Facts and figures
- Population: 19.7 million
- Rates collected: $6.4 billion
- Local road length: 683,893 kilometres
- Number of employees: 145,000
- Local governing bodies: 562
- Value of infrastructure: $106.3 billion
The first local government established in Australia was in Adelaide in 1840.
Australia's largest council by population is Brisbane City Council, servicing a population of 898,500.
Australia's largest council by area is East Pilbara in Western Australia. It covers an area of 378,333 square kilometres, has a population of 6,832 and 2,864 kilometres of roads.
Australia has had four Prime Ministers who served on local government authorities.
- John Gorton (Kerang Shire Council)
- Ben Chifley (Abercrombie Shire Council)
- Earle Page (South Grafton Council)
- Arthur Fadden (Townsville City Council)
Constitutional responsibility for local government lies with the state and territory governments. Consequently, the roles and responsibilities of local government differ from state to state. Functions include:
- infrastructure and property services, including local roads, bridges, footpaths, drainage, waste collection and management
- provision of recreation facilities, such as parks, sports fields and stadiums, golf courses, swimming pools, sport centres, halls, camping grounds and caravan parks
- health services such as water and food inspection, immunisation services, toilet facilities, noise control and meat inspection and animal control
- community services, such as child care, aged care and accommodation, community care and welfare services
- building services, including inspections, licensing, certification and enforcement
- planning and development approval
- administration of facilities, such as airports and aerodromes, ports and marinas, cemeteries, parking facilities and street parking;
- cultural facilities and services, such as libraries, art galleries and museums
- water and sewerage services in some states
- other services, such as abattoirs, sale-yards and group purchasing schemes
Local government revenue comes from three main sources - taxation (rates), user charges and grants from Federal and state/territory governments. A fourth source, categorised as 'miscellaneous' by the ABS, consists of revenue raised through the likes of investment interest, dividend interest, income from public enterprise and fines.
Rates account for about 38 percent of total revenue. Rates comprise just 3 percent of tax raised by all levels of government and is the only tax levied by local government, of 260 taxes in Australia.
About one third of total local government revenue comes from user charges.
Overall, grants and subsidies from the Australian and state/territory governments account for around 17 percent of total revenue. For some rural and remote councils where own-source revenue raising capacity is limited, grants can account for more than 50% of council revenue.
The Australian Government provides financial assistance grants to local government. These are paid to state governments for distribution to local government via state grants commissions.
Councils are able to apply for funding under a range of Australian Government programs, such as the Road Safety Black Spot program and the Regional Solutions program.
Local government assets have a net worth of more than $212 billion (2005-06).