Being a councillor

Councillors are the governing body of a local municipality. They play an important leadership role in creating and implementing their community's values, vision and strategic direction.

Local government is complex and vibrant. It requires motivated and dedicated individuals to participate in making the decisions that count, decisions that are often difficult, sometimes unpopular and always affect people's lives.

The role of a councillor

The role of a councillor is to:

  • participate in the decision-making of the council
  • represent the municipal community in that decision-making
  • contribute to the strategic direction of the council through the development and review of key strategic documents of the council, including the council plan.

In performing their elected role, a councillor must:

  • consider the diversity of interests and needs of the municipal community
  • support the role of the council
  • acknowledge and support the role of the Mayor
  • act lawfully and in accordance with the oath and affirmation of office
  • act in accordance with the standards of conduct
  • comply with council procedures required for good governance

Councillors guide the development of strategic planning, local policies, set service standards and priorities and monitor the performance of the organisation. Other responsibilities of councillors include determining the financial strategy and budget, allocating resources, and liaising with other levels of government, the private sector and non-government community groups.

Local government is the third tier of government for Australian citizens. It is represents the needs, interests and aspirations of communities. Councillors provide an invaluable link between the community and council.

The role of the Mayor

The Mayor is a councillor elected by the council to lead the council, usually for a term of one year although a council may resolve to elect a Mayor for a two-year term.

This excludes Melbourne City Council, which has a directly elected Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor who nominate for office jointly under the provisions of the City of Melbourne Act 2001; and Greater Geelong City Council, where the Mayor must be elected for a two-year term.

The role of the Mayor is to:

  • chair council meetings
  • be the principal spokesperson for the council
  • lead engagement with the municipal community on the development of the Council Plan
  • report to the municipal community, at least once each year, on the implementation of the Council Plan
  • promote behaviour among councillors that meets the standards of conduct set out in the Councillor Code of Conduct
  • assist councillors to understand their role
  • take a leadership role in ensuring the regular review of the performance of the CEO
  • provide advice to the CEO when the CEO is setting the agenda for council meetings
  • perform civic and ceremonial duties on behalf of the council.

The Mayor also has specific powers:

  • to appoint a councillor to be the chair of a delegated committee
  • to direct a councillor, subject to any procedures or limitations specified in the Governance Rules, to leave a council meeting if the behaviour of the councillor is preventing the council from conducting its business
  • to require the CEO to report to the council on the implementation of a council decision.

Deputy Mayor

A council may establish an office of Deputy Mayor with the role and powers of the Mayor if:

  • the Mayor is unable for any reason to attend a council meeting or part of a council meeting
  • the Mayor is incapable of performing the duties of the office of Mayor for any reason, including illness
  • the office of Mayor is vacant

Acting Mayor

If no office of Deputy Mayor has been established by the council, an Acting Mayor must be appointed to act where the Mayor is unable to attend all or part of a council meeting, the Mayor is unable to perform the role of Mayor for any reason or where the office of Mayor is vacant.

“Representing and connecting to my community, I was reminded every day when I put on my badge that I was representing them in a privileged situation.”

Colleen Furlanetto OAM, former mayor and councillor at Strathbogie Shire.