The 2020 Victorian local government elections saw a record number of queer people standing for and elected to local councils right across the state.
Around 131 openly LGBTIQA+ candidates stood for election and 29 of these candidates were elected, double the number elected in the last local government elections. This positive change means Victorian councils are now more reflective of the communities they represent, with around 4.7% of councillors being LGBTIQA+.
In contrast, the Victorian Parliament has one of the lowest numbers of LGBTIQA+ people of any parliament in Australia. There are currently no openly LGBTIQA+ people in the Ministry or the Shadow Ministry. The cross-bench isn’t much better when it comes to LGBTIQA+ representation.
Preselecting LGBTQIA+ Candidates
Political parties need to rise to the challenge of increasing LGBTIQA+ representation in public office, especially here in Victoria. With a state election next year, many parties will be commencing the process to preselect candidates. LGBTIQA+ party members and independents will be considering a run.
Political role models are an extremely important factor in the decision to stand, yet there is a real lack of representation in our own Parliament.
There’s never been an openly trans, non-binary or intersex person elected to Victorian Parliament. A lesbian has never been elected to the lower house, which has only one gay person on its green benches.
Those that have been elected have done a fabulous job, but we need much better representation in our Parliament, our Legislative Assembly and in our Cabinet. We cannot rely on allies alone to achieve change.
We need to increase LGBTIQA+ representation at the next state election. It is going to be hard, but attempts have been made. There have been proposals to introduce “queer quotas”.
To better understand the challenges of increasing representation, particularly amongst queer women, the Victorian Pride Lobby has undertaken a survey on LBQ+ women (including LBQ+ trans women or LBQ+ women with intersex variations) standing for public office in Victoria.
What is clear is that there are many barriers to standing, ranging from prejudice and misconceptions to lack of confidence, support and representation. But there are also many motivations for standing, including the need for diversity, a desire to contribute to changes to the status quo and also encouragement from others.
Blueprint For Tackling Barriers
The report, which will be released on Wear It Purple Day, provides a careful and bold blueprint for tackling the barriers and exploiting the motivators to get more from our communities standing for – and winning – public office. Political parties can, and must, take immediate steps to boost diversity.
These include providing mentoring, training and support, creating opportunities for networking and skill-sharing, as well as setting quotas or at least targets for LGBTIQA+ and women candidates and elected representatives.
Community organisations, local councils and their peak bodies and government also have a role to play in supporting LGBTIQA+ people to successfully stand for office. We know that when LGBTIQA+ people are elected, they are capable of working across the political divide to win significant reforms for our communities.
After the next state election, there will still be work to do on LGBTIQA+ law reform, and we need more LGBTIQA+ elected representatives – working alongside allies – to get that work done.
If we want Victoria to be the “Equality State”, we need more equal representation in the Victorian Parliament.
You can find more information on the report into LBQ+ women standing for public office here
Dr Sean Mulcahy is the Policy Advisor of the Victorian Pride Lobby
Nevena Spirovska is the Co-Convenor of the Victorian Pride Lobby, Australian Sex Party candidate for Richmond in 2014 and independent candidate for Northcote in 2017
Neil Pharaoh was the National Co-Convenor of Rainbow Labor and Labor candidate for Prahran in 2014 and 2018