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Community, Local Government

Women’s leadership program ready to tip the balance on councils

Institute of Community Directors Australia (ICDA) 3 mins read

The search is on for women ready to run in local council elections, with experts ready to equip them with the tools they need, free.

Women of diverse backgrounds are invited to join an intensive Victorian Government-funded support program aimed at guiding community leaders considering public office in Victoria.

Victoria has the highest proportion of women councillors in Australia, with 44% women elected at the 2020 local government elections. However, the Victorian Government wants to reach a 50/50 split at the 2024 poll.

The Women Leading Locally program aims to bridge the municipal gender gap, with a strategy that targets 32 local government areas (LGAs) with the lowest representation of women in local office.

Now in its second year, the government-funded program provides 65 free places to community leaders in target LGAs. The program will be delivered by the Institute of Community Directors Australia (ICDA) and Women for Election.

Applications are open to all women with a passion for their local community, and youth, First Nations women, women with disability, women from diverse cultural and linguistic groups, and LGBTIQ+ women are strongly encouraged to apply.

The program combines in-person and online workshops covering campaigning, leadership, governance, and masterclasses with experts. Participants who complete the program receive a certificate in community leadership and governance.

Local Government Minister Melissa Horne said that having more women in office would make local government more representative and lead to better decisions for communities.

“Achieving gender equality in local government leadership will deliver tangible community benefits. When councils are truly representative of their communities, their decisions better serve the needs of the community.”

Women for Election chief executive Licia Heath, a former politician now teaching others the ropes, was keen to build on the momentum the program developed last year.

“Travelling across Victoria, one of the things I noticed the most was the sheer diversity of backgrounds, from grandmothers to stay-at-home mums, people in the corporate and public sectors, and active volunteers. There’s such a diversity of lived experience, which is exactly what we need in local government.

Past program participant and youth advocate Emily Greco said the program had spurred on her political and leadership ambitions. Her council, Hume, has just three women on its 11-member council.

“I don’t feel that my council currently reflects me or my local community, and I think we can do a lot better.”

Politics in Colour founder Kat Henaway, who hosts masterclasses for women of colour who join the program, urged diverse and intersectional women to apply, because those participants would have an outsized impact.

“Women of colour are vastly under-represented in local government, especially in Victoria, and while past practices excluded marginalised demographics, programs like this will make a big difference.

ICDA general manager Adele Stowe-Lindner had no doubt after meeting the previous intake of participants that the Women Leading Locally program would “change the face of local government”.

Key Facts:

- A Victorian Government-funded program aims to boost women's representation in local government to 50/50.

- A free fellowship program is available to 65 women in the 32 LGAs with the lowest representation of women.

- It's intended that graduates of the program will run for office in upcoming local government elections.

About us:

About the program: Women Leading Locally is an initiative of the Victorian Government delivered by the Institute of Community Directors Australia in partnership with Women for Election, a non-partisan not-for-profit with a mission to inspire and equip more women to run for public office.

Applications for the 2023 program are open until 14 April. The program provides a no-cost opportunity for 65 women to be supported to stand for local government elections in 2024.

Web link:

Contact details:

Government: Isobel Loschiavo | 0431 963 479

Women for Election CEO Licia Heath | 0410 550 338

ICDA general manager Adele Stowe-Lindner | 0411 344 518

For quality photos, contacts, or interviews with past participants in selected regions, Matthew Schulz | 0409 626 619


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