Information

WomenCan decide to stand

What you can do to help you decide to stand for council...

Do your research

Get a good understanding of the issues relevant to your area. Attend community groups, read the council’s publications, visit its website, familiarise yourself with the council’s strategic plan, read the local paper, and talk to people in your community.

Go to council meetings

Go to council meetings to familiarise yourself with the council process, to listen to what is discussed, and to observe meeting procedures, how debate occurs, and how decisions are made. Contact your council or visit its website for council meeting dates and times.

Talk to current and past councilors in your area

All councils operate differently and expect different commitments from their councilors. Talking to one of the councilors in your area, or someone at the council office, can help clarify what is required.

Assess your skills

As a councilor you can contribute a variety of skills in areas such as communication, negotiation and listening, time management, financial management, meeting procedures, and media and public speaking. It is a benefit to be assertive, with good conflict resolution skills and a thick skin. But remember, you don't have to be good at everything. Women often under estimate their skills, particularly those life skills gained outside employment. Many councilors have learned as they went along, starting off learning how to be a candidate and then learning how to be a councilor. There will also be council support and training once you are elected.

WomenCan make a positive difference

What difference could you make to your community as a councilor...

Women bring different experiences and perspectives

Women bring new knowledge, skills and leadership style

Research shows that in local government women are inclusive, collaborative and consultative, and are tolerant of different points of view. They also place a high emphasis on the importance of good communication and making local government more people-friendly, consultative and transparent.

Rates, rubbish and roads are no longer the only focus of local government. Women can, and do, change the focus of policies and services within local government to take account of the changing needs of local communities.

More women equals better representation

Councils represent and promote the interests of the community, and are required to act in the best interests of that community. They govern for the benefit of, and are therefore accountable to, the local community.

How we view an issue or problem, and the answers we come up with to solve it, is often determined by our own personal professional life experiences. Local government is no place for one-size-fits-all decision-making. Strategies and directions should be decided only after rigorous debate and input from a range of people. Only then can council be sure that it has reached the best decision for its community. Women bring new opinions, approaches and solutions for decision-making.

Women are good for business

Studies show a connection between optimal organisational performance, both financial and non- financial, when there are a greater number of women in positions of power. Women bring a greater diversity of skills, experience, opinions and strategies to the council table - and that means better governance.

Better governance inevitably means better results.

It is a matter of equity and diversity

The principle that councils should reflect in their composition the same diversity that is in their community is now a widely held view. Although women make up 51 per cent of the population, only 38 per cent of Tasmanian Councillors are women. Out of the 29 Tasmanian councils, there are only nine female mayors and nine female deputy mayors. There is a lot of work to do to reach the long-term goal of 50/50 representation. But this goal is one of equity as well as diversity.

More info: Local Government Division:

www.dpac.tas.gov.au/divisions/lgd

This fact sheet is based on information provided by Our Community, which provides advice and tools for community groups, schools, business and government – visit

www.ourcommunity.com.au

WomenCan consider the time and money

What you should consider in terms of the time and financial commitment of being a councilor...

How much time will I need to give?

How long is a piece of string? The time councilors give to their roles varies enormously, but a good rule of thumb is that you will have a minimum of one meeting a week and one community event. Formal council meetings take place once a month, and can be lengthy affairs. You will need to thoroughly review the papers beforehand. Agenda papers are typically long – think 10 to 375 pages depending on the council and what’s happening!

There are also special council meetings (called to address specific issues), committee meetings and workshops. You can volunteer to sit on specific committees (such as community development and arts, resource management, infrastructure, economic and finance). These will take extra time to attend – and to read for.

Workshops can also be called to explore issues in a less formal setting. There is no voting at workshops, but there is the chance for open discussion.

And you will most likely attend functions and meetings of community groups in addition to your formal council commitments – the netball club, women in business lunches, ratepayers’ association meetings.

How much money will I receive?

How much councilors receive in allowances is set through an independent process.

Under an agreement with the Local Government Association of Tasmania, the State Government appoints members of the Tasmanian Industrial Commission as a Board of Inquiry to review councilor allowances.

The allowance is indexed annually according to the wage price index.

Allowances vary between councils – from $9,000 a year at the smallest councils to around $35,000 at the largest. And deputy mayors and mayors receive allowances in addition to these standard councilor allowances.

By regulation, allowances must be paid on a monthly or fortnightly basis.

What about my out-of-pocket expenses?

Councils provide a range of reimbursements. And, again, each council is a little different. However, councils are to provide, as a minimum, reimbursement of reasonable expenses for:

- telephone rental and calls,
- traveling,
- care of any child of the councilor.

Councils must adopt a policy for the payment of expenses. Find out from your own council’s policy.

More info: Local Government Association of Tasmania’s Councillor Resource Kit, Local Government Act 1993, Schedule 5, Local Government Regulations,43. For more information contact the Local Government Division on 62327022.

WomenCan be councilors

What does a councilor do ?

Responsibilities

The focus of councils has moved a long way from roads, rates and rubbish. Councillors are required to participate in a wide variety of activities and make decisions that affect people’s lives, both as an elected representative of the community and as a member of the council. The responsibilities of your council include:
- planning for and providing services, facilities and infrastructure for the community,
- undertaking strategic land-use planning for the municipal area
- making and enforcing by-laws
- raising revenue to enable council to perform its functions 
- advocating proposals that are in the best interests of the community.

Role of the Councillor

Councillors play an important leadership role in the community. As a councilor you may be involved in:
- developing strategic plans, policies for the local area, financial plans and budgets,
- ensuring council resources are used fairly, and for the benefit of everyone in the community
- representing the interests of their constituents
- providing community leadership and guidance and facilitating communication between the community and the council, and
- representing local needs and priorities at council meetings and at the regional, state and national government forums.

It is important to remember that councilors as individuals have no decision-making power. This power lies with the council as a whole. The Local Government ACT 1993 sets out the legislative functions of councilors as individuals and in their collective role as the council.

Council Meetings

Council decisions are made at council meetings. All elected members have an equal voice in council decisions, with each councilor having one vote.

WomenCan stand for Local Government

What if I'm still not sure...

Get a mentor

A mentor is a knowledgeable or experienced person who acts as a role model, guide or helper.

The Australian Local Government Women’s Association (ALGWA) is a network of council members and others who have an interest in supporting women’s participation in local government. ALGWA has set up a mentoring program where intending candidates, both first-timers and more experienced candidates, can be matched with current and former mayors and councilors.

Talk it over with family and friends

The time and workload involved in running for local government and in being a councilor will have an impact on your family and friendships. Many councilors report that the support and assistance from family and friends were, and are, important components of their success.

What do you want to achieve

As a councilor, you can make a real difference to your community. Take the time to list the issues your care about as well as the broader community issues you could contribute to as a member of the council.

Surf the net

Some of these are:

The Tasmanian Electoral Commission: www.tec.tas.gov.au

The Local Government Association of Tasmania: www.lgat.tas.gov.au

Australian Local Government Women’s Association:

www.algwatas.net.au

The Local Government Division: www.dpac.tas.gov.au/divisions/...

More info: Australian Local Government Women’s Association Mentoring Program

Contact ALGWA TAS / Alwyn on 0408421166.

or Kay McFarlane on 0439473172.