New Victorian program urges women to embrace local leadership

Posted on 02 May 2022

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A Victorian Government-funded program delivered by the Institute of Community Directors Australia will boost the number of women standing for local government elections in October 2024 by investing in women leaders across the state.

Women Leading Locally is an initiative of the Victorian Government delivered by the Institute of Community Directors Australia, in partnership with Women for Election, a non-partisan not-for-profit with a mission to inspire and equip more women to run for public office.

The program encourages applications from women from the 30 municipalities where women were most under-represented at the 2020 local government elections, including Colac Otway, Moira, Pyrenees, Baw Baw, Bass Coast, Glen Eira and Hume. Women who are Aboriginal, live with disability or identify as LGBTQI+ are particularly encouraged to apply.

To kickstart the program, there will be a series of online and in-person seminars highlighting the valuable work of women leaders across Victoria.

Participants will also learn about the Women Leading Locally Fellowship – which is fully funded and will support 120 women over the next two years to develop the connections and tools they need to campaign as candidates in the next council elections in 2024.

Minister for Local Government Shaun Leane first announced Women Leading Locally on International Women’s Day, with Local Government Gender Equality Advisory Committee chairs Juliana Addison MP and Kat Theophanous MP.

At the last council elections in 2020, Victorian set a national record in electing 272 women, representing 43.8 per cent of councillors, but the program will help the government achieve its goal of at least 50/50 women councillors by 2025.

The first part of the program features face-to-face and online seminars that explain more about the initiative, highlight the often-invisible work of women leaders, and encourage attendees to get involved in local politics. Seminar participants will also hear how they can play a role in supporting other women into power.

Applications for the 2022 Women Leading Locally Fellowship, which open on May 12, provide an opportunity for 60 women to be supported to stand for local government elections in 2024, with the 2022 program beginning in August. Another round for a further 60 fellows will open to applicants in 2023.

The fellowship will welcome applications from women of all ages and backgrounds. First Nations women, women who live with disability, women from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds and LGBTQI+ women are especially encouraged to apply. The key requirement is that applicants have a passion for the local community.

A reference group consisting of women from diverse backgrounds will help inform the fellowship’s design and delivery, drawing on their understanding and experience of barriers facing women who aspire to public office.

Mr Leane said, “Having more women in local government makes councils more representative and able to make better decisions for their communities.”

ICDA executive director Kathy Richardson said the program provides a unique opportunity to harness the leadership experience and potential of women in communities across the state.

“We look forward to seeing many more women bringing those experiences across to local government in the October 2024 elections,” she said.

Women for Election CEO Licia Heath said she was dedicated to ensuring the next wave of female councillors cements Victoria as the first state in Australia to hit a 50/50 gender split in local government.

"We already know that women serve their communities in multiple ways. From running school P&Cs and local sports competitions, to establishing businesses and local community campaigns to better their environment and life for their neighbours. Serving on local council is the next logical step for community leaders. Serving in an elected position, that pays an income and puts you at the decision-making table, allows councillors to have a positive impact for their community."

This program is an initiative of the Victorian Government delivered by the Institute of Community Directors Australia (ICDA) in partnership with Women for Election.

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