In the first of a series of online forums ahead of the local elections, a former mayor warned about the potentially "paralysing" impact of social media on local decision makers.
Judy Verlin, who served as Ballarat Mayor four times, reflected on a shift since her time in local government, which she left in 2012.
If you've got something to stay, pick up the phone and speak to your councillor and give them the benefit of being able to respond to youJudy Verlin
"Social media really wasn't very active [then]", she said during an online forum held by the Ballaarat Mechanics Institute (BMI).
"I see now cowards, actually paralysing people because of the debate.
"If you've got something to stay, pick up the phone and speak to your councillor and give them the benefit of being able to respond to you."
Also on the panel was Janet Dore, the current City of Ballarat CEO, who said:"I don't look at social media. It would frankly do my head in."
"And it's not worth taking any serious note. People, if they've got serious views and they want to make a point, they should use our general procedures."
Kathryn Arndt, the CEO of the Victorian Local Government Association, said social media was "here to stay".
"You do need to be mindful of what's coming at you," she told potential candidates, advising them to have support networks in place.
Summing up the role of a local councillor, Ms Verlin described the importance of being responsive to community members, the need to think about the "bigger picture" and to not shy away from unpopular decisions.
As well as advising that councillors needed "broad shoulders", Ms Verlin spoke against councillors campaigning on single issues, saying: "The city of Ballarat is too big for that."
In wide-ranging online panel, which was chaired by ABC Ballarat chief of staff Prue Bentley, Ms Verlin said councillors should be ready to absorb a great deal of information on a wide range of issues. She warned that those not staying on top of the detail would quickly be found out in the council chamber.
"The diversity of what you have to get your head around is just incredible," she said.
Ultimately Ms Verlin, who was also the Chair of the Committee for Ballarat for three years, struck a positive note about the role.
She said it had been a privilege to be a councillor: "It's a huge responsibility. It's a large budget, a lot of information to get your head around - but it's a fantastic opportunity."
- Further BMI forums feature candidates from different wards, starting tonight. These will be livestreamed on YouTube. North Ward candidates on Sept 18; South Ward on Sept 25; and Central Ward on Oct 2, all at 5.30pm, See ballaratmi,org.au/runningforcouncil.