50th birthday celebrations

Article image - 50th birthday celebrations Past and present ALGWA board members cut the 50th anniversary cake. Cr Colleen Furlanetto, Helen Relph, Pauline Burren, Cr Helen Harris, Priscilla Prescott, Cr Coral Ross, Cr Helen Coleman and Mayor Jennifer Yang. The Australian Local Government Women’s Association (ALGWA) in Victoria celebrated its 50th birthday in style, with a reception at the Melbourne Town Hall on October 24.

Hosted by the Melbourne City Council, the event marked the Victorian branch’s 50 years of supporting and encouraging women’s participation in local government.

Victorian President Coral Ross said the ALGWA aimed to both support women already in local government, but also increase participation of women in local government as officers and councillors.

 “It was wonderful to be able to celebrate our birthday at the Melbourne Town Hall, and we are thankful to the City Council for sponsoring the event.”
Victorian Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell, who was unable to attend, sent a message thanking ALGWA for its work in promoting the interests of women.

“I am proud and honoured to be a life member of this great organisation,” she said. “For 50 years the Victorian branch of ALGWA has played a key role in supporting women in Local Government, and most importantly in encouraging women to participate.

“I commend everyone who has been involved over the last 50 years in giving up their time to promote the voices of women in local government. There is still a lot more that we can do and the Victorian Government is looking forward to partnering with ALGWA to increase women’s participation in local government.”
Heidi Victoria, Minister for Women’s Affairs also sent a message congratulating ALGWA on its milestone.

“I am delighted that for the first time every Victorian Council has a female representative and there are now more women councillors than ever.”

Membership to ALGWA is open to anyone interested in supporting women’s participation in local government – both men and women.

ALGWA owes its foundation in Victoria to the National Council of Women of Victoria. The Council organised a conference on local government and from there ALGWA was formed. The first meeting was on October 24, 1963 and the guest speaker was the Chief Planner for the Metropolitan Board of Works who spoke on Metropolitan Planning.

Membership started with 16 women, became 60 a year later and then stabilised at around 100. The branch led many successful campaigns, including the full enfranchisement of women (achieved in 1966), and the right for all women to stand for Council, not just women ratepayers. They also campaigned for an increase in the councillor allowance.

In 1970 just two percent of councillors, or 50, were women. The 1970s saw a dramatic increase, and at the 1986 elections 306 women were elected or 13.4 percent of councillors. At the last election 34 percent of the councillors elected were women and for the first time a woman was elected to every Victorian council.

Among those attending the Melbourne Town Hall celebration were ALGWA life member Priscilla Pescott.   Priscilla’s mother Zillah Crawcour was a founding member of the association and together they have been members for almost all the 50 years of the branch’s existence.