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Promoting Diversity in Local Government


DIVERSE PEOPLE/DIVERSE ROLES


ROLES

Elected Council Representatives

Increasing the diversity of elected representatives of councils brings diversity in decision-making, contributing to a stronger and more sustainable local government system. By encouraging diversity councils can ensure better representation and better outcomes for local communities. Encouraging diversity among elected representatives is also consistent with the social justice principles of equity, access, participation and rights for all individuals in NSW.

A number of resources exist which provide information and assistance to encourage members of diverse groups in the community to stand for election, including women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with a disability, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and young people. Resources which are relevant to more than one group include:


Council Staff

The benefits to councils of ensuring a diverse workforce include better local representation, improved communication and better understanding of the issues affecting local communities. A diverse workforce also maximises the pool of workers from which to address the issues facing councils such as skills shortages, ageing workforce and business succession planning, as well as invigorating local communities and economies. Promoting diversity among council staff is also consistent with the social justice principles of equity, access, participation and rights for all individuals in NSW. Resources which are relevant to more than one group include:



DIVERSITY GROUPS

Women

The Candidates and Councillors 2008 report indicates that 27% of councillors are women. According to information currently held by the Division, 5% of General Managers and 21% of senior staff are women in NSW local councils.

Initiatives which have been developed to increase women’s participation in local government at the elected and senior staff levels include:

Elected representatives

Council staff

Elected representatives and council staff


Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people

According to the Candidates and Councillors 2008 report, 1.6% of councillors identified as being Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.

Aboriginal communities have a great deal to contribute to the cultural, social and economic development of a community. For this to be achieved effectively it is important that local councils work to achieve reconciliation with Aboriginal Australians and ensure that this potential is realised and developed.

The active participation of Aboriginal people in council affairs as council employees and elected representatives is an effective way of connecting with Aboriginal communities. This provides councils with direct, effective access to specific knowledge and expertise, perspectives and linkages with their communities. Councils as democratic structures also benefit from having membership that reflects the diversity of their communities.

Elected representatives

Council staff

Elected representatives and council staff


People from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds

According to the Candidates and Councillors 2008 report, 7% of councillors spoke a first language other than English.

There are many important benefits to councils of having culturally diverse elected representatives and employing people from culturally diverse backgrounds, including implementing the principles of multiculturalism which promote leadership, community harmony, access and equity and economic and cultural opportunities for all individuals in NSW. Under the Community Relations Commission and Principles of Multiculturalism Act 2000, councils are required to implement the principles of multiculturalism.

Council staff


People with a disability

According to the Candidates and Councillors 2008 report, 3% of councillors have a disability.

People with disabilities bring a range of skills, abilities and qualifications to the workplace and as elected representatives. Many councils already employ workers with a disability because it makes good business sense - employing people with a disability can build staff morale, raise management awareness of workplace practices and conditions, and increase customer and staff loyalty. People with a disability can have lower absenteeism and often take less sick leave than other employees. People with a disability can have fewer accidents at work so the workers compensation costs for people with a disability can be much lower than the workers compensation costs of other employees.

Council staff


Young people

According to the Candidates and Councillors 2008 report, 1% of councillors are aged between 18 and 24 years.

Engagement in employment, education and community life are the foundations of a community’s prosperity as well as ensuring an individual’s well-being and sense of belonging. This is particularly important for young people who need to be provided with a range of options and pathways to ensure they are obtaining meaningful skills so that they can participate in work and community life.

Young people play a vital role in addressing current skills shortages. Increasing skills and encouraging training need to occur if skills shortages are to be addressed and need to be provided in a way that is flexible and relevant to Council and the individual.

Council staff


Other groups

Diversity can include a number of other characteristics including sexual orientation; socio-economic status; age; and religious, political and other beliefs. Below are links to other useful websites that provide information on increasing diversity among council staff in relation to some of these groups.





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