Representing the sector, Cr Sue Clearihan, president of the Local Government Association, said that councils recognise the need to have an elected body that closely reflects the composition of their local community.
Almost a third of South Australia’s population was born overseas, with 17 per cent of households speaking a language other than English at home. Migration from countries including China, India, Malaysia and the Philippines over the past decade has influenced the character and needs of communities.
“It’s important that public decision-making gives consideration to this diversity, and the best way to do that is to have representation from different societal groups on council,” said Cr Clearihan.
“Diverse councils support the sharing of different ideas, perspectives and beliefs, enabling consideration of different points of view. This encourages robust discussion that can test ideas and result in better, more inclusive decision-making.
“We are grateful for the service of everyone who puts their hand up to represent their community on council and there is a lot of knowledge and experience within our sector. However, we are keen to see a wider range of people standing for election.”
Without the hurdle of a party-political system, nomination is open to almost every community member over the age of 18.
As long as you are an Australian citizen and have lived in your council area for more than one month, you are eligible to nominate (with a few exceptions such as being an undischarged bankrupt). Local business representatives and people who own property in a council area are also eligible to stand for election.
“It would be great to see a greater proportion of young people and women on councils from different races, religions, and personal and professional backgrounds,” said Cr Clearihan.
While the number of women running for council in South Australia has steadily increased at every election between 2000 and 2014, rising from 288 candidates in 2000 to 381 candidates in 2014, women still represent just 29 per cent of elected members.
Councils currently have around 76 per cent of candidates (in the 2014 elections) aged over 50, and 54 per cent aged over 60.
The LGA has produced a booklet called ‘Make a difference – nominate for council’ for potential candidates which explains the role and responsibilities of a councillor. This can be downloaded from the LGA website www.lga.sa.gov.au/councilelections.
New councillors undertake a mandatory training and induction program and receive ongoing professional development opportunities to help them acquire the required skills.
To find out more about eligibility and the nomination process go to the Electoral Commission of South Australia www.ecsa.sa.gov.au.
Nominations for the next council elections are open now and close at 12 noon on Tuesday, September 18, 2018.
Voting in the 2018 council elections will be via postal ballot, with ballot papers distributed in the week commencing 22 October and voting closing at 5pm on Friday, November 9.