When it comes to local government, “crossing the line” is about bullying, harassment, discrimination or intimidatory behaviour. When these behaviours target women they could involve a specific reference to gender, but not necessarily This is sexism at work.
These behaviours are unlawful and harassment, discrimination and bullying because of a person’s sex are prohibited under the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act
In addition, these behaviours severely impede the good governance of the municipality. Countering bad behaviour requires a mix of wisdom, courage and good governance.
To achieve a constructive outcome, good governance and your own municipal councillor codes of conduct need to be invoked.
If you are unfortunate enough to come across serious sexism, bullying, discrimination, harrassment or intimidation, discuss the problem with someone who you trust and who has knowledge or experience. Try to find internal processes which will make a difference, including meeting with someone not directly involved, or other flexible dispute resolution processes.
If flexible strategies do not work, there are more formal dispute resolution processes including your local codes of conduct, seeking advice or making a complaint to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and independent councillor conduct panels. Do your research to find the most effective avenues in the situation which confronts you.
The VLGA or the MAV could be approached for a further confidential discussion if you want an external sounding board.
A word to the wise:
Behaviour which “crosses the line” can involve potentially tricky situations. Make sure you ask for help.
For you to remain effective and achieve your goals as a councillor you must have enough ongoing workable relationships with other councillors and council officers to be able to work as a team.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Gender and politics hit the headlines in 2012. No matter what you think about the content of the speeches made by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and journalist and author Ann Summers, they certainly made an impact in Australia and elsewhere and provide controversial food for thought. See the links on the right hand side.