‘Revise voting system to get more women on council’

Making voting compulsory in council elections will help bring about gender parity in local government, a new report says.

The recommendation is one of 33 contained in a report prepared by Australian Local Government Women’s Association (Victoria branch) national vice president Coral Ross.

Ms Ross, a former City of Boroondara councillor (and Australian Local Government Association Board member), researched and wrote the 80-page report as part of her Churchill Fellowship, awarded in 2018.

To prepare, she visited the United States, Canada, England, Sweden, and Germany and met with more than 50 different organisations or individuals over eight weeks.

She said several salient factors became obvious during her research:

  • the importance of culture and structures;
  • the electoral system and the party system (if any);
  • legislation; and
  • the importance of passionate men and women to champion programs or initiatives.

“It became apparent that each jurisdiction has developed programs according to the electoral structure and cultural situation in that country,” Ms Ross writes in her foreword.

“It also became evident that there was not a silver bullet to increase women’s representation but rather a suite of initiatives that need to be implemented for change to occur.

“And there is a growing view that rather than ‘fixing women’, the political system itself needs to be fixed.”

Her report also recommends that in jurisdictions where political parties endorse candidates for elected office in local government, state governments should implement a voluntary party quota requiring that at least 40 percent of candidates be women.