Ahead of the September local government elections the Young Witness hopes to run a series of articles on the Hilltops Council's current councillors. We have sent a list of questions, featured below, to each of the 11 Hilltops councillors.
This edition is with Cr Marg Roles.
- How long have you been on council? And at this stage, do you intend standing for re-election?
As a first-time councillor, I have seen Hilltops become an independent identity combining the strengths of its many parts into one vibrant community.
I am understanding how a local government area works and the value of our social capital; which together with a secure financial and vibrant business base, enables a community to function effectively.
When I am asked about standing for re-election, I reply that candidates should be prepared to stand for two terms - the second term is when a deeper contribution can be made to the community. However, the electorate has the final say and should support those candidates who will best represent their needs, wants and aspirations.
- What has been your biggest challenge as a local government representative?
There are many competing interests in a democratic society. One of the challenges for a councillor is to make sure that decisions are informed, considered, balanced and in the interest of the whole community.
Many factors have to be taken into account including the financial resources of council. For any rural council it is an ongoing challenge to provide the services increasingly expected by citizens. There is also the challenge to make sure that all voices are heard and respected. These voices include first nations people, minority groups, the disadvantaged, youth and women (who are also 51 per cent of the groups mentioned).
- How do we encourage more women to stand? And what needs to be done to encourage residents aged 18 to 40 years of age to stand? What are the rewards?
Female representation in local government in Australia stands at 32.8 per cent. In Hilltops, present representation is 20 per cent.
Politics has traditionally been the male preserve - even more so in the rural scene.
This means that the few women councillors have to work within styles and modes that are predominantly male gender oriented.
The solution is to have more women elected to and stay in, local government. Why are women reluctant to stand? One study suggests that there are three main reasons:
- The adversarial nature of politics
- The financial cost of campaigning and low councillor renumeration
- Competing responsibilities - especially family, carer and career roles
Women have a preference for a collaborative, consensus style of decision making and are less prepared to be involved in political environments which support an aggressive culture and combative debating platform.
There would be few who enter local politics in NSW for the money - rather it is an empowering way to give to the community. However financial costs are a major consideration not just for women but for most aspiring candidates, including within the 18 - 40 age group. This is when competing pressures often collide. Family, career and educational commitments vie for time and finances. One way that we can support both groups is by considering a 'best fit' organisational model.
Some councils favour a set number of days per month for councillor commitments. This enables councillors to organise their own schedules to include 'council days' when meetings, workshops and briefings are organised. The councillor allowance can help cover costs, such as loss of income and child care, for these days. All these concerns need to be balanced by the rewards of being a local government councillor.
Councillors represent their local community and make important decisions on behalf of their local community that can have far-reaching impacts. Anyone who has a strong sense of community and is keen to make a difference, should consider nomination.
- What will be the biggest challenge, in your opinion, for the next council?
Life is full of challenges to be faced and overcome - some known and others still to be encountered. However, we can all plan for a smarter future - one that:
- Ensures that everyone in Hilltops is valued and has a voice
- Works for continued financial sustainability for council and the wider economy
- Wages war on waste and champions a circular economy
- Has climate change mitigation and adaptation underpinning all future planning for Hilltops
We are all part of this journey.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Let us know what you think.