Why gender equality? Why local government?

When you have diversity in decision-making bodies, you make better decisions. As the level of government closest to communities, it’s vital councils reflect all the people they serve.

But gender equality is not just about elected councillors. It’s also about local government staff.

Councils employ more than 45,000 Victorians. While more than half of that workforce is female, only one third of directors and managers are women, including 30 per cent of chief executives.

Gender Equality Advisory Committee

The GEAC is chaired by Kat Theophanous MP, and Juliana Addison MP, and draws on experience from across the sector to ensure local government can harness the benefits of equality for all Victorians. This committee has been formed in an effort to drive gender equality across Victoria’s 79 councils.

The committee will advise the Minister for Local Government and Minister for Women on how to deliver the Government’s target of 50 per cent female mayors and councillors by 2025. The Implementation of equality measures in the Local Government Act 2020 and Australian-first Gender Equality Act will also be a priority, addressing the challenges identified by women elected as councillors and as council employees.

This work follows the 2020 local government elections, where 272 women were elected to council – representing 43.8 percent of councillors. While a new high for both Victoria and the nation, there is still some way to go to achieve the 50 per cent target by 2025.

The ten members of the Committee, chosen through an expression of interest process, are:

  • Cr Jennifer Barrera, Wyndham City Council
  • Cr Mary-Ann Brown, Southern Grampians Shire Council
  • Cr Jenna Davey-Burns, Deputy Mayor, Kingston City Council
  • Rachael Gadd, Director Infrastructure and Environment, Towong Shire Council
  • Cr Helen Healy, Mildura Rural City Council
  • Meghan Hopper, Manager Community & Corporate Planning, Moonee Valley City Council
  • Rebecca McKenzie, Chief Executive Officer, Glen Eira City Council
  • Cr Sarah Race, Mornington Peninsula Shire Council
  • Cr Seema Abdullah, Greater Shepparton City Council
  • Caz McLean, Director Strategy and Organisational Performance, Baw Baw Shire Council
  • Jessie Holmes, Chief Executive Officer, Yarriambiack Shire Council*
  • Fleur Cousins, General Manager Corporate, Campaspe Shire Council*

The Committee will also have six standing members representing sector organisations:

  • Cr Jennifer Anderson, Municipal Association of Victoria representative for the Rural North Central region and Mayor, Macedon Ranges Shire Council
  • Kathryn Arndt, Chief Executive Officer, Victorian Local Governance Association
  • Jennifer Bednar, Board Member, Local Government Professionals
  • Cr Kylie Spears, President, Australian Local Government Women’s Association (Victoria Branch)
  • Natasha Wark, Deputy Branch Secretary, Australian Services Union (Victoria and Tasmania Branch)
  • Maria Dimopoulos AM, Board Member, Reconciliation Victoria*

*No longer on committee.

The GEAC held four meetings in 2021 in April, June, August and November, to continue to drive gender equality across Local Government in Victoria. As the GEAC's first year, it was a year of knowledge building and furthering the development of the Committee's priorities.

The GEAC had its first meeting for the year and fifth overall in March 2022. It was also the first in-person meeting for the committee. The GEAC discussed the theme of Council Workforce.

Read the communique from the GEAC Co-Chairs for the March 2022 meeting:

GEAC Meeting 5 Communique
PDF, 172.71 KB

GEAC Meeting 5 Communique DOCX, 1580.54 KB

The GEAC's sixth meeting was held on Thursday 19 May 2022 in Ballarat. The GEAC discussed barriers to council election for women and people with diverse backgrounds,  and culture in local government.

Read the communique from the GEAC Co-Chairs for the May 2022 meeting:

GEAC Meeting 6 Communique PDF, 721.35 KB

GEAC Meeting 6 Communique DOCX, 1567.08 KB

The GEAC’s seventh meeting was held on 21 July 2022. The GEAC discussed trends and initiatives in gender equality, and strategies to support positive council culture. Attendees included representatives from local government peak and community organisations, councillors and senior council officers, and Dr Niki Vincent, Commissioner for Gender Equality in the Public Sector.

Read the communique from the GEAC Co-Chairs for the July 2022 meeting:

GEAC Meeting 7 Communique PDF, 175.29 KB

GEAC Meeting 7 Communique DOCX, 1576.49 KB

The Committee is examining the following key themes as part of its work program:

  • Strategies to achieve gender parity at the 2024 local government elections
  • Capacity building, workforce planning and recruitment
  • Creating safe and respectful Council structures, and
  • Breaking down systemic and structural barriers.

If you would like further information, you can email the GEAC secretariat via email LGV-GEAC-Secretariat@ecodev.vic.gov.au. Eveline Kane, Program Manager Strategy and Implementation is also available for contact via email Eveline.kane@ecodev.vic.gov.au

Terms of Reference for the Gender Equality Advisory Committee can be found here.

Leadership for Women in Local Government Program

The Victorian Government’s Gender Equality Strategy, Safe and Strong, sets a target of 50/50 gender representation on councils by 2025.

To support this target, the Victorian Government announced funding for a leadership program for women in local government.

Further information about the program can be found on the Leadership for Women in Local Government Program website page, or by contacting Local Government Victoria at wilgvic@ecodev.vic.gov.au.

Anniversary

November 2020 marked 100 years since the election of Victoria’s first female councillor, Mary Rogers, to Richmond City Council.

In a fitting tribute, results from the 2020 Local Government elections came in the same week as the anniversary. Victoria elected 272 women – 43.8 per cent of councillors, the most in Australian history.

The Victorian Government’s Gender Equality Strategy, Safe and Strong, sets a target of 50/50 gender representation on councils by 2025.

Local Government and Gender Equality Acts

The new Gender Equality and Local Government Acts, passed into law earlier this year, put gender equality, diversity and inclusion as a key priority for councils and their staff.

The two Acts complement each other and introduce a wide range of different measures, including:

  • Councils must prepare workforce plans that measure gender equality, diversity and inclusiveness in their workforce
  • Councillors will have access to paid parental leave and reimbursement for care expenses
  • Action on sexual harassment and other forms of councillor misconduct
  • Gender equality audits across the local government sector

Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner

One of the most significant reforms of the Australian-first Gender Equality Act is the role of Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner.

The Commissioner will oversee implementation of the Gender Equality Act and play a key leadership role in promoting gender equality in the Victorian community and workplaces – including councils.

In September 2020, Minister for Women Gabrielle Williams announced the appointment of Dr Niki Vincent to the position.

For more on the work of the Commissioner, visit https://www.genderequalitycommission.vic.gov.au/the-public-sector-gender-equality-commissioner

LGV support for gender equality – programmes and projects

Local Government Victoria helps to fund several programmes to promote and support gender equality in local government:

Key Documents – Guides, Strategies and Reports