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.

At the 2020 local government elections, 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 Victorian Government's 50 per cent target by 2025.

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 CEOs are women.

Local Government and Gender Equality Acts

The new Gender Equality and Local Government Acts positioned gender equality, diversity and inclusion as key priorities for councils and their staff.

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

  • that Councils must prepare workforce plans that measure gender equality, diversity and inclusiveness in their workforce
  • that 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

Local Government Victoria - Support for Gender Equality

Women Leading Locally

The Victorian Government’s Gender Equality Strategy, Our Equal State, 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, Women Leading Locally.

Find out more about Women Leading Locally or contact Local Government Victoria at lgv@ecodev.vic.gov.au.

Gender Equality Advisory Committee

The Gender Equality Advisory Committee (GEAC) was established in April 2021 to advise the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Women on advancing gender equality in Victoria’s 79 councils.

It provided advice 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 were also a priority, addressing the challenges identified by women elected as councillors and as council employees.

The GEAC was admirably co-chaired by Juliana Addison MP, Member for Wendouree, and Kat Theophanous MP, Member for Northcote.

Members brought vast experience from across the sector and did fantastic work to develop robust and forward-thinking advice to government about driving gender equality in local government.

Members were chosen through an expression of interest process, and included:

  • Cr Jennifer Barrera, Wyndham City Council
  • Cr Mary-Ann Brown, Southern Grampians Shire Council
  • Cr Jenna Davey-Burns, 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 also had standing members representing sector organisations as follows:

  • 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)
  • Emily Poelina Hunter, Reconciliation Victoria
  • Maria Dimopoulos AM, Board Member, Reconciliation Victoria

Significant achievements that members can be very proud of include:

  • Delivery of the Advancing Women’s Leadership Summit in September 2022, where over 150 participants engaged in innovative discussions aimed at driving gender equality and diversity in local governments. The Hon Julia Gillard AC was the keynote speaker.
  • Overseeing the development, launch and progress of the Women Leading Locally Program - a community leadership program to break down the barriers many women face to stand for leadership positions and provide the skills and resources to campaign in the 2024 local government elections.
  • Supporting the implementation of the People Matter Survey for local government to assist councils to meet their reporting requirements under the Gender Equality Act 2020.

Since its establishment, GEAC has built a robust evidence base to drive gender equality across Local Government in Victoria. The GEAC finalised its recommendations in September 2022. The Minister for Local Government and Minister for Women are very grateful for members’ significant contributions and commitment.

We are excited to shift our focus to delivery, with ongoing work undertaken by Local Government Victoria and the Office for Women to improve gender equality in local government.

GEAC 2022 Meeting Communiques :

GEAC Meeting 5 Communique PDF, 172.71 KB

GEAC Meeting 5 Communique DOCX, 1580.54 KB

GEAC Meeting 6 Communique PDF, 721.35 KB

GEAC Meeting 6 Communique DOCX, 1567.08 KB

GEAC Meeting 7 Communique PDF, 175.29 KB

GEAC Meeting 7 Communique DOCX, 1576.49 KB

GEAC Meeting 8 Communique PDF, 57.92 KB

GEAC Meeting 8 Communique DOCX, 1568.73 KB

Advancing Women’s Leadership Summit

The Advancing Women’s Leadership Summit hosted by the Gender Equality Advisory Committee was held on 8 September 2022. The Summit was a hybrid event with online participants and in-person attendance at the Melbourne Town Hall. Delegates from Victoria’s local governments, peak bodies, and organisations with a commitment to improve diversity were in attendance.

The Hon Julia Gillard AC, the 27th Prime Minister of Australia delivered the keynote speech for the event. The Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Women were also in attendance and addressed the Summit.

Participants engaged in a series of innovative and interactive discussions aimed at driving gender equality and diversity in Victorian local government elected representatives by 2025. The GEAC considered the outcomes of the Summit to inform their advice to the Ministers and extended its sincere thanks to everyone who participated in the Summit.

Watch the Hon Julia Gillard AC's Keynote Presentation:

Advancing Women's Leadership Summit  Keynote Presentation Transcript  DOCX, 65.98 KB

Read the Advancing Women's Leadership Summit Program:

Advancing Women's Leadership Summit Program PDF, 528.72 KB

Read the communique from the GEAC Co-Chairs for the Advancing Women's Leadership Summit:

GEAC Advancing Women's Leadership Summit Communique PDF, 85.81 KB

GEAC Advancing Women's Leadership Summit Communique DOCX, 1572.36 KB

Other LGV supported gender equality programmes and projects

Local Government Victoria has supported several programs to promote gender equality in local government:

Commissioner for Gender Equality in the Public Sector

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

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

For more information on the work of the Commissioner, visit The Public Sector General Equality Commissioner.

Key Documents – Guides, Strategies and Reports

For further information on gender equality in local government, you can email the LGV inbox at lgv@ecodev.vic.gov.au.

Anniversary of election of Victoria’s first female councillor

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, Our Equal State, sets a target of 50/50 gender representation on councils by 2025.

For further information on gender equality in local government, you can email the LGV inbox at lgv@ecodev.vic.gov.au.