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Local government is involved in a very diverse range of issues that have a direct impact on the community and its way of life. This provides elected members with many exciting challenges in effectively dealing with these issues. It is therefore vitally important that newly elected members quickly become aware of the operation of the local government, the current issues that the local government is dealing with and, most importantly, their responsibilities and the role expected of them.
Some newly elected members will begin their roles with prior knowledge of their local government's operations and the relevant legislation under which it works. Others may not have a great deal of knowledge.
A thorough induction program will effectively assist newly elected members to understand their roles and responsibilities as members of council and what is expected of them. This guideline will assist Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and mayors/presidents in the development and delivery of such an induction program.
To assist elected members to understand their roles and responsibilities, CEOs should consider the development of an appropriate elected members induction manual. The induction checklist included in this guideline will assist in developing the manual and ensure all relevant topics are adequately covered. Publications likely to be needed as part of the induction program should also be identified.
The manual may form the basis of the induction program instituted by the CEO and be in a format that provides a ready reference for new members.
Local governments are free to conduct induction programs that best suit their needs. The development and adoption of procedures covering issues as set out below, in conjunction with the use of the induction checklist, will facilitate a thorough induction program.
The new member induction should take place as soon as possible after the election. The declaration ceremony presents an ideal opportunity to welcome new elected members, to acknowledge the significance of their election to represent the local community and to commence the induction process.
Attendance at the ceremony and an associated social gathering by the new members' families, existing elected members and their partners, the CEO and senior officers of the local government would be a positive team building exercise. All can use the social gathering to get to know one another and establish relationships with those that they will need to communicate and work with.
While it would be preferable in the interests of team building to have all newly elected members attend a 'declaration ceremony' together, legally the declaration of office by an elected member can be made before an authorised witness, who can be a JP, or the CEO, at any time within two months after the declaration of the election.
Newly elected members should be made aware that one of their first duties will be to elect the mayor/president (where not elected by the electors), deputy mayor/president and appointment of members to committees. If your local government does this immediately following the declaration ceremony, then newly elected members should be provided with information on the election process as an initial part of the induction program. Pre-planning by the CEO will allow him or her to formally advise all of the candidates for election of the proposed timetable for the declaration ceremony and induction program. Such notice will enable candidates to make their own tentative arrangements subject to their being elected.
Inductions will be more effective and beneficial if considered to be the shared responsibility of the CEO, the mayor or president and the newly elected members. Ideally, the briefings by the mayor or president and CEO would cover important local government operational issues such as meeting procedures, council structure, code of conduct and the roles and responsibilities of elected members.
Provision should be made in the induction program to enable the mayor or president the opportunity to brief the newly elected members and provide guidance and advice from the elected members' perspective.
In the time period between the declaration ceremony and the first council or committee meetings, new members have a responsibility to prepare themselves for their new role on council by full and active participation in the induction program. This can be through the study of the resource material provided by the CEO which may include a council agenda, past minutes, current and proposed budget, a briefing on current issues, standing orders, the code of conduct, Local Government (Rules of Conduct) Regulations and an induction manual.
A tour of the district for the new members incorporating an onsite inspection of major works in progress or pending, inspection of council facilities and a briefing by relevant staff on the local government's facilities and services can be a valuable learning experience when incorporated into the induction program.
A follow-up program should be held between six and nine months after the induction. This follow-up involving the mayor/ president, new members and the CEO, will help to identify and address any areas where additional support, training or development could be provided to the members. It is also a great opportunity to obtain feedback from the new members with a view to improving the induction program.
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