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Local Government: Principles and Practice (online)

This course explores the fascinating issues of local democracy, community, funding, service delivery and leadership and their impacts on local governance and intergovernmental relations. Understanding local government principles and practice is key to working effectively in this area. Immerse yourself in this online course and learn the key concepts and theories about local government, its rationale, purpose and key challenges. This course is also offered in a face-to-face format.

About this course

Local Government is a strategic player in the intergovernmental space and has the capacity through its authority, positioning and strategic planning to influence and drive community growth and change. By completing this course, you will build a strong foundation in the theory, history and practice of local government. You will read, debate and extend your understanding of fiscal federalism, decentralisation, multi-level governance and metropolitan and regional governance. This course focuses on the difficulties that currently confront local government, and through an innovative online learning platform, will impart greater understanding of the values, knowledge and skills needed to address these professional challenges.

Course structure

What do you need to work effectively in the ever-complex local government space? Firstly, you need to understand the fundamental principles and practice at play. This local government course online explores the fundamentals, covering ‘the core of the core’ and posits local government as a strategic player in the intergovernmental space.

You will learn to better understand local government’s authority, strategy and capacity to achieve better community outcomes. Course materials range from why councils matter through to intergovernmental relations, engaging and delivering for the community and the future for local government.

This course delivers the fundamental principles and practice needed to work effectively in the local government space. It shows how government and local government strategically intertwine, touching on the role of elected representatives and not-for-profits. Learn how democracy, public value, service delivery, reform and leadership are integral to healthy, productive local government outcomes.

This course will explore the following content:

Why local government matters

We break the ice by examining empirical research that strongly suggests people think local government is important across many dimensions: Service delivery and planning; as part of the democratic fabric of societies; to foster place attachment and for Indigenous local governance. We also examine the place of local government historically, explaining its complex and varied relationship with higher tiers of government.

Understanding government and local government

As well as providing a granular account of local government and Indigenous local governance in Australia and more broadly, we consider the dimensions of local democracy, the provision of goods and services (public; private; shared) and what the shift from ‘government’ to ‘governance’ entails.

Fiscal federalism and decentralisation

We examine the theory and practice of fiscal decentralisation and fiscal federalism, providing a detailed account of Australia’s intergovernmental fiscal relations, local government finances and options for reforming these in comparative international perspective.

Understanding and engaging local communities

We examine how communities are understood and mapped by local governments for planning and well-being. We provide you with approaches and tools for engaging communities for planning and community development.

Public value, reform and leadership

We provide you with frameworks and tools for better management in local government, focusing on public value creation. We also examine key reforms to local government in Australia and internationally, including amalgamations, changes to leadership and options for service delivery.

Local government in the future

Key challenges faced by local government are explored and remedies to address these provided. We examine the global cities in theory and practice, local economic development and the importance of local government in non-metropolitan areas.


Learning outcomes

At the completion of this course you will have an understanding of:

  • Key theories relating to local government and the political and legislative framework
  • Current issues facing local government as a tier of government in Australia
  • Applying concepts relating to local government, democracy, service delivery, governance, management and reform to your own practice
  • Capacity building processes that would meet the needs of councils and their communities.


Course delivery

This course is designed as a self-paced online course. Participants will be able to work through the seven modules and quizzes at their pace, and will receive a certificate of attendance upon completion. Throughout this course, participants will be able to directly contact the course coordinator. 

This online course is also offered in a face-to-face delivery mode, for details see our Local Government Course: Principles and Practice


Course prerequisites

This local government course has no prerequisites and is open to all members of the public.


In-house training

This course can also be customised and/or delivered in-house. Find out more

Who is this course for?

This course is suitable for professionals who want to effectively engage with governance, management and reform in the public sector. The course is also suitable for elected representatives or aspiring representatives at any level of government who need a ‘deep dive’ into local government.



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