There are many reasons people decide to stand for election to council – perhaps prompted by a grievance on a local issue or a dissatisfaction with the status-quo – it is a decision that is (almost) universally underpinned by a drive to make a community a better place. But choosing to leap into the unknown waters of local government can be daunting for many, prompting an endless stream of questioning. Where to begin? How to rally support? How to maintain the belief that you have a valid perspective and something to add?
With the results of the Queensland local government elections recently tallied, the Victorian elections looming later in the year and the New South Wales vote slated for September (pending merger decisions), it is worth asking: are we adequately supporting new voices that wish to be heard?
It seems in many instances the parameters of who is perceived as a valid candidate is widening – recognition that diversity is a key to success – but more could be done.
There is still overwhelmingly male representation across the board, and cultural diversity is not adequately reflected in many places.
Interestingly, the advent of social media is fostering extensive support networks for candidates and elected members. The ability to seek out information and digital communities of like-minded people to offer advice is ever easier. Campaign efforts to equip more women with the confidence and skills to stand have been gradually increasing numbers of female representation. There are calls for Indigenous representation to be much better supported. Our front page discusses the importance of welcoming people of refugee and migrant backgrounds into the community – there are also bubbling grassroots initiatives to provide information to migrants interested in standing for council.
As local government is the tier of government closest to community, it seems only logical that its composition should adequately reflect the diversity of the population it is there to serve.