BY NATASHA SCHAPOVA
The lack of diversity in Yarra Ranges Council is gaining recognition as more young women are urged to become involved in local politics.
The council currently consists of one female councillor and eight male councillors, despite women making up 51 per cent of the municipality.
All nine councillors are aged more than 50 years despite 39 per cent of the Yarra Ranges municipality comprising people aged between 20-49 years.
Voices of Women president Sue West said the organisation is working with the council to advocate for women’s voices to be heard.
“We want to help empower women to be the best that they can be, whether that be running for council or just generally improving their life,” she said.
Voices of Women is helping 10 women run for council this upcoming October election through its program that educates women on leadership skills and council matters.
“Our program covers what it’s like to be a councillor, personal development like how to speak on your feet, how to write Facebook posts,” Ms West said.
She added it is important to have female council representatives to “level the playing field” and ensure there are “female-oriented” changes in the area.
“Younger women are the future of the council, they represent the mothers of the area, they are vibrant and are willing to take more risks,” Ms West said.
“Older people are often more stuck in their ways.”
Yarra Ranges Council CEO Tammi Rose agrees council members should represent the diversity of their community.
“Age is never a prerequisite for a council position and we believe elected representatives at all levels of government should reflect the diversity of the community,” Ms Rose said.
“The more people and viewpoints we have involved in our elections, the stronger our democracy.”
Ms Rose said the Yarra Ranges Council has been working with Voices of Women to address the “unequal gender balance” of council candidates running for election.
Candidate for Moonee Valley Council Kate Bates said diversity in councils is vital to ensuring key issues in younger age groups are not overlooked.
“We need to have people ranging in genders, ages and ethnicities in council to have a properly represented community,” Ms Bates said.
Ms Bates said entering politics as a young woman is “very challenging” as it is “hard to be taken seriously”.
“Young women face not only sex-based discrimination but also age-based discrimination,” she said.
“There needs to be more support networks for women and an attitude change, but that takes time, unfortunately.”
As a university student herself, Ms Bates said she understands the “trials and tribulations of young people”, especially during the pandemic.
“It’s very hard to find jobs, it’s very hard to see where opportunities will be in the future, it’s so unknown at this stage.”
She said to ensure a better future, younger people need to be “less apathetic” in local council matters.
“I don't think a lot of the community knows or realises what the council can actually do for them, or what the council should be doing for them,” Ms Bates said.