Media Release re new Victorian Local Government Act

The Australian Local Government Women’s Association (ALGWA) has welcomed the fact that in an Australian first, sexual harassment has been included in the new Victorian Local Government Act.

The ALGWA is also pleased maternity and paternity leave will be automatic and there will be measures to seek gender equity and diversity.

In a joint statement from ALGWA Victorian and National branches, National President Cr Coral Ross and Victorian Branch President, Cr Michelle Kleinert said: “We are very pleased that sexual harassment is included in the definition of gross misconduct and serious misconduct, and that the Councillor Conduct principals also include sexual harassment – this is a great step forward,”

“We hope other States will follow Victoria’s lead and include sexual harassment in their Local Government Acts,” added the National President, Cr Coral Ross.

And the ALGWA urged the Government to include changes to Council internal disputes process when the guidelines are published in relation to Council’s individual Codes of Conduct.

“We believe there must be an independent person to hear disputes between Councillors and that any sanctions should not be decided by the Council itself. This could be included in the guidelines which follow the new Act,” added Cr Ross.

The new Act allows for an individual Councillor to make an application for a Conduct Panel for misconduct or serious misconduct offences.

“This means a claim of sexual harassment can now be heard by a Conduct panel,” said Cr Michelle Kleinert. “We are very pleased that an individual Councillor can make an application for a conduct panel.

“It is also pleasing to see Councillors will have six months leave automatically when they become a parent, and that child care and carer reimbursement costs are now legislated. This is something which our members have told us is very important to them,“ added Cr Kleinert.

The ALGWA Victorian Branch made a detailed submission to the Act.

“We are pleased that after considering our concerns, the Government has introduced a definition of “multiple vacancies” on a council; now half of the Councillor positions need to be vacant before an Administrator can be appointed,” said Cr Kleinert.