The City of Ballarat is one of many councils in Victoria to increase the number of women voted in to represent local residents.
The state government said the results of last month's local government elections showed a record number of women were voted into councils around Victoria.
A government press release on Thursday stated that 272 women had been elected for the four-year term until the next elections in 2024 - 43.8 per cent of the total number of councillors, compared to 38 per cent in the previous ballot in 2016.
They declared this is a "new high for both Victoria and the nation", with local government minister Shaun Leane saying Victoria was the first state to exceed 40 per cent of women on councils.
Mr Leane described the latest election as "an absolutely outstanding result".
"Gender equality and diversity benefits all of us. It makes communities, councils and our state stronger."
In Ballarat all three female incumbents - Amy Johnson in the North Ward, Belinda Coates and Samantha McIntosh in the Central Ward - were returned after the local election ballot held last month.
With Tracey Hargreaves elected in the South Ward, it means that every electoral area includes a woman among its three representatives.
It also raises the level of female representation to four out of the nine current councillors. That equals the highest number of women on the council since amalgamation in 1994 (there were also four women in the council from 2012 to 2016).
It's been shown that increasing diversity on councils and boards leads to better decision making overallCr Amy Johnson
Cr Amy Johnson, who was elected to be deputy mayor by her fellow councillors on Wednesday, said it was "wonderful to see gender diversity increasing across councils in Victoria"
She said also wanted more varied representation on council in the future:
"Moving forward I'd also like to see greater diversity on councils not only in relation to gender, but also in relation to ethnicity, age and professional background."
"It's been shown that increasing diversity on councils and boards leads to better decision making overall."
She also said that, aged 33, she remained the youngest person on council,
"We have lots of knowledgeable and inspiring young people in our city, so I encourage them to consider standing for council in the future".
The state government, meanwhile, said councillors were, on average, younger and more diverse this time, with at least 28 councillors from the LGBTIQ+ community (up from 11 in the 2016 elections).
Six councillors across the state identify as having an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background. Indigenous woman Rachel Muir stood for election in Ballarat's South Ward but was not elected.
IN OTHER NEWS
Of other municipalities in the local area, Hepburn Shire is the only one with a majority of women, with Jen Bray, Lesley Hewitt, Tessa Halliday and Juliet Simpson making up four of the seven-person council.
That was despite the retirement and voting out respectively of long-standing councillor Kate Redwood and former mayor Licia Kokocinski.
Moorabool Shire has three women among the seven elected representatives. Tonia Dudzik had been the lone female councillor the past two council terms, and told The Courier it was "fantastic" to see those numbers grow.
Meanwhile there remains only one woman on council in Pyrenees Shire, Tanya Kehoe, with that entire council unchanged after the recent ballot.
Over in Golden Plains the level of female representation decreased - the only council area in the region where that took place. Only one woman, Helena Kirby, was returned. The only other female councillor from the previous council Joanne Gilbert contested the election but was voted out and the four new faces are all men.
While many view the overall increase as encouraging, there remain question marks over whether the single ward system to be introduced in 2024 will allow the same trend to continue.
Cr Coates said the increase was "really positive" but, like Cr Johnson, she said she would like to see further gains across minority groups.
"You want people in the community to see people on council who are relatable," she said.
She fears the new electoral system to be put in place in four years' time could slow the momentum.
"Maintaining that trend - it will be a real challenge with single councillor wards.
"It will strongly favour incumbents, and there are more male incumbents. It will also tend to favour people who can pour more time and money in their campaign."
"We will just have to wait and see how it plays out. I hope on balance it mobilises communities to be really engaged."
The state government has set a target of 50 per cent of women on councils by 2025.
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