Local government in Australia

Local government is the third level of government in Australia, administered with limited autonomy under the states and territories, and in turn beneath the federal government.[1] Local government is not mentioned in the Constitution of Australia, and two referendums in 1974 and 1988 to alter the Constitution relating to local government were unsuccessful.[2] Every state/territory government recognises local government in its own respective constitution.[3] Unlike the two-tier local government system in Canada or the United States, there is only one tier of local government in each Australian state/territory, with no distinction between counties and cities.

The Australian local government is generally run by a council, and its territory of public administration is referred to generically by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as the local government area or LGA, each of which encompasses multiple suburbs or localities often of different postcodes; however, stylised terms such as "city", "borough" and "shire" also have a geographic or historical interpretation. The council board members are generally known as councillors, and the head councillor is called the mayor. As of August 2016, there were 547 local councils in Australia.[4]

Despite the single tier of local governance in Australia, there are a number of extensive regions with relatively low populations that are not a part of any established LGA. Powers of local governments in these unincorporated areas may be exercised by special-purpose governing bodies established outside of the local legislation, as with Victoria's alpine resorts; or directly administered by state/territory governments, such as the entirety of the Australian Capital Territory. The administrative area covered by local government councils in Australia ranges from as small as 1.5 km2 (0.58 sq mi) for the Shire of Peppermint Grove in metropolitan Perth, to as big as 380,000 km2 (150,000 sq mi) for the Unorganised Government Area in South Australia's Coober region, which covers a geographical area larger than Egypt or Pakistan.


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