There’s one day in September that can make a big difference to people across our region… and no it isn’t the AFL grand final!
Local Council elections will be held across NSW on Saturday 4 September 2021, an election which will see voters in 126 local government areas across the state electing councillors to represent their community.
And as we edge towards a post-COVID world, or at least a COVID-normal one, these local government elections will be an interesting measure of the mood of the voting public. Certainly, after a challenging year of global political, environmental and pandemic related upheaval and change, more and more people are looking at the way our democracy is run and are keen to make their voices heard. But voting isn’t the only way to have your say on election day, you might also consider throwing your hat in the ring and standing as a candidate.
When we think of community service our minds might immediately turn to our heroic volunteer firefighters, school P&C councils or those hardy souls who keep their local sporting clubs ticking over every week. But are our local Councillors any different? Local Councils deal with those issues closest to home, things like building regulations and development, public health, local roads, parks and playing fields, libraries, waste disposal, all the things that help make our region such a great place to live. And for Local Government to run effectively we need people of passion, experience and diversity to put their hands up and stand.
Before you slink away thinking that Local Government isn’t for you, I’d ask, what is it that makes you feel that way? The RDA Murray region covers 10 Local Government Areas and our local Councillors are hugely committed to serving their community. So, if you’re passionate about making your community a better place, it’s definitely something worth thinking about. Becoming a councillor gives you an amazing opportunity to help shape the policies and decisions that affect the future of your community.
Deciding to nominate for local government can be a difficult decision to arrive at, and certainly if you’ve never run for office before you might lack confidence in yourself or even feel crippled by self-doubt. But does that mean you shouldn’t stand, or even consider it? Absolutely not!
Feeling uncertain is both normal and understandable, after all, deciding to run for local government is a big step outside most people’s comfort zones. The fact is, every candidate walks a very different road to deciding to put their name on that ballot, the events and experiences that shape their views on important issues, their beliefs, their motivations, are all different. And this difference, this diversity of opinion and experience, is what makes for strong local government.
The truth is, most people don’t suddenly wake up one morning and decide to put their hands up for their local council. When people do decide to run, you often find the idea has been bubbling away for quite a while. In my experience people run for office for a number of reasons:
- Leadership and Service – Serving on your local Council is a great way to serve your local community. Offering your time, energy and efforts to help make your community a better place is the ultimate act of service.
- Changing the Status Quo – Some people choose to run because they genuinely want to drive change or make a real difference in the lives of local people. ‘Change’ is a regularly used buzz word in politics, and if your community agrees with your point-of-view it can be a powerful rallying cry for your supporters.
- I have a dream – Some candidates will run for their local council with the express purpose of accomplishing something specific in their community. Maybe it’s that local road that really needs fixing, the swimming pool needs an update, or an issue to do with recycling. The desire to make a difference in a particular area can be enough to drive some people to stand.
- Moving on up – If you have your sights set on moving into State or even Federal Government, running for your local council can be a great way to dip your toe in the political waters. A successful term in local government might give you the support, experience and results you need move higher.
- The reluctant candidate – Everyone says you’d make a great Councillor… but that doesn’t always mean you’re terribly keen on the job! Some of the best local Councillors I’ve come across are the ones who are asked, coaxed or just plain sweet-talked into standing. Sometimes people around you can see your leadership qualities more clearly than you can. If people have been urging you to stand, it really might be worth thinking about!
Whoever, and wherever, you are there will be other people passionate about your unique message or your cause, and probably other people who share your vision for your community. This year, whether as a candidate or as a voter, your voice is waiting to be heard.
So, you’ve made up your mind to stand… or you’re at least willing to think about it. What next?
Go to the NSW Electoral Commission and Office of Local Government websites to see what you next steps should be: https://www.elections.nsw.gov.au/