Inner West council election, 2021

The Inner West council covers suburbs immediately to the west of the Sydney city centre. The council is bounded by the Cooks River in the south and is bounded by Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River in the north, on the shoreline of the Balmain peninsula.

The council covers the suburbs of Annandale, Ashfield, Balmain, Dulwich Hill, Enmore, Haberfield, Leichhardt, Lilyfield, Marrickville, Petersham, Rozelle, Stanmore, St Peters, Summer Hill, Sydenham, Tempe and parts of Croydon, Camperdown and Newtown. The council has a population of about 201,000 as of 2019.

Inner West is divided into five wards, with each ward electing three councillors.

Ashfield-Djarrawunang ward covers the south-western corner of the council, including Dulwich Hill, Summer Hill and southern parts of Ashfield. The ward is bounded by Wardell Road to the south-east, by the light rail line and Parramatta Road to the north-east, and the north-eastern boundary (which divides the suburb of Ashfield) runs along the railway line.

Balmain-Baludarri ward covers the northernmost part of the council, including all of the peninsula of the same name. The ward covers the suburbs of Balmain, Rozelle, Lilyfield and the northern parts of Annandale. The ward’s southern boundary runs along Booth St, Moore St, Balmain Road and the City West Link.

Leichhardt-Gulgadya ward covers those suburbs on the north side of Parramatta Road, as well as northern parts of Ashfield. The ward covers the suburbs of Haberfield, Leichhardt and parts of Ashfield and Annandale. The border runs through Annandale along Moore St and Booth St, while Ashfield is split along the railway line.

Marrickville-Midjuburi ward covers the south-eastern corner of the council, including Marrickville, St Peters, Sydenham and Tempe. The ward is bounded by Wardell Road to the west, Newington Road to the north and Edgware Road and Wells St to the north-east.

Stanmore-Damun ward covers the the centre of the council, and its eastern edge. The ward covers the suburbs of Enmore, Lewisham, Petersham, Stanmore and those parts of Camperdown and Newtown to the west of King Street.

No changes were made to the boundaries of wards, but the names were changed. The wards were previously named after suburbs, but they are now co-named with local Aboriginal words, specifically:

  • Ashfield – Djarrawunang (Magpie)
  • Balmain – Baludarri (Leather Jacket)
  • Leichhardt – Gulgadya (Grass Tree)
  • Marrickville – Midjuburi (Lillypilly)
  • Stanmore – Damun (Port Jackson Fig)

Incumbent councillors

Ashfield-Djarrawunang Mark Drury (Labor) Tom Kiat (Greens) Julie Passas (Liberal)
Balmain-Baludarri Darcy Byrne (Labor) Rochelle Porteous (Greens) John Stamolis (Independent)
Leichhardt-Gulgadya Marghanita Da Cruz (Greens) Lucille Mckenna (Labor) Vittoria Raciti (Liberal)
Marrickville-Midjuburi Colin Hesse (Greens) Sam Iskandar (Labor) Victor Macri (Independent)
Stanmore-Damun Pauline Lockie (Independent) Louise Steer (Greens) Anna York (Labor)

Inner West Council was created out of a merger of Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville councils in 2016. The 2017 guide covers the previous history of these three councils and how much of the new council came from its predecessors.

These three councils had a long history of being governed singlehandedly by Labor, but by the 1990s that hold was starting to slip. Marrickville and Leichhardt in particular were strongholds for the Greens, although the Greens also did well on occasion in Ashfield.

In 2004, the Greens won five seats in Marrickville, four in Leichhardt and three in Ashfield.

Around this time, Labor, the Liberal Party and local independents began to forge anti-Greens alliances. Alliances like this one led Leichhardt throughout the term and led Marrickville for part of the term, with a Greens/independent alliance alternating in power depending on the draw of the hat. The first Liberal mayor of Leichhardt took the reins in 2005, serving between two Labor mayoral terms. The draw of the hat saw the first Greens mayor of Marrickville in 2005.

An alliance of Labor and independents also ran Ashfield, but without such a clear anti-Greens positioning.

