AT least 12 members of the LGBTI community have been elected to councils across Victoria following the local government elections over the weekend.
The state’s local government previously had the lowest percentage of LGBTI representation of any tier of government, with only five councillors identifying as queer.
Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Sean Mulcahy said the 39 known candidates had a higher success rate than non-LGBTI candidates, dispelling ideas of an anti-LGBTI bias among voters.
“The increased number of candidates elected shows that communities across the state welcome LGBTI people as their municipal representatives,” he said.
“LGBTI councillors have a proven track record of working across the political divide to achieve tangible outcomes for their local communities.”
Mulcahy added that while there is now double the number of LGBTI councillors and increased female representation, more work can be done to boost diversity.
“While LGBTI people make up 11 per cent of the Victorian population, they still make up only 2 per cent of Victorian councillors,” he said.
“It is especially disappointing that no transgender people were elected to local councils.”
Newly elected Darebin councillor Steph Amir had already set out her vision for LGBTI inclusion across the lifespan from maternal and child health to aged care.
“Women and LGBTI people are underrepresented on councils, including in Darebin, so as a young gay woman I want to reduce that imbalance to create a more representative council and set an example for younger women” she said.
“We can retain and improve Darebin’s reputation as a leader in LGBTI inclusion, but it means going beyond ‘treating everyone the same.’”
Newly elected Baw Baw councillor Michael Leaney said his election has proved that sexuality isn’t a big issue in that part of country Victoria.
“As the first ever gay councillor elected to Baw Baw Council I have proven that sexuality is not really a big issue in this part of country Victoria,” he said.
“I’ve been living in a remote, tiny town for 18 years, and while there have been a few incidents of homophobia, in the main, people simply don’t give two hoots.
“I’m openly gay and have never hidden my sexuality, but clearly it’s not an issue for the voters in my ward who just wanted the best person to represent them.
“The fact I’m in the room with little fuss says a lot.”
The numbers cited represent all LGBTI councillors and candidates known to the VGLRL and Victorian Local Governance Association.