We’re preparing women to lead local government

Posted on 13 Sep 2023

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Candidates for the Women Leading Locally program, pictured with trainers and advocates, are being encouraged to run as candidates in future Victorian local government elections. Picture: Penny Stephens

Scores of women from diverse backgrounds have graduated from the Institute of Community Directors’ Women Leading Locally program, which fosters potential new local government representatives.

Fifty-nine women with a passion for their community, including young people, First Nations representatives, women with disability, women from diverse cultural and linguistic groups, people from rural and regional areas, and people identifying as LGBTIQ+, were represented.

The Institute is helping to encourage potential local government leaders as part of an effort by the Victorian Government to redress the gender imbalance in the sector, especially in those 31 local government areas with the fewest women councillors.

In a major step toward that goal, the first cohort of women was recognised in a virtual graduation ceremony last month. In total, 125 women are expected to graduate, with many expected to contest the Victorian local government elections in October 2024.

The government-funded program comprises masterclasses in campaigning, leadership, governance and diversity, with graduates also gaining a certificate in community leadership and governance.

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Local Government Minister Melissa Horne has been a strong supporter of the Women Leading Locally program. Picture: Penny Stephens

Victorian Local Government Minister Melissa Horne, speaking at the event, was clearly enthusiastic about the graduates’ prospects as she commended them for their achievement and commitment to their communities.

She said there were many opportunities for women candidates in local government, especially with boundary and ward changes set to shake up the electoral map.

Seema Abdullah
Seema Abdullah

Graduates were also addressed by Women Leading Locally reference advisory group member Seema Abdullah, who is a councillor at the City of Greater Shepparton and a regular contributor to the program.

As the country’s first Pakistani-born Muslim migrant councillor and a former mayor, Cr Abdullah is a strong diversity and inclusion advocate.

“I’ve used my own networks to spread the word about this fantastic program, because we really do need more women put their hand up for council leadership positions.”

She said she took the greatest satisfaction from having been able to encourage candidates from some of the most under-represented local government areas in the state.

“As a guest speaker and mentor in this program, it has been an absolute privilege to share my story and experiences … as you contemplate your own leadership journey.”

Her parting words to graduates were “lead with your heart and mind, embracing empathy, courage and kindness and let your mission be to create an equitable, fairer and empathetic society for all.”

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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