Becoming an Upper Hunter Shire Councillor

Filed in Just In by July 7, 2021

UPPER Hunter Shire residents interested in running for Council in September are invited to attend a free information session to learn more about the role and responsibilities of a councillor.

Two sessions will be held next week on Friday, July 16 and Saturday, July 17, followed by a women’s only session on Saturday, July 24.

See event details below.

Councillors Lee Watts and Sue Abbott said they would like to see more people put their hand up for Council this year to help create a more diverse Upper Hunter Shire Council.

“We need more people running, we need old, we need young, we need business,” Cr Watts said.

“There’s nine Council positions and if you’ve only got eleven people running, people aren’t voted in, some just fall into the role by default,” she said.

“A lot of the people that got in last time didn’t meet the 700 vote quota, so if you really want someone in there, you need to be able to select, it’s a democratic process,” she said.

Cr Abbott said she wants to see young people, indigenous people and females nominate for Council.

“It’s time we saw First Nations people on our Council, more women and younger people, so we have their voices there to explain things we don’t necessarily think about and explain how different parts of the community are affected,” Cr Abbott said.

“It would also be great to see people under the age of 30 on Council,” she said.

“If we had a more diverse Council we would have more of a focus on community services and they wouldn’t just be a pathetic line item in the budget. We’d also be taking climate action more seriously, which I don’t think we’re doing at the moment,” she said.

“We are a diverse community and we’re not adequately represented,” Cr Abbott said.

Cr Watts and Cr Abbott said being on Council is hard work, but rewarding and those who may find the Councillor role intimidating should know there is always support available.

“Everybody’s busy, whether you’re young or old. I work full time, I’ve got four jobs. You choose what it is you’re interested in and where your best support goes when you get on Council. If you can’t do daytime meetings because you’ve got children or are working, whatever the reason, you may be able to select a different meeting time that works for you,” Cr Watts said.

“The rewards override what you lose out on by being a Councillor. You be able to help someone and it doesn’t have to be on a large level, it may be filling a pothole,” she said.

“However, you can’t get on Council and expect things to change overnight or expect things to change as an individual, you’ve got to work as a team. If a candidate is only running because they want one thing; a town hall or they want to fix every road, they need to know it doesn’t happen overnight and if it does, what will you do after that? Council is about broad range of issues and shaping your community,” she said.

“Everybody brings their own perspective to Council and Sue and I are a great example of that. She’s as green as ever and I’m at the other end of the spectrum, but we do meet halfway a lot of the time because we agree in supporting the community,” said Cr Watts.

“Lee and I have not agreed on everything, but we’re respectful, we never take each other down,” Cr Abbott said.

“I know Council may look bruising, but there is support and when things get tough, there are some great people in Council. It’s worth being at the table and you’ve always got the community there giving you good ideas to work with,” she said.

“I’ve been on Council for five years now. After ten months I thought I’d be resigning and I got through it, so you can do it too and it’s worth it,” Cr Abbott said.

The Office of Local Government will be running the candidate workshop sessions to provide potential candidates with the information they need to make an informed decision prior to nominating.

Candidate information sessions will cover the key requirements of becoming a Councillor, rules and processes for registering as a candidate, the role of the elected Council and key elements of Council meetings.

“I encourage anyone who is passionate about their community, love where they live and wants to mould the future of the Shire, to nominate for Council. You’ve got to be accessible and you’ve got to want to talk to people, you can’t just become a Councillor and never walk the streets or go to the shops again,” said Cr Watts.

“Local Councillors won’t be attending the sessions, so I’m more than happy for anyone who would like to know what it’s actually like to be on the Upper Hunter Shire Council, to give me a ring,” said Cr Abbott.

The Local Government Election will be held on Saturday, September 4. For more information, including key dates and the information pack for candidates, click here

The Candidate Information Sessions will cover:

  • The benefits and importance of local government;
  • Understanding the role of Council and the role of a councillor;
  • A typical Council structure;
  • Challenges of the role and how to meet them;
  • The importance of diverse representation on Council;
  • The importance of speaking out on key issues;
  • An introduction to meeting procedures and rules of debate;
  • Support available including information and networks;
  • An introduction to local government jargon and what it means.

Candidate session details

Merriwa session presented by Maire Sheehan

Maire Sheehan has previously held the roles of Mayor and Councillor for several terms at Leichhardt Council and conducted many councillor workshops for local government. 

When: Friday, July 16 from 5:30pm to 8:30pm;

Where: Merriwa Meeting Room, 121 Bettington Street Merriwa;

Cost: Free.

Registration: Numbers for each of the sessions is strictly limited. Register your attendance here.

Scone session presented by Maire Sheehan

When: Saturday, July 16 from 10am to 1pm;

Where: Scone Council Chambers, 135 Liverpool Street, Scone;

Cost: Free;

Registration: Numbers for each of the sessions is strictly limited. Register your attendance here.

Women’s only session presented by Colleen Fuller

Colleen serves as a Councillor for Gunnedah Shire Council and has been on the Executive Committee of the Australian Local Government Women’s Association NSW since 2006. During that time she has served as both President and Vice President.

Colleen has served on various committees at Gunnedah Shire including, Child Crime Prevention (chair), Mental Health Suicide Prevention (chair), Rural Fire Brigade, Day View member, CWA, Village Homes Committee, Challenge Disability Services, Hospital Advisory Board (chair), Domestic Violence Prevention (chair), Workshop Enterprises Gunnedah.

Colleen was winner of Local Government Rural Regional Councillor in 2010.

When: Saturday, July 24 from 10am to 12pm;

Where: Scone Council Chambers, 135 Liverpool Street, Scone;

Cost: Free;

Registration: Numbers for each of the sessions is strictly limited. Register your attendance here.

For further information regarding each session, contact Council on 02 6540 7290 or via email at: council@upperhunter.nsw.gov.au

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