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Conference paper

Male, stale and pale? Gender representation in metropolitan local government in Western Australia

Representation Local government Gender Perth
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apo-nid178831.docx 1.48 MB

This paper explores the historical and contemporary socio-spatial patterns of political representation across the various local government areas within the Perth metropolitan region. In particular, analysis is focused on the gendered composition of (i) candidates who stand for local government elections; (ii) those elected as local councillors; and (iii) those who hold the highest office of authority – the mayorship – within local government. As the level of government often claimed to be ‘closest to the people’ it might be assumed that local government would be fairly representative of the people it serves. The data however points to a much different story. Put simply, there is a significant gap in the gender representativeness of local councils in metropolitan Perth (and other Australian metropolitan centres) with women under-represented at all stages (candidate-elected member-mayor) of the local democratic process. In short, local government can be caricatured as being ‘male, pale and stale’ to reflect the dominant gendered, ethnic/racial and age profile of locally elected officials. The paper goes on to consider the primary factors explaining the (prolonged) under-representation of women, and other groups, and what this means in terms of policymaking at the local government level. Finally, some discussion on what steps could be taken to enhance the representativeness of women are outlined.

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