Why not join the circus?

Lismore City councillor Vanessa Ekins with her sons James, 11, and Nicholas, 9.

If youre a woman used to juggling kids, running a business or doing volunteer work, youve probably got what it takes to be a councillor, says Lismore City councillor Jenny Dowell.

And if youre passionate about a community issue, you might be the perfect candidate.

Cr Dowell said while the commitment takes anywhere from 10 to 40 hours per week, women who are used to volunteer work, such as canteen duty or Meals on Wheels, can utilise these skills in the role of a councillor.

With women currently representing only 26 per cent of councillors in NSW, Cr Dowell is again calling on the local women to run for council.

The push to recruit female councillors is backed by NSW Minister for Local Government, Paul Lynch, and around NSW recruitment programs are planned ahead of next years local government elections in September.

While being a councillor could seem impossible for many women, particularly working mothers, Cr Dowell said its simply a case of thinking outside the square. She said women may already be doing the hours in other volunteer roles.

The main skills required are good listening skills and time management, which women in general already possess, she said.

While being a councillor means working some evenings, Lismore City Council pays for child-care for Council-related commitments such as meetings.

Lismore City Council also allows children to attend meetings, a fact Cr Vanessa Ekins has often taken advantage of.

My kids have grown up around the Chambers, said Cr Ekins, who has been a councillor since 2004 and is also a sole parent and part-time student.

Cr Ekins remembers taking her eldest son as a baby to Council meetings where the response from her mostly male colleagues was mixed.

Some were quite uncomfortable, but others were supportive. Because I was walking around holding the baby when I spoke, I had the whole floor, she said.

Cr Ekins, who said her council work takes up two to three days per week, concedes its not always easy.

It can take its toll on the kids. Theres been times I had to tell the principal sorry my sons assignment is late, but he can tell you about the inner workings of the traffic management plan, she said. But there are also rewards for them. It gives them a sense of civic responsibility... I think its vital that every community member is involved in civic life.

Cr Ekinss son James, a year-five student at Larnook Primary School, said his mum can be quite stressed before the meetings but he understands why and now wants to become a councillor himself.

The meetings can be boring, but as I get older I get more interested, he said.

And its not without its perks.

Lismore City councillors receive an annual allowance of around $13,000 plus a computer and fax machine. Some phone bill and travel costs are also offset.

Cr Dowell and Cr Ekins said the best way for women to get an idea of what being a councillor is all about is to attend council meetings or phone 6625 0500 and request an information handbook. She said workshops for women will also be held early in the new year keep an eye on The Echo for details.

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