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Local Government

Local Government is the third tier of Australian Government, looking after things at a community level. It is responsible for looking after your street, collecting your rubbish bin and running the local library and leisure centre. This article has more information about the role and responsibility of local government in Australia.

Role and Responsibility

Local Government in Australia is a little different to many other countries. Compared to the UK, certainly, they have far less authority – they have no responsibility for schools, for instance. According to an old expression in Australian Local Government circles, they look after a very different “Three Rs” – they are responsible for “roads, rates and rubbish”.

Essentially, your local council will charge landowners in their area rates - a kind of annual tax - which will be spent resurfacing local roads, collecting and disposing of household rubbish, maintaining local parks, running libraries, providing leisure and sports facilities and overseeing the planning of the local community. It’s the local council you go to if you want to register your dog (which you’ll have to), complain about neighbourhood noise, pay a parking fine or build an extension on your house.

Local Governments are controlled by a “council” of elected representatives – people who live in the local area and want a say in how their community is run. Usually the head of a council is called a Mayor or a shire president. These people can either be directly-elected to that office by the people, or they can be chosen from amongst the councillors by winning a majority vote. Being mayor can, therefore, be a more serious and political role, rather than a ceremonial role as might be the case in other countries.

Councils exist within States and are the lowest tier of government in Australia, meaning they must comply with both State and Federal law.

For more information about the role of local government in Australia, see the Australian Local Government Association website.

Community Involvement

The very nature of local government and the services it provides means it plays an important role in the community. It is councils who provide and maintain sporting facilities for local clubs – everything from cricket nets and goal posts to the fields, clubrooms and grandstands.

Many councils employ security guards to patrol the local streets at night and all provide rangers to impound and rescue stray dogs, issue parking infringements, tend to community gardens and so on. They also employ the health inspectors who ensure the kitchens in local restaurants are clean and safe for food preparation and employ inspectors and engineers to ensure buildings, construction sites and roads are safe.

Councils give grants to good causes, help residents to recycle, provide park benches and pay for and maintain playgrounds and public toilets.

In many ways, it is your local council which is responsible for how nice the area you live looks and feels.

Visit our Life in Australia section for more articles related to Daily Life in Australia.

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