Drive for representation: women in local government meet in Forbes

(Front) ALGWA executive Allyson Bradford, Cr Cassanda Coleman, Cr Colleen Fuller and Cr Jennifer Lecky with members of Australian Women in Local Government in Forbes.
(Front) ALGWA executive Allyson Bradford, Cr Cassanda Coleman, Cr Colleen Fuller and Cr Jennifer Lecky with members of Australian Women in Local Government in Forbes.

Women make up more than 50 per cent of the Australian population, but just 29.5 per cent of our elected local government representatives.

In the next year's lead-up to council elections, this group of women is working to change that.

The Australian Local Government Women's Association executive board met in Forbes on the weekend to work on strategies to encourage more women to stand at the next council elections.

The association formed to support women within local government, and chair Cr Cassandra Coleman paid tribute to the women who had taken the lead.

"If it wasn't for women like Jennifer and Colleen, women like me wouldn't be a councillor today," she said.

It's a combination of practical support such as childcare during council meetings and commitments, and mentoring when it comes to understanding the documentation and meeting processes.

"I'm in my first term on council and if it wasn't for ALGWA I would be like a deer in the headlights," Cr Coleman said.

"To understand the documents, the reports, we are given on a monthly basis, if I didn't have these women to encourage and guide me I don't know how I would have managed."

The women who lead the association acknowledge women are time poor, managing families and work.

But they say there are many women, especially in regional areas, who are already leaders in their communities.

"It's not a big jump to become a councillor," Cr Coleman said.

The organisation isn't just about supporting elected representatives, it's also about encouraging women to work in local government.

The executive members thanked Mayor Phyllis Miller for her hospitality in hosting a welcome function, and said they had had a wonderful time exploring Forbes before sitting down to their business meetings.

"We make a conscious effort to put money into the local economy in regional areas," Cr Coleman said.

Forbes currently has four female councillors: Mayor Phyllis Miller, Deputy Mayor Jenny Webb, Cr Michelle Herbert-Morley and Cr Susan Chau.

Forbes Mayor Councillor Phyllis Miller OAM opened her home and hosted a welcome dinner for twenty guests on the eve of the NSW ALWA Executive meeting.

Cr Phyllis Miller shared her 24 years' worth of local government experience, sharing stories and valuable advice.

Cr Cassandra Coleman said that having the opportunity to meet, listen and speak with Mayor Phyllis Miller was very inspiring.

"We are forever grateful for her support and encouragement for all women working within the local government sector," she said.

"Phyllis is an amazing role model."

While the ALGWA executive were meeting in Forbes history was being created in NSW, which was a keen topic of discussion during the day.

On March 24 Gladys Berejiklian became the first woman to be elected Premier of NSW and on June 30 Jodi Mckay won the hotly contested ballot to become NSW Opposition Leader.

"It is the first time in the history of the NSW parliament we have both a female Premier and Opposition Leader," Cr Coleman said.

"I will be paying very close attention to how both women provide leadership when it comes to supporting future female career advancement within politics.

"Your council staff have also been wonderful and very welcoming, we're very happy to be here in Forbes."

Mayor Miller said she was very happy for anyone interested in local government to talk to her about what's involved.