Now you're a councillor

Now you're a councillor

A site for women councillors in Victorian local government

Ready to stand up …

Councillor Debra Nelson was elected to the Hindmarsh as a new councillor in October 2012 and re-elected in 2016. Debra tells her story about how she decided to stand and what happened next.

I decided to stand for council because I wanted a better deal for our town. I could see plenty of room to improve infrastructure to enhance the liveability of our beautiful town. I have always been willing to fight for a good cause so I decided to stick my hand up and offer people choice. I didn’t really expect to be elected as I was fairly new to town.

There were no women at all on our council at the time but there had been two women previously elected. I thought that it would be good to have a balance of men and women to best represent our community.

I believe we need a diversity of life experience around the table and women sometimes think differently from men.

I had been involved on committees and community groups such as Town Committee and Residents Action Group, and an active volunteer and to stand for Council just seemed like a natural progression. I just put my hand up and said I was prepared to stand up and represent our community.

I attended a Think Women for Local Government forum and found it to be very inspirational. It was terrific to hear of experiences from women who were involved in Local Government. It was a very relaxed atmosphere at the forum and I found the women were so friendly and open. I came away feeling much more confident realising that the women who spoke shared my passion for community.

I was inspired by the stories about making a difference, making a change.

The women councillors who were there were so strong and they’d really made a difference and I thought I’d like to do that too. Two of the councillors were also the Mayor of their councils.

I am known for being someone who gets things done and there were a group of people in town who knew I was passionate about making a change. They were used to seeing me out and about doing things. My campaign was very minimal. I didn’t put out any fliers until the last minute. I didn’t door knock. I didn’t do a lot as I was time poor but I did have a story in the local paper. I didn’t spend much money on the campaign – about $200 on photocopying, $100 on stamps and $150 for a couple of vote 1 adverts in the local newspaper. I consider myself to be a quiet achiever and it would be out of character for me to run a flashy campaign.

I was first elected to Hindmarsh Shire Council in 2012 and at that time we had 3 female councillors and 3 male councillors. One female councillor resigned after about a year and was replaced by a male councillor. I was elected Deputy Mayor in 2013 and 2014 and was elected the first female Mayor of Hindmarsh Shire in 2015. I stood again in the 2016 Local Government elections and was the only female to be successful and was also elected Mayor again that year. I like to share my story of what a rewarding role being a Councillor is and hope that I might inspire other women to put their hands up.

I hope to see more women willing to stand up and represent their communities because everyone has something unique to offer.

I don’t know if I would do anything differently. I think you have to be genuinely passionate about your community and true to yourself to have a rewarding experience. Standing for Council on a self-interest or single issue will most likely not produce the same outcome. The Go Women LG 2016 events were a fantastic initiative and I believe it is an important program to continue.

It’s great that these events were held in rural areas as we are a bit more isolated than the city and there probably aren’t as many women leaders. I was delighted to be part of Go Women LG 2016 events in our region and hoped that through my input I was able to give back and inspire women as I had been encouraged and inspired to stand for Council by attending an event prior to first being elected to Council.