Su Fei Tan is a Senior Research Officer with the UTS Centre for Local Government. A committed and hard working professional with more than 10 years’ experience of research and capacity building for local government, Su Fei’s areas of interest and expertise include local democracy and representation, environmental sustainability, strategic planning, and supporting local government in developing countries. These are complemented by a wide range of skills and experience in project management, editing and research.
With extensive experience in research on issues of inequity, environmental sustainability and democratic representation, Su Fei has carried out work to understand community understanding of sustainability and natural resource management and worked with community based organisations to identify strategies achieve identified objectives with regard to sustainability. This involved extensive field work including surveys and interviews with a wide range of stakeholders including policy makers and local opinion leaders.
Su Fei is currently leading a project to understand better the motivations of local government councillors and their perceptions of democratic representation. This work involves an extensive review of literature and legislation together with focus groups and key stakeholder interviews as well as a national survey of locally elected members.
- Co-editor Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance
Current areas of research include:
- Local representation and democracy in Australian Local Government: examining the role of locally elected members
- Local government reform processes
- Strategic planning requirements for local governments across Australia
- Public Value and Australian Local Government
- Gender issues
Past areas of research include:
- Making Decentralisation Work: Capacity building for local governments in West Africa
- Gender and access to land in Mali and Niger
Current teaching areas include:
- Local Government and Environment Management
- Comparative Local Governance
- Research in Local Government
- Community Strategic Planning
- Workforce Planning for Local Government
- Local Representation and Democracy
Tan, SF, Morris, A & Grant, B, 'Mind the gap: Australian local government reform and councillors' understandings of their roles', Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance, pp. 19-39.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Over the last two decades a feature of local government reforms globally has been the introduction of New Public Management (NPM). Under this broad approach to public administration there is an expectation that councillors play a greater strategic role and move away from involvement in day-to-day management. This research, carried out in the state of Victoria, Australia, examines councillors' understandings of their roles. Based on 17 in-depth interviews and two focus groups, we found that despite the evolving legislative requirements framing councillors as policymakers not managers, most councillors continued to seek involvement in the day-to-day management of councils. We argue that this gap may be linked to the diversity of views concerning the role of the councillor and the idea of representation and how both play out at the local level. It may also signal a lack of awareness as to how the legislatively inscribed role for councillors has changed over time.
Tan, S 2017, 'Local representation in Australia: Preliminary findings of a national survey' in Schoburg, E & Ryan, R (eds), Handbook of Research on Sub-national Governance and Development, IGI Global, Hershey PA, pp. 368-384.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
This chapter explores the challenges of local representation within the context of Australian local government reform. Since the 1990s Australian local government has been undergoing a continuing process of reform that has reshaped the role of the elected members or councilors. In many states, changes to the legislation since the 1990s clearly demarcate the role of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and that of councilors. The CEO generally has management responsibility, while councilors are responsible for strategy and policy making. While a great deal of effort has been expended in developing and effecting these reforms on an institutional level, little is known about whether councilors themselves understand responsibility or how they view their role. This research seeks to address this gap.
Grant, B, Woods, R & Tan, SF 2017, 'Subnational finance in Australia and China: The case for municipal bond banks' in Handbook of Research on Sub-National Governance and Development, IGI Global, USA, pp. 150-166.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2017 by IGI Global. All rights reserved.The political and economic benefits of decentralization have been cogently represented, to the extent that decentralization and devolution comprise identifiable programs of reform across a range of polities. However, the public policy question of finance following function - and the oversight of this process - is less resolved. Further, concerns over the financial sustainability of sub-national governments continue across a range of polities. Against the backdrop of reforms to municipal finance in both Australia and China, this chapter provides an account of the formation and functioning of two successful sub-national financial institutions, the Local Government Finance Authority of South Australia (LGFA) and the Municipal Finance Authority of British Colombia. The case studies suggest that sub-national finance may not be the thorn in the side of decentralization it sometimes appears to be. The broader introduction of such financial instruments is considered.
Tan, SF & Gueye, B 2008, 'Resilience of Family Farming in West Africa' in Gupta, V, Levenburg, N, Moore, L, Motwani, J & Schwars, T (eds), Culturally sensitive models of family business in sub-Saharan Africa: A Compendium using the GLOBE paradigm, Icfai University Press, pp. 164-187.
Kanji, N, Tan, SF & Toulmin, C 2007, 'Introduction: Boserup Revisited' in Woman's Role in Economic Development, Earthscan: London.
