Gender equality

Article image - Gender equality City of Boroondara Mayor, Councillor Coral Ross, nominee in the 100 Women of Influence Awards.

Women’s role in Australian local governments has been given a higher profile following the results of elections and a national award.

Earlier this year, the Local Government Association of South Australia (LGASA) reported that a record number of nominees in their local government elections were women.

381 of the 1261 candidates standing in the South Australian Local Government Elections, or 28.56 percent, were women.

“Currently 27.22 percent of Council members are women, which is ahead of the 24.6 percent in State Parliament and behind the 30.1 percent in the Federal Parliament,” said LGASA CEO, Wendy Campana.

Tasmania, who has recently completed their local government elections, had
138 women candidates out of the 476 people standing, making up 29 percent.
Data compiled by 5050Vision, the national awards program organised by the Australian Local Government Women’s Association (ALGWA) designed to address gender inequality in local councils, shows that proportionately women are still underrepresented in local governments.

Women make up 27 percent of New South Wales councillors, and 29.5 percent of Queensland councillors.

In Western Australia the percentage is 29.7 percent and 37.3 percent in the Northern Territory.

Currently women make up 34 percent of elected local government members in Victoria.

5050Vision has the target of increasing the percentage of women elected to 40 percent by the year 2020.

Councils can work through the three award levels outlined by the organisation to help achieve this target.

According to the ‘Representation of Women in Australian Parliaments 2014’, the average percentage of women across all state and federal governments is 29 percent.

Despite an increasing number of women being represented in Australian Parliaments, Australia’s international ranking for women in parliament has dramatically decreased since 2001, from almost 20th in the world to 48th in 2014.

However the achievements of women in Australian Local Governments are being recognised on a national scale.

The 100 Women of Influence Awards, organised by the Financial Review and Westpac Bank, are currently in their third year, and selects influential Australian women across the categories of Board/Management, Social Enterprise or Not-For-Profit, Public Policy, Diversity, Philanthropy, Business Enterprise, Young Leader, Global, Local/Regional and Innovation.

The awards are designed to increase the visibility of women’s leadership in Australia and demonstrate its quality and impact.

City of Boroondara Mayor,  Councillor Coral Ross was selected as one of 11 nominees in the Local/Regional Category of the awards.

The nomination recognised Mayor Ross’ achievements and contributions to the Boroondara Community over her two terms as mayor.

Also recognised were her contributions as Victorian President and National Vice President of the Australian Local Government Women’s Association (ALGWA), a founding member of the Family Violence Network in Melbourne’s Eastern region and her role as a board member of the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV).

Cr Ross said it was humbling to be recognised among the ranks of so many accomplished and enterprising women who are making many remarkable contributions through their personal and professional lives.

“I hope that this award, and my story, inspires other women to consider a role in public life.

“This award also recognises the efforts of all Councils and the important role that local government plays in our communities.”
Mayor Ross was presented the award at a gala awards night on October 22nd at the Sydney Town Hall.

This year is the centenary of women being permitted to stand for council in Victoria.

Councillor at the City of Whitehorse, historian and Victorian Secretary of the ALGWA Helen Harris, has been compiling a list of all women councillors in Victoria since they were allowed to stand on November 2, 1914.

The list, coupled with biographies of the first seven women councillors elected in Victoria, has been compiled into a book launched to celebrate the centenary at an event hosted by the Victorian Local Government Association.

“I’ve been compiling the list from previous lists compiled in 1975 and 1992.

“There were a lot of errors and omissions in the 1992 lists.”

Cr Harris said she had searched many sources including individual council records, the online records of the Victorian electoral commission, the Australian Women’s Register and many old newspapers.

“I also went through many editions of the Municipal Directory, although it wasn’t published in 1990 or during the Second World War.

“Many historical societies were helpful in filing in these gaps.”

The date women were allowed to stand and vote in local government elections varies greatly from state to state, and was usually dependent on regulations such as land ownership rights and the value of owned land.

Mary Rogers was the first woman elected to Victorian Local Government as a councillor for Richmond City in 1920.

The publisher is the Victorian branch of the ALGWA.