Councillor duties

Councillors are accountable to their community and need to demonstrate effective leadership to meet challenges and develop long-term visions and goals that guide their municipalities' futures. Councillors are required to participate in a wide variety of activities, both as an elected representative of the community and as a member of the governing body of council. Representing the entire community requires councillors to weigh and balance all relevant factors without bias or prejudgement.

Councillors are expected to perform their duties with a high level of probity, integrity and care. The municipal community is entitled to expect that:

  • the business of the council is conducted with efficiency, effectiveness and impartiality
  • the councillor will attend all meetings of council (except where leave has been obtained) and vote on all matters except when prohibited from doing so
  • councillors and staff will comply with the spirit and the letter of the law and be sufficiently familiar with the provisions of relevant statutes, regulations and council rules and policies.

Community involvement and accountability

Many citizens who become councillors already have a high level of involvement in community organisations and events. Attending community meetings, gauging community values and needs, as well as being available and approachable are part of being a councillor.

Councillors, both individually and collectively, are accountable to their community. They have a responsibility to respond to requests for information, explain the reasons for their own or council's actions, and defend council proposals.

Advocacy

The council often represents and advocates on behalf of its residents, businesses and community organisations on key issues that affect the wellbeing of the local area. This includes meeting with other levels of government, statutory bodies, businesses and regional interest groups.

Councillors also play a critical role in the decision-making processes that guide and govern the strategic vision and directions for the municipality.

Councillors need to remember they represent the interests of their constituents or part only of their community is contrary to their obligation to make decisions that may be in the best interests of the entire municipal community.

Debating and decision-making

All the key decisions are made at council and committee meetings. Prior to these meetings, councillors receive the agenda and relevant reports to read and consider which provide background and advice from council officers. Councillors debate the issues and make considered decisions in the best interests of the entire community. It is the responsibility of a councillor to ensure that they are properly informed in their decision-making.

The decision-making processes of the council must be open, accessible and transparent except in limited circumstances when confidentiality is required. A meeting of a council, or a delegated committee, must be open to members of the public unless the council has closed the meeting to the public on the basis of the circumstances specified in the Local Government Act 2020.

The Local Government Act requires all councils to make governance rules which include the conduct of council meetings, and must provide for a council to consider and make decisions fairly and on the merits. All councillors must be familiar with the governance rules and the conduct of council meetings.

“Why did I run for council? I was asked. And I also didn’t see anybody like me. I didn’t see enough women and I certainly wasn’t aware of any people with disability, noting that not all disability is visual of course.”

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