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About Local Government - For Teachers and Students

This page has been developed as a guide to Local Government in South Australia for students and teachers, and to help Councils to work with schools.

It contains information about how councils operate, the services they provide, ideas for teaching and learning as well as the myriad of careers that exist in Local Government.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is local government?

The term "Local Government" refers to the system in which 68 local Councils operate in South Australia. The Local Government system is integral to the democratic system of government in Australia which provides vital economic, social and environmental support for communities.

To learn more about local government, please click here.

What do councils do?

The range of services provided by Local Government is in response to the needs and priorities determined by local communities. The services can vary greatly from one Council area to another depending upon the Council's geographical location and size, development and growth patterns, and population profile.

To learn more about what councils do, and the services they provide, please click here.

How do Council elections work?

Council elections in South Australia are held every four years.

To learn more about how they work, please click here.

What jobs can you have in local government?

Did you know that there are many different careers available in the local Council? Because each Council is different, there are many kinds of staff in each. Large Councils employ hundreds of staff, while small Councils may have as few as 20.

For more information on careers in councils, please click here.

How can I get involved?

I am Interested in Council - but what can I do? As a citizen you have the right to influence what your Council does, how it spends its money, what services and facilities it provides and what local issues it pursues.

To learn more about how to get involved, please click here.

For Teachers

Local Government is the area of community decision-making that is the closest, most relevant, has most impact, and is most cost accessible to young people. Schools and students have the greatest opportunity for influencing decisions at the level of Local Government - and thus possibilities for empowering young people are greatest at this level.

It is important that our students become active and informed citizens and show an interest in their local community and environment. They need to be provided with opportunities to develop civic values, understanding the role they can play and the responsibilities that go with that involvement.

Planning Council Visits

Visiting the Local Council can be an exciting, enjoyable and valuable part of the school program. A visit provides students with a firsthand opportunity to learn how Local Government works.

Visiting Council offers students the opportunity to:

  • Understand how the political system and their community works. Local Government affects their lives.
  • Become involved with their community as active citizens
  • Interact with staff and council members and gain knowledge of their local community
  • Communicate, find information and investigate the functions and activities of Council.

It is also possible to bring the Council into the classroom! The most usual way is through a visit to the classroom from an elected member, especially the Mayor, or member of staff.

If your school would like to visit the local Council or have an elected member or Council staff member visit your school, you may telephone the Council directly and liaise with the appropriate person. Just ask the person on the switchboard who you should talk with. A planning visit to Council in advance by the teacher is beneficial.

When planning a Council visit teachers need to:

  • Discuss plans ideas and activities for the visit with the appropriate Council contact person
  • Request the person you would prefer for the visit (an elected member, engineer or community relations officer)
  • Choose a mutually convenient date and time (it would be best to contact Council at least one month before the time you would like to visit.
  • Make a decision whether it would be best for the school to visit Council or vice versa
  • Send your council a copy of the curriculum materials and aims so that a presentation can be tailored to your specific subject
  • Determine the amount of time required and number of students likely to attend
  • Assess how much students can accomplish in one visit to Council

Mock Council meetings

An effective way to introduce students to the role and function of Local Government and the Chamber environment is to conduct a mock Council meeting.

Classes who have prepared for the mock Council Meeting generally perform well, are confident, relaxed and able to learn from and enjoy the meeting experience. On the other hand the experience can be confusing, difficult and uncomfortable for students who have come to the mock Council meeting unprepared.

Preparing for the meeting does not need to take a lot of time and effort and can actually add to the whole experience of the program. Below is a checklist to help you prepare.

  • Elect one Mayor and six Councillors. Hold classroom elections, selecting volunteers for the role or use another method to choose your "Elected Members".
  • Develop two proposals to be put to the "Council" and discussed. Proposals should be in the form of a specific request to Council for a particular action.
  • Use Props. Some students might present written or illustrated proposals (for example, a theme park) to support their issue. Others may build models or provided samples.
  • Think about the topic. The local Messenger, Advertiser, Council Reports, Student Workbook and students imaginations can all be used to arrive at the proposal for discussion.
  • Encourage Participation. Students who are not playing a role of either Mayor or Councillor play the role of the community. Encourage these "residents" to take on and dress up as a particular character.

Suggested topics for debate include:

  • A proposal from Council to provide a skate park in a local reserve. It might be near a retirement village or local businesses. This gives residents a chance to air their opinions/concerns re vandalism, crime etc.
  • Cat control issues - such as Council to introduce registration of cats or limiting number of cats per household or night-time curfew on cats.
  • Demolishing a historical home and surrounding trees and gardens to make way for three storey units.
  • Any environmental issues - such as development at the beach, factory near a river etc.
  • Dog issues: Dogs to be on leads at all times, Council reserve to be turned into Dog Park, One of Councils beaches to be a dog free zone.

For information on how a mock meeting should be run, please click here.

For Councils

The following information is designed to assist Councils in providing meaningful and engaging activities for students from local schools.

There are many ways Councils can become involved with their schools:

Guest Speakers and School Visits

The most usual is a visit to the classroom from an elected member, especially the Mayor, or member of staff. Many students are particularly interested in hearing from Council staff about Public Health and Safety, including environmental health, city compliance, immunisation and dog and parking controls.

Students Visiting the Council Chambers and related services

Schools are keen to visit the council chambers to experience firsthand how the council operates. Mock Council meetings are an excellent way to demonstrate to students how Council meetings work.

The local library is a valuable resource for students and worth a visit. Some councils have special programs for children, including regular make a book or writing competitions.

Primary school children enjoy depot visits and the opportunity to view works equipment. These interactions between school and Council can create very positive community relations.

Students working alongside councils on Community Projects

Sometimes classes work with Council to become involved in particular projects. Some schools have assisted Councils in community art programs. There are many programs available and some Councils employ or have access to a community artist to assist schools in painting promotional banners, murals, stobie poles or art parks. Some schools have assisted Councils with designing park benches, basketball backboards and other reserve and park equipment.

Some students have become involved in projects which have benefited the local environment. These include tree planting programs at their local reserve or park and the development of wetlands.

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