Now you're a councillor

Now you're a councillor

A site for women councillors in Victorian local government

Never assume …

Mary has been a councillor with the City of Whittlesea since 2005 and has served as Mayor on three occasions. Mary is currently the President of the Municipal Association of Victoria, (MAV).

In March 2017 I became the first popularly elected female in the MAV’s 100+ year history. This is where the story of finding yourself on the wrong side of a vote, starts. You win some, you lose some. This time, I was on the right side of a majority vote and was elected President of the MAV. However, two years earlier, I lost my seat on the MAV Board and the role as its Deputy President. At that time, I was on the wrong side of a majority vote. I was disappointed, there is no doubt about that. But I was determined that I would hold my head high and see what other opportunities I could identify to still be involved with the MAV. My views and experience could still be used. Two years later, I was elected President.

I regularly canvassed thoughts and ideas and put forward my case.

Speaking to the people who vote and not assuming what people think or want, was for me, the key to ‘getting back on the agenda’.

There really is some truth in the saying ‘never ASSUME as it makes an ASS out of U and ME’. I encourage you to speak to councillors that have a say and will be voting, and see if you can find some common ground.

From a council perspective, all relationships must be respected. Just because some fellow councillors may choose to conduct themselves in a way you don’t agree with, you don’t have to. Stay true to your values and vote with integrity.

At Whittlesea Council, at least 95 per cent of council decisions are unanimous. This is being on the ‘right side of the majority’. Having said that, if it was unanimous all the time, is that really a good thing? Does that involve ‘group think’? I certainly wouldn’t want to be part of a council that didn’t have a diversity of views and ideas. Diversity is an important part of representing the community who elected us. Bringing a range of views to the council decision-making table can make our decisions stronger, as we listen and understand different points of view that help to inform our thinking.

At the end of the day, the community votes councillors to form a council and make decisions on their behalf. Some decisions you will agree with, others you won’t. That’s the beauty of our democracy.