Local councils play a critical role in communities across Victoria. Councils employ nearly 45,000 Victorians and deliver essential services that we use every day. That’s why it’s so important that councils work to progress gender equality in their workplaces and the community.
We know the new obligations under the Gender Equality Act 2020 add to a range of existing planning and reporting obligations for councils. We also know that councils have a unique operating context.
Here are some key things for local councils to consider.
As part of a workplace gender audit, councils will need to collect and report data on the gender composition of their governing body. For councils, the governing body is comprised of the Mayor and Councillors. We acknowledge that councils do not have control over the gender composition of the group of Councillors, as they are democratically elected.
The new includes a requirement to develop a workforce plan every four years. The workforce plan must include measures relating to gender equality. By doing a Gender Equality Action Plan that meets the requirements of the Gender Equality Act, councils will be meeting this requirement of the Local Government Act. Please note that complying with the gender equality requirements of the Local Government Act will not satisfy the requirements of the Gender Equality Act.
Your Gender Equality Action Plan does not need to be a standalone document – for example, it could form part of your Council Plan. You can also update an existing plan to meet the GEAP requirements. However, you must ensure that the plan meets the requirements set out in the Gender Equality Act – whether it’s a new document, updated document, or chapters of a broader plan.
From 31 March 2021, the Gender Equality Act requires a gender impact assessment to be conducted of policies, programs and services that are new or up for review and have a direct and significant impact on the public.
Examples of local government policies, programs and services that a gender impact assessment could be conducted for include:
- Infrastructure projects such as roads, paths and lighting
- Services such as waste collection, childcare and services for people with disabilities
- Parks and sporting facilities management
Engaging the community is one way of ensuring a gender impact assessment considers the needs of people of different genders and backgrounds. Councils may wish to apply their Community Engagement Policy, required under the , when doing a gender impact assessment.
We encourage councils to incorporate a gender impact assessment process from the earliest stages of design and development of policies, programs and services. This includes when developing broad plans and strategies, such as a or . It’s important to ensure that your strategic direction considers the needs and experiences of Victorians of all genders.
However, you are not required to formally conduct a gender impact assessment of your Council Plan or Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan.
Local Government Victoria’s best practice guide and supporting research companion for promoting gender equity in local government.
The Local Government Act 2020 and the Gender Equality Act 2020 work together to address the causes and impacts of gender inequality.
MAV supports councils to deliver, partner and lead gender equality and preventing violence against women (PVAW) work in their communities and raises the profile of the local government sector’s work in this space.
Implementation pilots with local councils
Before publishing guidance materials for and , we conducted a with 10 local councils. This was to test draft guidance materials to help us understand specific issues faced by local councils in implementing the Act.
A summary of the key strategic issues identified through the pilot is available for download at the link below. The report is current as of September 2020.
We recognise the importance of ensuring local councils receive the right support to comply with the Act. So, we've implemented many of the recommendations included in this report. The Commission is still considering some recommendations as part of the implementing the Act.
Reviewed 10 February 2021