Information for candidates in Western Australian local government elections
Councils provide many services, programs and infrastructure for communities. The decisions about these and supporting policies are made by an elected group of councillors.
Becoming a councillor, mayor or president presents the opportunity to influence local directions and create long-term, positive outcomes within your community.
Being a councillor is a rewarding challenge — one which requires commitment, responsibility and accountability.
Many people in our local communities can provide strong and strategic leadership. Local government can perform at its peak and make informed decisions when communities are represented by a diverse group of leaders. Diversity comes in many forms including
backgrounds, experiences, culture, age and gender.
If you want to be involved in the future of your community, and are willing to learn and participate, then you should explore what it takes to be a councillor and nominate for local government elections.
There are 137 individual local governments in Western Australia. Each council covers a deﬁned geographic area, known as a district, that varies in size, population and environment. Despite these differences, all councils have the same general powers and
responsibilities, and the discretion to choose many of the services they provide.
This information has been prepared to help you appreciate the role and responsibilities of a council member, understand the election process, and assist you in deciding whether to nominate.
Typically, local government councillors are everyday people who want to make a difference
The Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) and many local governments offer free information sessions for prospective candidates in the lead-up to the October elections. For more information, visit the WALGA website or contact your local government.
The department also has a series of fact sheets on various aspects on being a council member:
Most people are eligible to vote in local government elections, and as such, also likely to be eligible to stand for a position on council.
You can nominate for a position on council regardless of qualifications, religion, race, gender, experience or profession. In fact, councils encourage nominations by people from diverse backgrounds to ensure that a wide range of views are represented.
In Western Australia, there are around 1200 councillors who are as diverse as the reasons that motivated them to stand for election.
Anyone 18 years of age or older can stand for election as a council member (either mayor or councillor) if they are:
You do not have to reside in a ward to stand for election for that ward.
Although you are not eligible if you:
There is no restriction on people with dual citizenship being elected to council.
If you have any doubts as to whether you are eligible, you should contact your local government or speak to the WA Electoral Commission. You can find more information on the WAEC website.
Communities are made up of people from different backgrounds with different needs and interests.
This includes people from groups that have historically had less input in council decisions, including:
These groups are underrepresented as candidates and council members in Western Australia, and in other spheres of government elsewhere in Australia.
Increasing the diversity of people on councils to more closely mirror the communities they represent ensures that a wide range of views are heard, and:
While there are no special qualifications or experience required to be on council, you should be passionate about your local community, willing to work as part of a team and keen to learn.
Leadership skills are fundamental to working effectively on council and influencing the future direction of the local community. However, it is important to understand that councillors do not make decisions on their own.
Decisions are only made by the council as a whole, which means you will be expected to work well with other councillors.
This doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything, rather be prepared to engage in respectful debate on issues and build effective, professional working relationships.
The following tables list some of the leadership qualities that may help you to be an effective council member.
Consider whether these are attributes you already possess or are willing to develop to serve your community.
Do you have the following skills? If not, are you willing to develop them?
Some of the other skills and knowledge that are useful for council members to have include:
If you are successful in becoming a councillor, a mandatory training program and ongoing professional development opportunities will help you to develop the skills and knowledge needed to operate effectively on council.
You won’t need to know everything from the start. However, it is important that you have a strong interest in your community and a commitment to learning in order to grow into the role of a council member.
Councillors serve the community by listening to residents and local businesses, representing their views on council.
You will work with council members to make strategic decisions about how the council will address the needs of the community. This will include setting objectives to meet local requirements, establishing priorities between competing demands, and deciding how resources should be raised and allocated.
Legislation and policies, together with the local government’s strategic community plans, provide the framework for the ongoing management and operation of the council.
Councillors do not get involved in the day to day running of the local government administration, which is the responsibility of the Chief Executive Ofﬁcer (CEO).
Your role as a councillor will typically involve:
To keep in touch with electors, your commitment as a councillor may involve:
During your term on council, you are entitled to meeting attendance fees or an annual allowance (paid in lieu of meeting fees). This is not a salary.
The Salaries and Allowances Tribunal sets the fees or annual allowance payable to council members in bands. The band allocated to your local government is dependent on many factors including for example, the size and complexity of the local government.
In addition to this allowance, you are entitled to receive reimbursement for some expenses incurred in the course of your duties as a council member. These expenses are travel and child care to enable you to attend council or committee meetings and functions and rental of your telephone line.
Councils may also decide to reimburse other expenses such as telephone and internet costs incurred in the course of council duties. Your local government’s allowances policy will explain what expenses you will be able recover.
Council members are public ofﬁcers, exercising powers, functions and duties on behalf of the community.
Council members are required to separate public interest from self-interest and to respect and uphold principles and laws designed to protect the public interest and to preserve public trust and conﬁdence in government institutions.
If elected, you need to be ready and willing to meet the required standards of conduct including:
The Local Government Act 1995 sets out the general duties and code of conduct for members. It requires each council member, at or before the ﬁrst meeting attended, to make a formal undertaking to carry out all duties conscientiously and to the
best of their ability.
The community will often judge a local government according to the behaviour and public image of individual council members. It is essential that council members conduct themselves in a way that is appropriate for elected community representatives. You also need to behave respectfully towards fellow council members despite any personal, policy or political differences you may have.
You need to be impartial, aware of your role and not take things personally.
Nominate for council if you want to make a difference for the whole of community, not just one issue.
One of the most important functions of a councillor is to attend and participate in the decision-making process at council meetings.
Council meetings are held at least once a month. If you are absent from three consecutive meetings without council’s permission, you are disqualified from ofﬁce.
