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Australia has three tiers of government - federal, state and local.

Queensland's 77 local councils operate under the local government system – a system that is integral to the democratic system of government in Australia.

The legal framework within which local government operates in Queensland is provided by State Government legislation:

Democratically elected members make up local government councils, with elections held every four years.

As with other democratically elected governments, councils have powers to raise revenue (partly through council rates) to provide and maintain infrastructure and services, to regulate activities (such as building development) and to impose penalties if local regulations are breached (for example dangerous dog attacks).

Since the 1960s the role of councils has steadily expanded, due to increased demand and expectation for local services. Local government provides vital economic, social and environmental support for communities.

At times (for example in the area of planning and development) councils work with the State Government, and their decisions may be subject to advice and direction from the State.

Whether a service is a legislative requirement of councils, or is provided by local choice, the Local Government Act requires that councils are responsive to the needs, interests and aspirations of individuals and groups within their communities.