Hotbed of altruism uncovered among Victorian local councillors


Geelong Council’s former Mayor, Darryn Lyons.


Forget personal benefit, political power or Machiavellian skulduggery: a survey of more than 170 Victorian local councillors has uncovered a hotbed of rampant altruism.

According to a Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) survey, successfully elected councillors gave their primary reason for standing for election as being to benefit their communities.

The top three reasons councillors gave for running for office were:

  • Giving the community a voice
  • Being recognised as a community leader by their peers
  • Rising to new challenges

MAV Chief Executive Officer Rob Spence said it was pleasing that the most popular reason councillors chose to run for office was to benefit their communities.

“Wanting to contribute to the community is a great reason to run for council because one of the main roles of a councillor is to become a voice for the community and advocate on important issues,” Mr Spence said.

Other motivating factors included having a passion for politics, wanting to fix a specific issue and the desire to make councils more diverse.

But Mr Spence cautioned that altruism sometimes had to co-exist with cold, hard reality.

“Some candidates run with a false hope that they can fix problems in a community overnight. This is not a reality. It takes hard work, collaboration with peers and dedication to overcome obstacles faced by the council and the community.”

Of course, it may be useful to note that the survey list the reasons councillors openly gave for why they wanted to be elected.

It is safe to assume that councillors did not say they stood for council because they wanted to:

  • Buy a council car park at a knockdown price to redevelop it (Auburn)
  • Have a blazing row over a Christmas tree and shirt front another councillor (Monash)
  • Charge 20,000 phone calls to the council’s tab (Glen Eira)
  • Avoid remediating asbestos on a property and intimidate the neighbours (Hurstville)
  • Bully staff and other councillors and behave in a sexist and threatening manner (Geelong)
  • Take kickbacks from developers in return for approving controversial development proposals (Woollongong)
  • Make hefty expense claims (Melbourne)
  • Blackmail a corrupt mayor (Strathfield)

Election hacks 

Along with their reasons for wanting to sit on council, Victoria’s councillors also gave their top tips for getting elected, which included: letterbox drops, print advertising and exchanging preferences with other candidates.

Mr Spence said: “Another campaigning tip identified in the survey was exchanging preferences with other candidates. This is not a prerequisite, but it is a political reality and it can mean the difference between being elected and not.”

MAV is running candidate information sessions to help prospective candidates understand the role of being a councillor and run for the right reason, before they throw their hats into the ring.

“We encourage anyone who is thinking of becoming a council election candidate to attend a local information session or visit our Stand for Council website. Ensuring candidates have all the information is the first step in becoming a great community advocate,” he said.

Victoria’s local government elections are on October 22, except for Geelong Council which holds theirs in 2017.

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at  

Sign up to the Government News newsletter

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required