There have been a number of amendments made to the Local Government Act 1995 which will better equip council members to undertake their complex and significant role. Importantly, the universal training reforms will impact local governments, council members and prospective candidates.
Prior to nominating in the 2019 local government general elections, all candidates will be required to complete the online candidate induction.
The candidate induction has been developed to assist people who are thinking about becoming a local government councillor to better understand the role. It outlines the responsibilities of council and councillors as well as election and campaigning rules. The induction will also serve as a refresher to those who have previously been a councillor and informs them of any recent changes to their obligations in the role.
The candidate induction is free and is available on the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries’ website. For those who do not have access to the internet, the department suggests that they visit their local library or, if appropriate, their local government offices to complete the module online. I hope that local governments will assist with this to encourage a wide range of candidates.
It is important that all prospective candidates complete the registration form at the end of the candidate induction. This will ensure their completion is recorded by the department and will also provide them with a confirmation email for their records.
All candidates nominating for council will be required to declare that they have competed the candidate induction at the time of nomination. There are penalties for making false or misleading statements on the nomination form (a maximum penalty of $5000 fine or one year’s imprisonment). The department will be able to verify who has completed the candidate induction with the returning officer.
Council Member Training
All council members will need to complete a new training course, Council Member Essentials, within 12 months of being elected. The course has been developed to provide council members with the skills and knowledge to perform their roles as leaders in their district.
The Council Member Essentials course comprises of the following five units:
- understanding local government
- serving on council
- meeting procedures
- conflicts of interest, and
- understanding financial reports and budgets.
The training will be provided by the following training providers:
- Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA)
- South Metropolitan TAFE, and
- North Metropolitan TAFE.
The individual courses are currently being developed by each of the training providers with modules available by the October elections. The training will be available online and via face-to-face workshops.
The training is valid for five years, so a council member will only be required to undertake the training at every second election. Some exemptions apply for council members who have passed specific training within the past five years, including the Diploma in Local Government. More information regarding this can be found on the department’s website.
Continuing Professional Development
Each council will be required to develop a policy outlining the continuing professional development of its council members. The content of the policy will be determined by the council and should include opportunities for each councillor and a statement of how the local government will support this.
In deciding the content of the policy, the council should consider:
- the strategic direction of the local government
- any skills gaps among the council as a whole, and
- the needs of individual councillors.
As a minimum, the policy must be reviewed after each ordinary election to take into account the needs and skills sets of new councillors.
Local governments will be required to report annually on who has completed training and publish this on the local government’s website. The report will list each council member and the training completed by each councillor in that financial year. This will include both the Council Members Essentials course where applicable and continuing professional
development consistent with the local government’s policy.
Queries regarding any of the universal training reforms should be directed to the department on 61 8 9492 9762 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Duncan Ord OAM