Transcript of speech at Sydney Town Hall
Launch of the 2010 Year of Women in Local Government
The Hon Anthony Albanese MP
The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,
Regional Development and Local Government
Leader of the House
Member for Grayndler
Wednesday, 20 January 2010
It is a pleasure to be here for the launch of the Year of Women in Local Government.
It is also a pleasure to see support for this initiative from all levels of government, peak bodies and, of course, councils and shires.
Over the last 18 months, the Rudd Labor Government and local government have embarked upon a new partnership.
We have changed the ways we work together to improve the quality of life of our communities.
Take the Rudd Government’s Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program.
It now stands at over $1 billion and has already funded 3,300 small- and large-scale projects across the country.
All of them through local government.
Together, we are building local infrastructure that will leave a lasting legacy in local communities while supporting thousands of local jobs during the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression.
The Australian Council of Local Government and Regional Development Australia are also vital links in this new partnership.
Over the past year, mayors and shire presidents have come together twice with the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers to have a direct conversation about building and improving our communities.
And we have made sure that local governments are represented on every one of the 54 local RDA committees across the nation.
Why? Because the Rudd Government recognises the importance of local government.
It is the sphere of government closest to the community.
Councils understand the concerns of their local communities and work towards their welfare and prosperity.
Each year, Australian councils and shires are responsible for more than $20 billion of expenditure.
They employ more than 168,000 people and maintain over half a million kilometres of road.
To put that into context, the distance between the Earth and the moon is less than half a million kilometres.
Given the contribution that local governments make to the nation and the role they play, it is absolutely critical that they reflect the communities they seek to represent.
In a democracy such as ours, all levels of government must engage constantly with citizens to remain relevant to and in touch with their communities.
Unfortunately, we all need to do better, particularly local government.
This important initiative today seeks to do just that.
Because less than one-third of councillors are women.
Less than 20 per cent of senior managers are women.
And only 7 per cent of CEOs are women.
Yet women are probably over-represented amongst the people that need to access local government facilities and services.
Like child care, playgroups, libraries, community centres, and health and aged care services.
Of course, this gender imbalance is not restricted to local government.
Between 2006 and 2008, the number of women in top executive roles in the corporate sector declined from 10 per cent to 8 per cent.
And the representation of women in state and federal parliaments, although improving, has a long way to go.
In the interests of equity and democracy, there is an obvious need to redress this gender imbalance wherever it exists.
But there is an economic case for it as well.
Skill and staff shortages are a major concern for many local governments, particularly in regional communities.
The Rudd Government is developing a national workforce strategy to deal with this important challenge.
In addition, we have taken a number of practical steps to help increase the engagement of women in local government.
We are providing nearly half a million dollars towards a number of projects, in conjunction with the Office for Women.
This includes $250,000 for the Australian Local Government Women’s Association to audit councils and shires to determine the status and participation of women in leadership roles.
I understand they are working with the newly-established Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government to implement this initiative.
I would like to thank the Local Government Managers Association, the Australian Local Government Women’s Association for the role they have played in putting together the Year of Women in Local Government.
I also acknowledge the support and commitment of the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government, the Australian Local Government Association and the Australian Services Union.
We have come a long way over the past few decades in terms of making our local and national democracies more representative of their citizens.
But there is much work to be done still.
I have no doubt that the Year of Women in Local Government will take us even further in raising awareness of this issue within councils and the community.
I wish everyone involved all the best over the coming 12 months.