Women in Local Government

The Northern Territory is leading the way with the number of women in key roles in Local Government. Mayor of Alice Springs Town Council, Fran Kilgariff, said that it is important to have women in Local Government as they act as role models for other women and bring a different perspective to a range of issues.

“Four out of the six municipal Mayors in the Northern Territory are female and the Chief Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Speaker of the House are all female as well,” she said. “There is also a large number of female members and backbenchers in Parliament.

“When we see women in these roles, we aspire to these positions ourselves. Alice Springs Town Council currently has six female elected members, including myself, and five men.”

Mayor Kilgariff said that Local Government is the most accessible tier of Government. “It doesn’t require the travel that State and Federal Government positions do and therefore there is not as much time spent away from home,” she said. “This is key benefit for women wanting to work in the field and raise a family.”

President of the Australian Local Government Women’s Association (ALGWA), Kaele Way, said that while women are well represented in rural parts of the Northern Territory, the percentage of women in Local Government across Australia has remained stable for several years.

“Across Australia there is around 29 to 30 per cent of Local Government roles filled by women,” she said. “ALGWA is looking at the reasons preventing young women from nominating themselves. We understand that Local Government is hard work and time consuming and we have identified meeting times as an issue. Meetings are often held three or four nights a week and this can heavily interfere with family life and other commitments.”

ALGWA’s Victorian branch has initiated a mentoring program to assist women running for Local Government. To date, 20 female former Councillors and Mayors have mentored 37 candidates. Mentors are linked with candidates with similar views to help them with their campaign and understanding information in the Local Government Act.

Councillors Carmel Barrot (Mitchell Shire Council) and Mary Lalios (City of Whittlesea) are just two members who have gone through the program and been elected.

“The program is not just about getting women elected,” Kaele Way said. “We provide help and support after the election to ensure Councillors understand their new role and can handle the challenges.”