After a career in education, as a teacher, counsellor and assistant principal, Cr Amanda Stone was first elected to City of Yarra Council in 2008, in then in 2012 and again in 2016. She was Mayor in 2009 and 2017.
Step up and take on that extra responsibility, as it provides opportunities for personal and professional growth, making a significant and rewarding contribution to the community who elected you….
There are many opportunities to take on leadership as councillor – from being Mayor to representation on the MAV, VLGA, Metropolitan Transport and Waste Forums. New councillors hesitate to take these on, unsure of having necessary skills and experience. This is especially so of first-term women councillors.
I was first elected as a councillor – and mayor simultaneously – after years as a community activist attending many council meetings, familiar with council processes, and a teacher comfortable at chairing meetings!
These were valuable skills and experiences, but I mostly learned by doing.
The council organisation is a great support to councillors in leadership roles, employing people with expertise and passion about local government. Good leadership acknowledges, values and uses this expertise.
Networks of other councillors especially women mayors are a great support. No leadership role is effective unless continually engaged with the community you represent.
Through community activism, I learned how a council can get it right and wrong in engaging with the community. I learned the enormous value of council and community working together on complex problems, and the wonderful outcomes that can be achieved – in my experience like the Abbotsford Convent project!
The collaborative, participatory approach to engagement, which women excel at, is more effective than “command and control” in local government.
Community opinion and perspectives are fluid and influenced by many factors, so staying attuned and involved is critical to leadership within council and more broadly. The organised and articulate in the community are enormously valuable in driving and supporting council action; but there are a myriad of voices that need to be heard for good decisions to be made.
Leadership is the ability to hold that corner of the triangular relationship between councillors, organisation and community. Recognise triangles as strong structures, build on skills, be willing to learn, develop, and above all stay connected with community and their priorities.
Leadership in local government is not just one thing. It’s the ability to firmly hold that corner of the triangle comprising the councillors, the organisation and the community, recognising that triangles are really strong structures, to build on the skills you bring to council, being willing to learn and develop, and above all staying connected with your community and their priorities.