The 2008 election was status quo in Ashfield and Marrickville, while the Greens won six out of twelve seats in Leichhardt, giving them a working majority. The Greens’ Jamie Parker took the mayoralty until he was elected as the state MP for Balmain in 2011, when he was succeeded by Rochelle Porteous.

The 2012 election was a good one for the right and a bad one for the Greens across the three councils. The Greens were reduced to four seats each in Leichhardt and Marrickville, and were wiped out in Ashfield. The first Liberals were elected in Marrickville, and a Labor/Liberal/independent coalition had a clear majority in Marrickville.

Labor and the Greens formed an alliance in Leichhardt, with Labor’s Darcy Byrne and the Greens’ Rochelle Porteous alternating in the mayoralty.

The Liberals were also strengthened in Ashfield but remained in opposition, with a governing alliance of Labor and independents still running the show.

The three councils were amalgamated to form the Inner West Council in 2016.

The first Inner West Council election in 2017 saw both Labor and Greens win five seats each, along with two Liberals and three independents. Those three independents included Vic Macri, a conservative councillor who had previously allied with Labor in Marrickville, John Stamolis, a centre-left councillor who had previously allied with the Greens in Leichhardt, and Pauline Lockie, a first-time left-wing independent councillor.

This gave an alliance of Labor, Liberal and Vic Macri an 8-7 majority in the first mayoral and deputy mayoral election. Labor’s Darcy Byrne has served as mayor for the last four years, with Liberals (Julie Passas and Vittoria Raciti) taking the deputy mayoralty for two years, and independent Vic Macri taking the mayoralty in the other year.

The 8-7 majority has not remained entirely solid. John Stamolis, who supported the Greens over Labor in 2017, has chosen to abstain on occasion and voted for Macri for deputy mayor in 2020.

Candidate summary
The Greens have announced their lead candidates for five wards:

Jack Robertson is running as an independent for Balmain-Baludarri ward.

The last four years on Inner West Council have divided into an alliance of eight versus an alliance of six or seven, with John Stamolis a not-quite-solid member of the minority alliance.

It would not take much to upset this alliance. The Labor/Liberal/Macri alliance won three out of five seats in the Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville wards. The final count in Marrickville was particularly close, with Macri defeating fellow independent Victoria Pye by 162 votes (0.8% of the total formal vote). While Pye was an untested candidate, she would have almost certainly been more open to working with the Greens. There would not have been a solid eight-vote anti-Greens majority.

So Macri’s seat is very much in play, vulnerable to either a more progressive independent or a second Green. There is no prospect of a gain for the Greens or a friendly independent in Ashfield ward, but there may be a prospect of gaining a seat off the Liberals in Leichhardt.

There may be prospects for other change within the coalitions.

Labor’s second candidate came within 1465 votes of defeating Liberal Julie Passas in the Ashfield ward. It seems quite plausible that seat could change. It is also possible that a rise in the Greens vote could replace Pauline Lockie with a Green.

It is very hard to see Labor or the Greens dropping below five seats, or reaching the eight seats necessary for a single-party majority.

If the current majority coalition drops below eight, this may result in a Greens/independent coalition taking over, but it could also lead to a power-sharing deal between Labor and the Greens, as occurred in Leichhardt between 2012 and 2016.

2017 results

PartyVotes%SwingSeats won
Labor 33,87633.89+3.25
Greens 28,81528.83+1.35
Liberal 17,54917.56-4.72

Vote breakdown by ward
The following table shows the vote in each ward.

Labor topped the primary vote in four wards, with a vote ranging from 29.4% in Stanmore to 42.9% in Balmain.

The Greens topped the primary vote in Stanmore, with a vote ranging from 22.3% in Balmain to 33.6% in Stanmore.

The Liberal primary vote ranged from 9.3% in Marrickville to 27.5% in Leichhardt. The Liberals won two seats in the Ashfield and Leichhardt wards.

I have also identified six independents who polled a substantial part of the vote. Two of these independents are clearly of the right: Morris Mansour in Ashfield and Vic Macri in Marrickville. The other four are generally more willing to work with the Greens, or seemed so in 2017: John Stamolis in Balmain, John Lozano in Leichhardt, Victoria Pye in Marrickville and Pauline Lockie in Stanmore.