To contribute effectively to the decision-making process it is essential that you are prepared for meetings. Meeting papers and reports are often detailed so you will need to set aside sufﬁcient preparation time before each meeting.
Whether you are a ward or a district councillor, you must assess the issues and make decisions in the best interests of your local government district as a whole – not just your ward.
Before you nominate for election, you should read recent agenda papers (available on your local governments website) and attend at least one council meeting (which are open to the public) to get an understanding of what is involved.
Councils establish committees to assist with the wide range of activities and functions for which councils are responsible, and to increase opportunities for community input in policy development.
In addition to councillors, committees can include community or skills-based members appointed by the council.
While there are many rewards associated with community leadership, you will need to set aside sufﬁcient preparation time before each meeting.
Councils can also hold informal gatherings to allow for discussion, undertake planning, hold workshops or to encourage informal communication between councillors and staff. Where the informal gathering involves discussion of a matter that is, or is intended
to be, part of a formal meeting of the council, wherever appropriate, the briefing session / forum should be open to members of the public.
These are not formal council meetings and no decisions can be made at them.
Councillors may also be required to represent council on other bodies, for example, regional bodies, local organisations and school councils. This could also include representing local government at the state and national levels by involvement in the
WA Local Government Association.
It is important that you consider your commitments carefully before deciding to run for election.
'My experience indicates that the best team to achieve what a community desires is where the mayor and chief executive ofﬁcer understand their respective roles. This ensures that both support each other’s roles and the council team and community
beneﬁt from a whole team approach.' — CEO of a local government
The Local Government Act 1995 and Local Government (Elections) Regulations 1997 set out the requirements for local government elections - how they are to be conducted, who can nominate, who can vote, and how the votes are to be counted.
In Western Australia, the majority of local governments contract the Western Australian Electoral Commission (WAEC) to run their elections. The WAEC
appoints returning officers for the elections it conducts.
For elections conducted by the local government itself, the CEO of the local government is the returning officer unless other arrangements have been made.
The returning ofﬁcer role is an independent role and is responsible for running the elections and ensuring they are conducted in accordance with the law.
There are two forms of elections held in local government — ordinary elections which are held on a regular two-year cycle, and extraordinary elections which are held when a position becomes vacant, for example, because a council member has resigned or is disqualified.
Local government elections are conducted by postal vote or as ‘in person’ elections. The returning ofﬁcer posts out ballot papers to all electors, who cast their votes and post them back.
Ordinary elections, for four-year terms of office, are held at two-year intervals in October, with voting at the next election closing on Saturday 16 October 2021.
Nominations open on Thursday 2 September 2021 and close at 4pm on Thursday 9 September 2021.
The deadline for close of nominations cannot be extended.
Voting closes at 6pm on Saturday 16 October 2021.
This means ballot papers must reach the Returning Ofﬁcer by that time.
You must be on the local government’s roll of electors to be eligible to vote and stand as a candidate in local government elections.
If you are already on the State electoral roll, then you are automatically on the electoral roll for the local government which matches your enrolment address.
However, if you are not on the State electoral roll or have moved to a new house you will need to enrol to vote or update your details prior to the close of rolls on Friday 27 August 2021.
For information about how to update your details, go to the WA Electoral Commission website.
If you own a property in a district but do not live there, or you operate a business, you may be eligible to enrol on the owner/occupier roll and vote in local government elections. For more information contact the local government in which you own land
or operate a business.
To be able to nominate in a Western Australian local government election, you must complete the online candidate induction.
You will be asked to declare that you have done so when completing the nomination form. It is an offence to make false or misleading statements on the nomination form.
After voting closes, the scrutiny and count begins. More details are available in the nominations kit available from your local government.
Key dates and activities of signiﬁcance:
Once the election is ﬁnalised, the CEO will advise when the next council meeting will occur. The time between the end of the election and the ﬁrst council meeting will vary from council to council. It may be almost straight away or could be as long as
three weeks after.
You should prepare yourself by learning about:
The CEO may arrange an orientation and induction process for newly elected councillors. This may include:
In the meantime, you may ﬁnd it valuable to acquaint yourself with:
Most of this information can be found on your local government’s website.
The local government’s website also provides a range of useful contextual information including policies, legislation, manuals, codes and guidelines.
If your council does not have a formal induction program, you could make a time to meet with the CEO and mayor / shire president.
Once you have been elected, you will be required to make a Declaration of Office before you are officially on the council. This is a formal declaration that you undertake to carry out your duties faithfully, honestly, with integrity and to the best of
your ability. It is signed in the presence of an authorised person. This normally occurs at the ﬁrst council meeting after the election.
Each council has its own procedure for this ceremony. If a speech is required, it is usually most appropriate to make a simple statement thanking your supporters and expressing your desire to contribute to the work of your council.
You must also complete a primary return of your ﬁnancial and other interests within three months of the conclusion of the election, and an annual return (an update of changes to the primary return) each year. The CEO will brief you on the procedure as
it applies to your council. For transparency and accountability purposes, your primary and annual returns will be accessible to the public via the local government’s website and will be available for public inspection at the local government’s
As councillors have no authority in relation to staff, you should ask about the procedures for lodging enquiries regarding local government works and services. You should also seek opportunities to meet your fellow councillors with whom you will be working
for the next few years.
As part of recent reforms to the Local Government Act 1995, a universal training program for all council members has been introduced. The Council Member Essentials has been developed to better equip council members in undertaking their role. Following election, council members will be required to complete five modules of training within the first 12 months of being in office.
It’s not about winning for yourself. It’s about looking at the bigger picture, taking stock of all the information and facts, seeking community input and finding commonality with others about what is the greatest benefit to the community.
Do not submit enquiries with this form.