Celebrity politics in Australian local government: the case of Geelong’s directly elected mayor model experiment

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This research investigates celebrity politics in Australia’s local government by examining an inaugural directly elected mayor (DEM) model experiment undertaken in Geelong, the second largest city in the state of Victoria, Australia, which elected two celebrity mayors and created another celebrity. The single case study is undertaken by a participant-observer-researcher who has utilised their prior occupational participation in Geelong’s government and business community to establish a type of opportunistic complete member researcher (OCMR) status, drawn from a range of research work developed over the last 30 years. This unique OCMR status has created reflexive participant observation insights into an Australian local government DEM model experiment, which is melded with a longitudinal, narrative, descriptive and archival research design methodological approach to elucidate how celebrity contributed to this local government experiment. Its case narrative offers unprecedented documentation of the events, actors and institutions implicated in the experiment and provides a rare example of celebrity politics in office. With the increased likelihood that DEM models are more susceptible than other government systems to attracting and creating celebrities, this research seeks to understand what can be learned from the Geelong experiment. It builds a foundation by amalgamating celebrity politics and local government literature to inform the debate on DEM models, DEMs and directly elected celebrity mayors (DECMs). This research reveals the factors that led to the establishment, questionable results, and ultimate reversal of Geelong’s DEM model experiment. It includes timely insights into micro and macro governance structures, political and economic circumstances, referendums, citizen juries, consultation, councillor cooperation, local government administration and how DECMs align the divergent requirements of politics and celebrity. The research also offers advice on how future DECMs can be better supported through the auspices of local government administrators so that they may learn how local government works. Finally, in a time of mass media and social networks, this research deliberates whether DEM model experiments should be adopted for future governance arrangements given the risk of unpredictable celebrities who lack local government knowledge and experience being elected.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Marshall, David, Principal Supervisor
  • Totman, Sally, Co-Supervisor
  • Cox, Roslyn, Co-Supervisor
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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