30 May 2024

Riverina councillors urge more women to get involved ahead of local government elections

| Chris Roe
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group of women in a government building

The ALGWA NSW travelled to Griffith this month to encourage more women to get involved in local government. Photo: ALGWA NSW.

With Riverina voters heading to the polls for local government elections in September, education campaigns are underway to encourage more women from diverse backgrounds to get involved.

Currently, women make up 39.5 per cent of councillors across the state and the Office of Local Government and Women NSW has put up $160,000 in funding to support the push towards 50 per cent.

“Speaking from experience, being a councillor is an incredibly rewarding job, so I encourage women across NSW to get involved and consider running for election in September,” said NSW Minister for Women, Jodie Harrison.

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A delegation from the Australian Local Government Women’s Association NSW (ALGWA NSW) travelled to Griffith this month as the city prepares to host its annual conference next year.

“Given more women than men live in NSW, we must encourage and support a greater number of women to take their place in local government,” said ALGWA NSW president Penny Pedersen.

“ALGWA’s forums introduce women, many of them already leaders in our community organisations, to elected women councillors, who can pass on the detail of their election journey and the importance of their role in local government.”

three female politicians

Wagga City Councillors Georgie Davies and Jenny McKinnon and Griffith Deputy Mayor Anne Napoli. Photo: Supplied.

There are currently five women out of 12 councillors serving on Griffith City Council and Deputy Mayor Anne Napoli said it was encouraging to see the representation increase.

“I’ve been on local government now for 20 years. It has been a challenge at times, but also rewarding,” she reflected.

“It’s wonderful to be able to be the voice of our community and we should have more women in local government to bring their experience.

“I think it’s easier now because, if you have commitments with family or business, you are able to attend council meetings remotely via Zoom.”

Jenny McKinnon is one of three first-time female councillors currently serving on Wagga City Council and said information workshops were a great first step.

“Before I was elected [in 2021], Wagga City Council ran three information workshops for potential candidates,” Cr McKinnon explained.

”One was about how to campaign and how to win the elections. They had another one that was about governance issues and the things that you know if you are elected, and the third was just for women.

“That was headed up by [ALGWA NSW] and we had talks from women counsellors who talked about their experience and told us about some of the pitfalls and some of the joys and really gave us some great insight.”

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Cr McKinnon said increasing representation from two women to three out of nine at the last election was a good outcome for the community.

“We improved that balance a little bit and to me, it’s been such a joy having young, enthusiastic and very smart female colleagues on the council,” she said.

“We’ve been invited to speak to local women in business groups and community forums and there’s a lot that we’ve been able to plan together.

“I really want to encourage council to do everything that they can locally to make sure that any woman who might be thinking about putting a hand up not only gets some information about how to do that and what it might be like, but gets a chance to talk to women councillors as well.”

group of people

WWCC has three women councillors: Deputy Mayor Amelia Parkins, Cr Jenny McKinnon and Cr Georgie Davies. Photo: WWCC.

Fellow Wagga City Councillor Georgie Davies said being part of local government was one of the most effective ways you can make a difference in your community.

“There’s no point running for council if you’re happy with the status quo. You’ve got to want to change things, you’ve got to have a vision and you’ve got to bring ideas to council,” she said.

“I’ve seen the difference it can make, just when we’re talking about issues with council, to have my hat on, compared to someone that’s from an older generation, and we can sometimes be polar opposites in our thoughts.

“For example, when I’m approaching decisions on development applications for childcare centres, I’m thinking of the young families like myself and my personal experience of struggling to find a spot for my kids, so I think it’s important to have that diversity in the room.”

The upcoming workshops across the state will also seek to encourage diversity in other areas, something that Cr Davies agrees is vital.

“When you’re sitting around talking about issues, that’s when you realise just how important diversity is, and not just from a male/female perspective,” she said.

“We don’t have enough multicultural people on council, we don’t have anyone that identifies as being Indigenous or is living with a disability, so diversity comes in all forms and walks of life.”

The 2024 NSW local government elections will be held on Saturday, 14 September.

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