In 2012, a young Alf Walker noticed his local council in the NSW southern tablelands was lacking in young people, councillors from lower socio-economic backgrounds and indigenous representatives.
His next thought was that he was all three of those things.
At the age of 26, he became the first Aboriginal person elected to Goulburn Mulwaree Council, and also one of the youngest ever to serve.
At the time, he could "count on one hand" the number of Aboriginal councillors around NSW.
"I thought, these people needed a voice," he said.
Office of Local Government data almost bears this out. In 2012/13 there were just 28 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) councillors out of 1480 in NSW.
By 2016/17, when amalgamations occurred, they constituted only 23 of the State's 1059 councillors. The number did not improve in 2017/18, with 24 of 1293, or 1.8 per cent, being of ATSI heritage.
"It is underwhelming," Cr Walker said.
"Aboriginal culture is about shared decision making and local government is that strategy formalised. It follows that people should be represented."
The proud Wiradjuri and Yuin man's grandfather was an "elder of elders". Cr Walker said his own leadership and community roles gave him a platform to pursue a council position.
He has delivered the Acknowledgement of Country at many civic functions. With Mayor Bob Kirk, he implemented the acknowledgement at the start of each meeting. This in itself demonstrated a growing awareness of First Nations people, he said.
Cr Walker served as deputy mayor from 2016 to 2018. He believed his overall representation had strengthened and supported decision making on Aboriginal issues.
This year he participated in an Office of Local Government campaign to increase cultural diversity on councils.
Cr Alf Walker has one message for anyone of Aboriginal or Torres Strait islander background thinking of running for council.
"Just do it," he said.
"Build your community profile and understand you are part of a team."
Meantime, Gamilaraay man Tom Stanton had a very different motivation when he stood for Brewarrina Shire Council at a 2014 by-election.
"Goodooga, where I live, is 120km from Brewarrina and we didn't have a representative on the council," he said.
"I was contacted by a number of people to stand and I decided to put my hand up."
Though "inexperienced" in local government, he fulfilled his main goal to seal the road to the local cemetery, ensuring drivers wouldn't become bogged in wet weather.
The school administrator and former deputy mayor was also part of a successful campaign to secure the final slice of $54 million in government funding to seal the 96km road from Brewarrina to the Queensland border.
The last section, between Goodooga and Brewarrina, will be completed by Christmas. It will mean more tourism opportunities, particularly for Goodooga's Great Artesian Bore Baths where caravanners and campers flock for its healing springs.
"It will be good because in winter we have up to 70 vans there at times," Cr Stanton said.
It will also create the shortest route between Brisbane and Adelaide.
The project has created significant employment for locals, thanks to a council program.
"We have young blokes working on the council who were previously unemployed and hadn't driven machinery before," he said.
"Now the majority of people working on the road are local."
General manager Jeff Sowiak said the council had set itself up as a "model employer."
"Our philosophy is that if people have the capacity to learn and want to work, we will train them," he said.
To this end, the Shire held a special recruitment day when the road contract arose and helped people, many of them indigenous, with their application forms.
Eighty per cent of its outdoor staff are of ATSI origin. They constitute 66pc of employees overall. Three work in management, including Mr Sowiak himself.
The statistics are also improving in representative ranks.
Cr Stanton is one of three Aboriginal councillors, the others being Donna Jeffries and Marky Brown.
"It's very important that ATSI people have a voice because they make up most of our population (1600). A hell of a lot affects them," he said.
"Years ago they had no representation. Early in my term I would attend workshops and conferences in Sydney and there weren't a lot of Aboriginal faces."
This year, thanks in part to the Office of Local Government drive, seven of the 10 candidates for the Brewarrina Shire at the December 4 poll, are of ATSI origin.
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