Pugalis, L & Tan, S 2016, 'Metropolitan and Regional Economic Development: Competing and Contested Local Government Roles in Australia in the 21st Century', Refereed Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Regional Science Association International, Australian And New Zealand Regional Science Association International, Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit, Lincoln University, RMIT.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Economic development is a priority of all levels of government; irrespective of country,
constitution or system of governance. This is particularly the case in Australia, where federal,
state and local tiers of government are undertaking activities intended to support economic
growth. However, roles and responsibilities are not always clear, which reflects interorganisational,
intergovernmental and intra-organisational conflict, contradictions,
duplications and fissures. Traditionally the role of local government in the subnational
economic development policy space has been rather limited, although their remit and
engagement in this sphere has increased steadily since the 1980s. Even so, the role of councils
in subnational economic development – and metropolitan and regional economic development
in particular – remains ambiguous and contested. Derived from findings from a project funded
by the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government investigating the role of local
government in the organisation and promotion of economic development, this paper intends
to make two contributions to the literature. First, it shows how the conceptual messiness of
the notion of (metropolitan and regional) economic development can both enable and
constrain local government practice. Secondly, a state-level policy vacuum is apparent, which
is a source of frustration amongst local practitioners. A key policy implication is the need to
open-up more space for dialogue between different tiers of government to help engender a
shared understanding of economic development, including the roles of different actors.
Tan, S.F. 2014, 'The gap between institutional expectations and councillor perceptions of their roles: how serious can it be?', International Research Society for Public Management Conference 2014, International Research Society for Public Management (IRSPM), Ottawa, Canada.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
This study, carried out in the Australian state of Victoria, sought to understand councillors' perceptions of their representative role. In Australia, local government powers and functions are prescribed through state and territory legislation. They do this within a broader public policy context of reform which has evolved significantly. Most recently local government reform has been characterised by the introduction of business and managerialist approaches. These reform processes envisage a more strategic role for councillors. To test councillors' alignment with these institutional expectations, interviews were carried out. The research found that despite the legislative framing of their roles and direction of reform, councillors' perceptions and practice were different from what was expected.
Tan, S.F. & Scott, V. 2013, 'Lessons Learned from Building Capacity for Workforce Planning in Western Australia', Public Works Explore New Territory Conference, Public Works Explore New Territory Conference, IPWEA, Darwin, NT.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
This report explores motivations for, and facilitators and barriers of, inter-council learning. The study identifies how information, ideas and inspiration is accessed from peers and then taken further and embedded within their own organisations.
The Public Value project, led by the Local Government Business Excellence Network (LGBEN) with support from the Australian Centre of Excellence Local Government (ACELG), explores the current understanding of Public Value concepts.
The aims of the project are to develop an understanding of Public Value Creation, to provide examples of Public Value Creation from the Australian local government sector, to assist others in identifying examples of Public Value Creation from their own councils and to provide accounts of these examples to demonstrate how local government contributes to is communities and more broadly.
Intended outcomes include the development of a robust definition and understanding of Public Value Creation and assisting local governments to place themselves on a footing for continuous organisational improvement.
Tan, S.F. & Artist, S. Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government 2013, Strategic Planning in Australian Local Government: A Comparative Analysis of State Frameworks, University of Technology, Sydney.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Tan, S.F. & Grant, B.J. Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government 2013, Local Representation in Australia: A Review of the Legislation and Literature, University of Technology, Sydney.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Mainlay, J & Tan, SF IIED 2012, Mainstreaming gender and climate change in Nepal, London.
Bonjer, D, Fallding, M, Tan, SF, Farrier, D, Powell, J & Kelly, AH 2012, Local Government Approaches to Planning and Managing Conservation Connectivity and Wildlife Corridors (June).
McKinlay, P., Pillora, S.D., Tan, S.F. & Tunzelmann, V. Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government 2012, Evolution in Community Governance Building on What Works, University of Technology, Sydney.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Sansom, G.C., Dawkins, J. & Tan, S.F. Centre for Local Government 2012, The Australian Model of Metropolitan Governance: Insights from Perth and South East Queensland, University of Technology, Sydney.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Monimart, M & Tan, SF IIED 2011, Gender and access to land and natural resources in Mali and Niger, Making Gender and Generation Matter for Sustainable Development, London.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Australia's local government sector has been undergoing reform in recent decades. The result has been fewer and larger local governments and a reshaped role for elected members or councillors. But do councillors understand what this means for them?