Broad call for support to attain gender equity on councils

Lisa Matthews (right) takes over as Mayor from Jane Smith, now Deputy Mayor.

With the Central Coast Council elections less than a year away, Mayor, Lisa Matthews, has thrown her support behind a call for help from the State government in encouraging more women to run for council.

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has joined with the Country Women’s Association of NSW, Australian Local Government Women’s Association (ALGWA), ALGWA NSW and Women for Election Australia, in calling for the Government to introduce law reform to provide access to superannuation for local government councillors if elected in 2020.

“We are now just one year away from the next Local Government election and it would be fantastic to see more women on the Central Coast throw their hat in the ring to represent their community, ” Cr Matthews said.

“Historically, women have been under represented on councils, yet local communities are likely to be better served if there is greater diversity in community leadership. “Here on the Coast we are making great strides, with 40% of our elected Councillors being women.

“That is higher than the current national average of 35%. “With two women in the key elected leadership roles at Central Coast Council, now is the time to make a stand and deliver more female representation in Local Government. ”

LGNSW President, Linda Scott, said the number of women candidates in NSW council elections statewide lags well behind other states and actually declined at the last round of local government elections.

“Government at all levels should reflect the communities they represent, and the numbers tell us we have a long way to go in NSW, ” she said. Country Women’s Association of NSW President, Stephanie Stanhope, said the organisations had jointly written to the Premier asking her to take action to increase the number of women who nominate and renominate for council elections.

ALGWA NSW President, Cassandra Coleman, said a key barrier that women faced was a lack of appropriate financial compensation, such as access to superannuation. “Many women already have big workloads that are often unpaid and are unwilling to take on more work with insufficient remuneration, ” she said.

“We are calling for the NSW Government to introduce law reform to provide access to superannuation for local government councillors if elected in 2020. “These changes would be especially relevant for women, who often take time out of the workforce to care for family members, resulting in lower superannuation levels. ”

ALGWA National President, Marianne Saliba, said the groups were also calling for government to fund an evidence based education campaign, based on the success of other states, to encourage more women to nominate before the end of 2019.

“A key reason people run for council is to make a difference in their local community, ” she said. “Women have a lot to offer, as proven by the hard working female councillors and mayors across our state, and the government needs to act to enable more women to nominate so that councils better reflect the communities they represent. ”

Source: Media release, Nov 28 LGNSW Media statement, Dec 3 Central Coast Mayor, Lisa Matthews