It is important that local governments reflect the communities they serve.

An inclusive, safe and sustainable local government culture is in everyone’s best interests.

The Local Government Culture Project is designed to understand the factors influencing culture and conduct within local government and identify opportunities and initiatives the sector can implement to improve culture and conduct. It provides a platform for the local government sector to identify and take ownership of a positive and inclusive culture that will improve governance and build public trust.

Local Government Victoria has engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting (PwC) to undertake the Local Government Culture Project, with eminent academics: Professor Graham Sansom, Adjunct Professor at University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Professor Anona Armstrong AM, Emeritus Professor at the Victoria University College of Law and Justice, and Dr Yongqiang Li, Senior Lecturer in Law at Victoria University and Australian Principal Lawyer.

An objective of the Project is to make local government a safer space for women and to encourage more women to nominate for election as the Government aims to reach gender parity in local councils by 2025.


Discussion paper

Following a period of targeted consultation, a Discussion Paper has been developed and is now open for public feedback.

The key themes identified as important to local government culture were:
  1. Leadership experience and capability
  2. Councillor journey
  3. Early intervention and effective dispute resolution

To further understand these three key themes, there are 12 lines of inquiry in the Discussion Paper.

Local Government Culture Project - Discussion paper  (PDF, 3899.88 KB)

Local Government Culture Project - Discussion paper - accessible (DOCX, 8757.14 KB)

Local Government Culture Project - Snapshot (PDF, 217.02 KB)

Local Government Culture Project - Snapshot - accessible (DOCX, 103.7 KB)

Local Government Victoria is now seeking written submissions addressing one or more of the lines of inquiry.

Further information on the submissions process can be found below.

Provide your feedback

Local Government Victoria is seeking comments on the Discussion Paper.

Feedback can be provided using the online form below. You will be provided with an opportunity to answer the questions directly through the form or submit a pre-prepared document as a response.

Before providing your comments, you will need to answer a few questions to help us understand who is providing feedback.  Comments received will be de-identified if included in the final report.

Comments on the Discussion Paper can be made from 17 December 2021 to 5pm 28 February 2022.

Link to Online Form

Lines of Inquiry

Theme 1: Leadership experience and capability. These questions relate to how roles could be better defined and how leadership skills could be built and maintained.

  • Feedback to date suggests candidates have different levels of understanding of the role and responsibility of being an elected representative.
  • Where individuals are not well-informed on good practices, this can lead to an expectations gap and a low level of trust.
  • Candidates may comprise individuals that have had little to no prior involvement or experience in leading a large-scale organisation or governance experience working in a board-type environment (for example, Council Chamber).
  • An elected representative’s understanding of the specific functions and services that a Council provides is key in understanding how they need to “get on” with others and the boundaries that enable trust, respect and camaraderie between colleagues.
  • Implementing a formal mentoring system may support the significant learning curve many Councillors face upon commencing their position and may, if considered, be a system that could be extended to the mentoring and education of candidates.
  • Proper governance arrangements for this system should be carefully considered to ensure Councillors (or former Councillors) who are best placed to be mentors are put forward.
  • It is often perceived that the governing body of Councillors operates similarly to a board of directors. But there are significant differences. Councillors are public officials elected through a democratic process and can be heavily influenced by political and policy views.
  • Stakeholder and academic feedback suggests the potential for political bias, together with a potential skills or experience gap, may impair the ability of Councillors to operate as cohesive decision makers.

Theme 2: Councillor Journey. These questions relate to the support and training that could be offered to Councillors.

  • Mandatory candidate training is a new requirement set out in the LG Act 2020.
  • The training risks being finished as a ‘tick box’ exercise in the lead up to elections.
  • Ongoing professional development is not mandated under the LG Act 2020. Instead, it is voluntary and often comes with a fee.
  • Through consultations, one suggestion has emerged for a separate professional development or training fund for Councils.
  • While social media provides opportunity for positive interaction with the public, it also enables the spread of misinformation and targeted bullying and harassment.
  • The Local Government Inspectorate issued a report stating the 2020 election period was ‘the most vindictive and vitriolic election’ experienced Councillors had participated in.
  • The movement from the pre-election to post-election environment should shift behaviour from competition to camaraderie. The inappropriate use of social media is also a departure from the leadership qualities a Councillor or Mayor should be exhibiting once elected.
  • Suggestions arising from preliminary consultations include incorporating harassment in the context of social media usage under legislative definition and as an offence to help deter the use of social media as a vehicle for poor behaviour.

Theme 3: Dispute Resolution and Resolving Conflict. These questions relate to how poor behaviour can be dealt with when it arises.

  • The escalation of conflict events to the point of requiring external intervention suggests that not enough is being done early enough to prevent unacceptable events. As these events require intervention by independent or integrity bodies, the severity of impact and trauma on individuals increases dramatically.
  • Insights from consultation also suggest the need to consider ways in which CEOs, a position employed by Councillors, can be further empowered and protected in calling out and addressing Councillor misconduct
  • There was a strong consensus arising from preliminary consultations that more mechanisms and opportunities to enable early intervention and prevention and more commitment and support from the Victorian Government were required.
  • Although the appointment of Municipal Monitors comes at a financial cost to the Council, there is an opportunity for Municipal Monitors to be appointed upon request by Council to provide a supportive and preventative function.
  • There was consensus from consultations that the threshold required to be met and the effort needed to make an application for misconduct may be too high.
  • The internal arbitration process is a relatively new process which was introduced to provide an early intervention response. It may therefore take more time to determine its efficacy and efficiency, and to determine what refinements may be required, if any, to improve process performance.
  • The consultations have revealed that time delays can be attributed to personal disputes, complaints arising for political purposes, complaints lacking substance, or due to referral from one pathway or body to another.
  • Interim findings suggest that Councils may be hesitant to escalate misconduct cases to an internal arbitration process as this could be viewed as a failure of Council.

Submissions

Please return written submissions by 5pm Monday 28 February 2022. 

Feedback can be provided using the online form below. You will be provided with an opportunity to answer the questions directly through the form or submit a pre-prepared document as a response.

Before providing your comments, you will need to answer a few questions to help us understand who is providing feedback.  Comments received will be de-identified if included in the final report.

Link to Online Form


Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (‘FOI Act’) applies to all documents in the possession of the Department. The FOI Act gives the Australian community access to information held by the government by providing for a right of access to documents. This includes any submissions provided to the Department on the Discussion Paper, including any submissions which have been provided on a confidential basis. A decision regarding access to documents under the FOI Act will be made by an authorised FOI decision-maker in accordance with the requirements of the FOI Act.

Submissions which are requested under the FOI Act may also be published on the department’s disclosure log, in accordance with the publication requirements of the FOI Act.