President’s comment – Cr Denise Massoud President Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA)

Article image - President’s comment – Cr Denise Massoud President Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA)

In September the Victorian State Government announced the Local Government Culture Project.

This has come from the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office report, which found more than one in four councillors and council staff had experienced sexual harassment in the past 12 months. The Local Government Act 2020 introduced stronger Standards of Conduct for councils, clearly defining sexual harassment as serious misconduct.

This discussion paper will go further, looking into the history of the culture in local government and finding ways to promote a more positive and inclusive work environment, ensuring fairer and more equal representation of community views and importantly build the public trust.

The Royal Commission into Family Violence identified a lack of women in leadership positions as a key driver of violence against women, and as such the VLGA is committed to our goal of achieving 50:50 representation in the next council election cycle.

It is critical that we encourage women from a diversity of backgrounds, experiences and abilities to run for local government.

In particular, the VLGA believes that increasing the number of First Nations women elected to Victorian councils is integral in improving outcomes in municipalities across the state. We celebrate the richness that comes with cultural and linguistic diversity, and the improved social cohesion that comes out of better representation and enfranchisement.

Women across the state have a significant contribution to make to public life. Their connections to their community, their skills and their unique perspectives mean they are rich with potential to be great local councillors.

The VLGA is committed to supporting good governance in the sector and recognises the value of a wide-ranging review into what influences culture and behaviour in Victorian councils.

The business of local government is complex, and it is evident that the value delivered to and received by communities is inextricably linked to the culture of each council and in particular, the ability for the council and elected representatives to model and uphold the principles of good governance – having regard for respect, collaboration, accountability, transparency, strategic focus, and delivery of the best possible outcomes.

The VLGA and councils across Victoria look forward to engaging with the appointed project team, overseen by the Price Waterhouse Coopers team, and their academic partners Professor Graham Sansom, Adjunct Professor at the University of Technology Sydney, and Professor Anona Armstrong AM, Emeritus Professor at the Victoria University College of Law and Justice.

I would also like to acknowledge all those who work in the local government sector. As Victoria approaches almost 18-months of cumulative lockdowns, the VLGA is keen to shine a light on the positive initiatives that local governments undertake across the state (and the country) to support their communities and local economies.

There are countless examples of LGA’s doing extraordinary work to support and include their communities through
the pandemic.

We thank you.