WOMEN make up 51 per cent of Australia’s population, but only 29 per cent of the candidates for the Bass Coast Shire and 31 per cent for the South Gippsland Shire are female.
So are the women in our community being adequately represented in local government?
There are only seven female candidates running for the upcoming Bass Coast Shire elections out of a total of 24, while in South Gippsland, 10 women are amongst the 32 total candidates.
The state average for female candidates in local government is 34 per cent, which means both the Bass Coast and South Gippsland shires are falling behind the state average.
But that doesn’t mean that the women of Bass Coast aren’t determined to make a difference within their communities.
Currently the Bass Coast Shire Council has three female councillors out of a panel of seven, and five out of the past six mayoral terms have been filled by women.
Cr Clare Le Serve, who has previously been Mayor of Bass Coast, said it’s important to have equality across all areas of the community.
“There’s been a lot of support for women to have 50 per cent equality and representation in local government,” Cr Le Serve said.
“For women in politics it’s always been difficult, and we’ve seen this from the Prime Minister down just how difficult it can be.
“The Bass Coast Shire Council has been quite progressive and forward thinking regarding women standing for council and for the position of Mayor, but we can always do better.
“The Victorian Local Government Association works hard to try and have more female representation in councils, and they run a fantastic program called GoWomenLG, which aims to increase the numbers of women as candidates in local elections.”
The Australian Local Government Women’s Association was created in 1951 as an association of local government women to support women’s participation in local government, both as councillors and officers.
National vice president for the association, Cr Betty Gill, said equal representation for all members of the community is integral for a functional and efficient council.
“Female representation in government is really important. We make up more than half of the entire population, and it’s just simply equal representation for the community,” Cr Gill said.
Cr Gill, who has been a councillor in South Australia for 27 years, admits that women are sometimes put off from entering politics, and can be intimidated by the male-dominated sphere.
“I’ve always been a councillor because I feel like there’s always work to be done in the community. I’ll admit, it can be a little daunting entering local government,” Cr Gill said.
“When I first started, I would attend functions and every time it was a sea of grey haired men. But it’s changing, and I think Victoria is the state with the highest percentage of females in politics, which is wonderful.
“Women look at things a little bit differently from men and can see things that aren’t always seen by men.
“It’s important to have that mix, and it also encourages good debate in the council chambers.”
For Cr Le Serve, equal representation at a political level is imperative for fair treatment across the broader community.
“Whether it be race or gender, equality across the entire community is so important.”