Topics:  elections, government, politics, representation, women

Calling all women

Councillor Karen Toms
Councillor Karen Toms Contributed

THE times are a-changing, or so the saying goes, yet women are still grossly under-represented in all levels of politics.

With local elections scheduled for September, women of the Clarence Valley are being encouraged to become involved in local government by attending a public seminar organised by the Electoral Commission in Grafton on May 15.

Councillor Karen Toms is one of three female councillors in the Clarence Valley and will be a guest speaker on the evening representing the Australian Local Government Women's Association (ALGWA).

Ms Toms was first elected to local politics in 2008 and describes her experience as a steep learning curve but also very rewarding.

"It's much more involved than I expected, but it has been a journey in self-understanding as well as a fantastic opportunity to learn about a diverse range of issues. Of course you can't be an expert in everything but you do develop a broad range of knowledge," Ms Toms said.

Ms Toms said that councillors needed a variety of skills to succeed, including the ability to think strategically, solve problems, and be organised.

"Good communication skills are essential. Really it's all about listening, learning, advocating, negotiating and mediating," she said.

"Confidence, enthusiasm, and a sense of humour also go a long way. A lot of women already have all these skills, but may lack the confidence to put themselves forward."

Ms Toms said that although women were much better represented in Clarence Valley Council than others in NSW at a ratio of one to three, she hoped that women would soon make up 50%.

"It's an opportunity for women, who perhaps have never thought about it, to get involved."

An information seminar organised by the Electoral Commission will be held on Tuesday May 15 at the Grafton Community Centre on Duke Street from 5.30pm to 8.30pm.



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