It was a five-week Spanish pilgrimage on the picturesque Camino de Santiago that laid the foundations for Cr Margot Smith’s decision to run in the 2012 Surf Coast Shire Council election.
While the coronavirus pandemic means international travel is currently off the cards for prospective candidates in this year’s election, Cr Smith has encouraged women to take a moment to reflect on whether they can make a difference in their local community and stand for council.
“Walking the Camino in Spain grounded me and while I was pondering options when I got home, I read about the Council elections,” she said.
“I’m so glad I made the decision to run. It has been a joy to be able to meet so many people.”
Anglesea Ward Cr Smith – who will not be standing again in the upcoming October election – would like to see more women on Council. In Victoria, women represent more than 50 per cent of the community but only 38 per cent of councillors. The state government’s Gender Equality Strategy includes a commitment to achieve 50 per cent female councillors and mayors by 2025.
“Gender equality and diversity is really important for good decision making, and if we can get it right at the ballot box, it will help make sure more voices can be heard,” said Cr Smith, who was Surf Coast Shire Mayor in 2014-15.
“If you are a woman who is considering running, please go for it. It’s not a walk in the park but it is rewarding.”
According to the Municipal Association of Victoria, achieving gender equality in local government is an important step towards improving the lives of Victorian women. It is also critical for an inclusive, diverse and cohesive community.