Each of these candidates polled over 10% in their ward, with those polling over 16% winning a seat.

Voter groupALP %GRN %LIB %L_I %R_I %

Election results at the 2017 Inner West Council election

Toggle between primary votes for Labor, the Greens, the Liberal Party, and various independent candidates.

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  1. If the Liberals got their act together in the Balmain Ward, and ran a half-decent campaign, they could pick up a seat here. John Stamolis edged out the Liberal candidate for the last seat by a margin of just 210 votes last time (3969 to 3759). The aggregate Liberal primary vote was higher than the Stamolis vote (3644 to 3593). And yet the Liberals did next to nothing – I never saw a candidate, never received anything in the letterbox, and only saw a handful of posters about a day before. Imagine if they actually ran a campaign!

  2. Kinda hard for a party like Greens or Labor to improve from their starting point of 1 in each district.

    STV tends to have primary votes pool with your top candidate from a party. You might win a seats from 0.7 quotas, but the same party with 1.4 quotas is comparatively unlikely to win the 2nd seat.

    Either they need extremely concerted campaigns for a 2nd candidate that eats into the incumbents vote and gets them below a quota (a la Greens candidate Rebecca Vassarotti in Kurrajong), or just rely on off ticket “independents” as the pathway to a 2nd seat.

  3. Darebin 2016, the peak of Greens popularity there, elected 2 Greens and a former Green independent as the 3 councillors for a ward. Greens also got 2 in mutile 3 member Yarra wards last year and now have a Green majority government.

    I think the Greens pitch works better at the local government level with the Victorian Greens winning single member wards last year in areas they aren’t even remotely competitive in federally.

    All that to say I wouldn’t rule out 2 Greens winning in a ward, though it’s a tall order

  4. That’s happened a number of times in the old councils in this area. The Greens held two seats in the North ward (Newtown) of Marrickville from 2004-2012.

    They also won 2/3 councillors in two wards of Leichhardt Council in 2008, giving them 6/12 seats total.

  5. Hi Ben. Just advising you that I am running as a ‘Community Independent’ candidate for the IWC in the Balmain-Baludarri ward. (Group ticket but my running mates are essentially research/advisory/support to my campaigning.) If you or any Tally Room subscribers would like to know more about me, my views and why I’m running, my anchor website is here.

    Thanks for your work at the TR, always a fabulous way to follow elections. Will be a curious experience following one from the inside!

  6. I find it oblivious that Labor and the Greens aren’t working together. Why aren’t they? You would think 2 progressive parties with almost the same causes would work together. Why would the Libs support a grand coalition over their traditional rival Labor?

  7. Ah, Daniel, there is a loooooong and (dis)honourable tradition of red-on-red-and/or-green fratricide here in wicker basket land. Inner West progressive politics manifests a version of the old adage about academic debates: when the stakes are at their lowest and the differences their most slender…the fightin’s at its most vicious and destructive!

    As for the Libs’ motivation, another old saw will suit: Divide and Conquer. I imagine that once again the Tories’ll kick a half-comatose candidate out of bed at about two-minutes-before-polls-open, and as they did last time, will still pull several thou’ first prefs anyway…

  8. In addition to Jack’s observation on the low stakes/small differences, the other feature of the Green vote (not so much the Councillors, but their voter base) is the “green on the outside, blue on the inside” phenomenon. Particularly in the wealthier Balmain, Birchgrove, Annandale areas, it’s an evolutionary step in gentrification where you’ll find Green voters who’ll sooner have a local pub shut down than patronise the venue, and certainly plenty who will vote Green for council and maybe state, but Liberal federally. OR, they’ll find a conservative independent who will block DAs and preference the Greens (even better than having to cross that threshold from blue to green!). This is less so in the Newtown/Marrickville area with the younger demographic, where the candidates and their voters are more typecast.

    My humble observations as a long-time local, for what it’s worth.

  9. Hi Luke and Jack, why is caring about the environment a right / left thing? Have you read the Greens economic policies, a lot of it is market based. For things where market failure is evident then you need govt intervention, regulation isn’t bad, bad regulation is bad.


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