ACELG has released a comparative study of political governance frameworks for local governments across Australia. The research, Local Representation in Australia - A Review of the Legislation and the Literature, seeks to understand the advantages, constraints and theoretical approaches to representative democracy across Australian local government in view of on-going reform processes.
The project was undertaken in partnership with the Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA).
The CEO of the VLGA Maree McPherson said: “Local government is under constant pressure to improve, both from within the sector and from the community. Fostering improved understanding about the various models of political representation across this large and diverse sector is an important step toward enhancing local democracy across Australia."
The research is presented in two volumes. The first is a national review of all local representative governance frameworks by legislation, plus relevant guidelines by the local government associations and state agencies. A companion report documents a Victorian perspective of working within such legislative frameworks based on interviews with councillors and senior staff from 18 different councils.
In general, the review found there is a great deal of diversity across the nation as to how these themes are dealt with.
- There is relatively little in terms of thinking or research on how to determine the number of councillors, with further research required to understand the implications of the different approaches and in view of structural provisions.
- The picture is mixed across Australia in terms of voting, with a question remaining about the inter-relations between the differing approaches and implications for local representation.
- Descriptions of mayor and councillors’ roles vary in the legislation but what is perhaps most pertinent is the perception of elected representatives themselves of their role.
More work needs to be done to understand the implications of the differences for local representation, particularly in a context of reform whereby the number of local governments and councillors is being reduced in view of financial sustainability and efficiency.
Useful legislative summaries are included as attachments to the research.