NSW, WA celebrate women in local government

By Shannon Jenkins

Monday August 31, 2020

There is scant interest from women in emulating the behaviours that men have always used to reach the top. (Image: Adobe/ Mangostar)

Women in local government have been recognised in New South Wales and Western Australia in recent days, while concerns have been raised over female representation in Victorian councils.

NSW local government minister Shelley Hancock and minister for women Bronnie Taylor on Monday announced the winners of the 2020 Ministers’ Awards for Women in Local Government.

They were joined at an online ceremony by former City of Sydney councillor and social advocate Kathryn Greiner.

The winners have shown “exceptional leadership” in serving their communities while leading the way for other women who may be considering a career in local government, according to Hancock.

“With our local communities impacted by bushfires, drought and COVID-19 this year, it has never been more important to recognise the dedication and commitment of the remarkable women serving in our local councils across the state,” she said.

“I congratulate this year’s award winners and nominees and sincerely thank them for their dedication and commitment to serving their local communities. In particular I would like to congratulate Cobar Mayor Cr Lilliane Brady OAM, the longest serving female mayor in NSW, who is the inaugural winner of the Minister for Local Government Award for Women.”

Alongside Brady, the winners include:

  • Camden Council director of community assets Sandra Kubeka, for the Alternative Pathways Award (Metro),
  • Shoalhaven City Council local emergency management officer Kim White, for the Alternative Pathways Award (Regional/Rural),
  • City of Sydney CEO Monica Barone, for the Champion of Change Award (Metro),
  • Tweed Shire Council human resources manager Suzanne Richmond, for the Champion of Change Award (Regional/Rural),
  • City of Canterbury Bankstown Cr Rachelle Harika, for the Elected Representative Award (Metro),
  • Forbes Shire Council Mayor Cr Phyllis Miller OAM, for the Elected Representative Award (Regional/Rural),
  • Liverpool City Council trainee Elizabeth Pirolo, for the Young Achiever’s Award (Metro),
  • Lake Macquarie City Council apprentice nursery officer landcare Annabell Hooghuis, for the Young Achiever’s Award (Regional/Rural),
  • The City of Sydney, for the Employment Diversity Award (Metro),
  • Wagga Wagga City Council, for the Employment Diversity Award (Regional/Rural).

Taylor noted that women represent less than a third of all councillors in NSW’s 128 local councils. She said more women were needed “to close the gender gap” and ensure councils were representative of the communities they serve.

Read more: How can women have greater impact in the public sector?

Meanwhile, the WA government on Friday celebrated 100 years since the first woman — Elizabeth Clapham — was elected to a local government in the state. She was elected to the Town of Cottesloe in 1920, and served on the council until 1922.

She paved the way for Edith Cowan, who was elected to WA Parliament a year later, becoming the first woman in Australia to join a parliament.

Speaking at an event organised by the WA branch of the Australian Local Government Women’s Association in Cottesloe, local government minister David Templeman said Clapham was “a pioneer woman in government”.

“Elizabeth Clapham is a great role model for women in WA and it is wonderful that we can finally give her the recognition she deserves today,” he said.

The 2019 WA local government elections saw an increase of 22% of women councillors. That representation must continue to increase, Templeman noted.

“Local governments need to ensure gender inclusive approaches to work continue and councils should aim to be more gender balanced and representative of our community,” he said.

This year has also marked 100 years since Victoria’s first woman councillor was elected: Mary Rogers, to the Richmond City Council.

Women currently make up 38% of councillors on the state’s 78 councils, and the government has set a target of 50% representation by 2025.

However, several female councillors have recently raised concerns over the possibility of losing representation due to COVID-19 — which has disproportionately impacted women and may prevent them from standing for elections — and other issues such as sexism.

The Victorian local council elections will be held in October.

Read more: New laws require Vic public sector to take gender equality seriously


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