Cr Sandra Wilson was elected to Hobsons Bay City Council in October 2012 after a long time of pondering the possibility of becoming a candidate. Now her community leadership skills are being applied in a new role and environment..
“There were a couple of milestones that led to me standing. I completed the VLGA’s Building Communities Leadership Program in 2006 and it made me question leadership at a local level, look at the whole election process, and evaluate how those who were elected represented the community. I didn’t stand in the 2008 elections but the Think Women for Local Government Project activities pushed me over the line in 2012.
In 2011, I went to the Project launch at the Melbourne Town Hall, it was great to see the diversity of the councillors. They were ordinary people, just like me! And they lived to tell the tale.
Standing for election is daunting and it feels like your relationships change with the people close to you and with those in the wider community. Your motivation and values are frequently questioned, which I believe has something to do with the level of cynicism that has developed about people who aspire to political office.
I have always taken my role in the community very seriously. But standing for election was a different proposition as it belied a level of ambition I wasn’t sure I really possessed and it felt at odds with my values. In the end, I decided to stand because I wanted to make a difference.
I read through all the resources and I took them all in, but I didn’t know how it would work in practice and how I might respond to the challenges.
Think Women was an invaluable resource that supported my decision to stand and helped in my campaigning. Sometimes that extra push is necessary to give people the courage to stand up and be counted. Elected representatives are ordinary people who make the most of their self-belief and support to make the difference they really want to make.
I would have been all at sea without A Gender Agenda. It told me what I should be doing “now” and how to get that support team together. These were stories of ordinary women. It was a source of practical and accessible information. I also found the Facebook group More women for local government really useful. There was lots of sharing and instant feedback.
The preferencing process was a real learning curve for me and one that seems hard to prepare for. Next time, if I run again, I’d be very much more informed about the kind of wheeling and dealing that has to be done. If you really want to get elected you have to do the political stuff.
Staying true to my values and keeping focused on a positive campaign was paramount especially as the political environment can sometimes be combative. Resilience is a quality that puts you in good stead to deal with any negative campaigning that rears its ugly head.
If I had my campaign over again I’d start planning and preparing earlier. You learn to fine tune as you go along and take on board advice from those more experienced than you.
Now that I’m a councillor, I’ve moved into another world. I’ve learned more than I expected, I’ve stepped up to leadership and understanding the role of a councilor so much more.”