A discussion on the ground at the National General Assembly centred on the lack of female speakers on panels – particularly those focused on technology.

Outside of political addresses, only six female speakers featured across the conference’s main three-day program. Two technology panels featured no female speakers at all.

On the final day of the conference, Councillor Susan Rennie of Darebin City Council in metropolitan Victoria questioned whether ALGA would commit to achieving 50/50 gender representation on the program in future years.

Cr Rennie said “I found it was disappointing that, despite the rhetoric around the need to get equal representation in local government, this wasn’t matched by a commitment to get equal representation of speakers,” she told Local Government Focus.

“It shows the depth of unconscious bias that exists, when people just go to known male speakers.”

Cr Rennie said she had received feedback that the ALGA board “would be more mindful” in future programming decisions, but no formal commitment would be made.

In his closing remarks at the conference, ALGA President David O’Loughlin acknowledged the issue – alongside other delegate feedback – stating, “Each Assembly is a valuable learning experience for all of us and the team will take all of these and more on board in planning next year’s event.”

Some long-serving female delegates pointed out gender equity at the Assembly has moved leaps and bounds ahead of what one termed “the dark days” of decades past.

Still, when there’s a push to get more women involved in local government, there should be no room for complacency when it comes to balanced gender representation.