Club Cowra

Most Ever Female Candidates For Cowra Council

Written by: The Cowra Phoenix

IMAGE: Rebecca Morgan, Cheryl Downing, Erin Watt, Donna Peters, Sharon D’Elboux. Absent from photo: Ruth Fagan, Nikki Kiss and Judi Smith.

For the first time in Cowra’s history, fifty per cent of candidates in the upcoming council elections on December 4 will be women.

Gender parity is unusual across NSW. In the Central NSW joint organisation, only in Cowra are 50 per cent of the candidates women. Forbes comes closest with 6 women candidates out of 13, with Bathurst pulling up the rear with only one woman-led group ticket out of 12. Currently, only 29 per cent of elected councillors are women in NSW: the worst performing state in Australia.

What can the rest of NSW learn from Cowra? I am a researcher with the Australian National University. I came to Cowra to try to understand why a record eight women decided to stand for election. What lessons will I take back that may be useful in improving gender equity across the state.

First, women candidates are motivated to serve their community and recognise the value of what they bring to the table. Candidates have developed skills, analytical capacities, and sense of possibilities from professional and volunteer experiences, and are more readily seeing these as relevant to council. In short, these women have confidence in what they bring to council, and a strong desire to contribute to the community.

Second, encouragement and support does have an impact. Cr Judi Smith has publicly called for more women to stand, influencing many to take the plunge. As important, male councillors have also encouraged several woman to contest. Workshops run by the Australian Local Government Women’s Association, and Women for Election Australia have helped with the nuts and bolts of local government and campaigning.

Third, there are more vacancies on council, encouraging more women and men to contest. While we deeply value the experience of sitting councillors, the power of incumbency can act as a barrier to achieving a more diverse council.

__By Associate Professor Tanya Jakimow Associate Professor of Anthropology and Australian Research Council Future Fellow __

Aging and Disability Commision

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