With local government elections still about six months away, women have been encouraged to step forward as candidates for Narrabri Shire Council at the September 4 poll.

A workshop, the ‘Getting Women Elected Forum’, was convened in Narrabri by the Australian Local Government Women’s Association NSW branch on Saturday to encourage women candidates and promote the benefits of community service as a councillor.

Narrabri Shire Council is a member of the association.

Saturday’s workshop, ‘specifically targeted at women who may be interested in running for election to Narrabri Shire Council’, was chaired by the association president, Lithgow City councillor Cassandra Coleman.

“Women are under represented in local government,” Mrs Coleman said.

“There are 1300 elected councillors on 128 councils in NSW, and of those, 438 are women.”

Narrabri Shire Council currently has three elected female representatives on the nine member council, Cathy Redding, Annie McMahon and Maxine Booby.

The association panel at the Saturday forum included former Narrabri Shire councillor Robyn Faber, current Narrabri councillor Cathy Redding and Gunnedah councillor Colleen Fuller.

Mrs Coleman said service as a councillor was rewarding and a learning experience.

“I was like a deer in the headlights when I started five years ago” she said.

“But you develop as a councillor as you go.”

Mrs Coleman said men and women working together gave a broader perspective, a higher number of women elected representatives yielded a more realistic representation of the community.

Women brought an increased focus on community and social infrastructure, ranging through childcare and children’s services to empowering local women’s organisations.

“Women look at more than roads, rates and rubbish,” she said.

Mrs Coleman said the public wanted to talk about a wide range of issues with their local councillor who could advocate on their behalf.

“Being a councillor is hard work, but very rewarding,” she told the audience.

Wee Waa-based Cr Booby, a Narrabri Shire councillor for nine years, has confirmed she will not contest the September elections.

Cr Booby said she is endeavouring to interest and encourage potential candidates from Wee Waa, citing the importance of local representation. She said service as a councillor offered much to the community’s elected representatives.

“It is very satisfying,” she said.

“You get to see how the country is run, and the local area is run – service as a councillor creates a great appreciation and understanding of where you live.

“It also puts you in contact with a lot of other people and broadens your horizons.

“There is a lot of learning, a lot of knowledge gained as a result of being on council.

“It is a positive experience, and yes, it can be frustrating at times, but if a decision goes a way you think it shouldn’t have, well it’s a majority decision which has to be respected.

“As a councillor you work for the benefit of the community.

“You listen to people and hear what they think should be done in the community and you go with what people say and take it through to the staff, general manager and directors, talk it over with them, and if it is feasible to follow up and there is finance available then you put it to council as a motion.

“You play a role in developing our community, but personally, you have a role in developing yourself.

“You can attend in-service courses, develop more knowledge, and a wider network of who does what, because people you meet have ideas and you gather a lot of knowledge that way.”

Cr Booby said she supported moves by the Australian Local Government Women’s Association to encourage more women to stand for election.

Cr Booby’s co-women councillors Annie McMahon and Cathy Redding also encouraged women to put their hand up as council candidates.

They cited a range of positive benefits, from personal development through meeting new people, gaining a closer understanding of the mechanics of government at all levels and being able to actively play a role in developing the community now and for the future.

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