Redefining the Mainstream: Local Government, Inclusive Communities

The Second National Conference on Reconciliation, Multiculturalism, Immigration and Human Rights


Dr Judy Skene
Lecturer, Department of Organisational and labour Studies, University of Western Australia

Not Just Whitefellas' Business: Aboriginal Women Municipal Councillors in Western Australia

Local government and Indigenous Australians share a history of tense and often hostile relationships over issues of access and ownership of land. The landowners who oversaw the initial development of local government during the nineteenth century were intent on securing claim to their properties. Their dominance of local government, colonial office and state legislatures in Western Australia ensured that Aboriginal rights were denied until well into the twentieth century. This paper examines the relationship between Aboriginal people in Western Australia and local government, by exploring the issues raised in interviews with three Aboriginal women councillors. These women were representatives of three very different councils and their experiences cover a range of situations that Aboriginal women face as councillors. The themes of Aboriginal identity and the endurance of racism also emerge from the interviews, as does the question of negotiating cultural differences. The role that local government could play in reconciliation is also a subject of reflection.

Judy Skene completed her doctoral thesis on the history of women municipal councillors in Western Australia in 2000. She is currently teaching 'Managing Diversity' in the Department of Organisational and Labour Studies at the University of Western Australia.

Presentation Type
30 min. Paper

Equipment Requirements:


Deakin Woolstores Campus, Geelong Waterfront
30 November - 1 December 2001