Local Democracy In Action
In 2018 Voices of Women delivered a local program ‘The Journey Begins” as a part of its Local Democracy in Action Initiative. Twenty-nine women registered for the program at the launch in November 2018 from a variety of locations around the Yarra Ranges. A series of eight workshops were held in 2019 for participants covering topics ranging from Local Government -Governance and the role of the councillor and Planning your campaign, through to Leadership and Public Speaking.
Partner organisations that supported the delivery of The Journey Begins included Yarra Ranges Council, Eastern Health – Health Promotion, the Victorian Local Governance Association, CIRE community services and the Eastern Community legal Centre. VOW would like to acknowledge all the staff as well as Cr Fiona McAllister and Cr Jim Childs for giving their time and support to the program.
Voices of Women was subsequently successful in obtaining a YRC Community Development grant to deliver a third year of activities in 2020 to support women build their confidence and capacity to stand in the 2020 local government elections, which allowed us to continue building awareness and supporting women to be prepared ahead of local elections.
And what an amazing result, with the Yarra Ranges community electing four women to Council in 2020! This was an outstanding accomplishment and a huge step forward for women’s representation! Congratulations to Cr. Sophie Todorov, Cr. Fiona McAllister (re-election), Cr. Johanna Skelton and Cr. Cathrine Burnett-Wake who were all successful in the 2020 elections. VOW also acknowledges the amazing campaigns run by so many women during the 2020 election cycle. There were women candidates in each of the nine wards with 42% of candidates being women!
VOW ran an information session every month during 2020 coving topics ranging from staying safe online, to personal presentation, to campaign statements, as well as advice from a number of amazing and formidable women leaders. We had speakers from the VLGA (special thanks to Deborah Wu), Council itself (including CEO Tammi Rose), Louise Mahler, Nicole Seymour (Mayor of Knox), and Ruth McGowan and many others.
VOW also ran a public campaign to raise awareness of the lack of diversity on Council and the benefits of women running. This campaign ran as a series of “Did You Know” images and was distributed on Facebook through our networks. The campaign got a lot of attention – including one post on women’s representation that got over 1500 views and “stopped” the Yarra Valley Noticeboard.
As with everything, COVID had a big impact on the LDA program during 2020. Women have disproportionately felt the effects of COVID. At the beginning of the 2020 we had several women engaged who were planning to run for Council. Unfortunately all but one decided to pull out of the race due to the impacts of COVID. We adapted to COVID-safe settings by moving all of our programs online to zoom meetings. We concerned that this would mean that women felt less supported and that we would lose some of the momentum we had built over the prior years. Luckily we heard from many women that the online sessions made them easier to attend! This allowed us to engage with a number of new women to our program who were planning to run for Council.
The benefits of having equal representation in Government cannot be overstated. This program entailed many hours of planning, information sessions, and social media campaigns and VOW could not be more thrilled with the outcome!