UPDATE 10.45am:
Ballina Shire Council has formally requested a female councillor be also invited to the Ballina Chamber of Commerce International Women's Day luncheon as a speaker representing the council.

The luncheon is scheduled to happen on Thursday, March 4, at the Ballina RSL Club.

Special guest announced for the luncheon was Cate McQuillen, the creator of Dirtgirl.

The motion passed by council yesterday said the council would "request the Chamber of Commerce to have a female councillor speak at the International Women's Day event, specifically on women in local government". 

It is not clear whether the councillors will speak together or separately.

The Northern Star has contacted the Ballina Chamber of Commerce for comment on how the event will be conducted.

The current president of the Ballina Chamber of Commerce, Sue Meehan, is a former Ballina Shire councillor.

More to come.

 

INITIAL REPORT:

Heated debate erupted at Ballina Shire Council when it was revealed a male councillor had been formally invited to speak at an International Women's Day event.

The debate became heated on Thursday after general manager, Paul Hickey, demanded the council was represented by a female councillor, which motivated the councillor invited to speak at the event, Phillip Meehan, to leave the room.

The International Women's Day luncheon is organised by the Ballina Chamber of Commerce, the board invited Cr Meehan to speak on behalf of the council this year.

Council sponsors the event, and a female councillor would normally be invited to speak on behalf of council.

The issue was raised earlier in the meeting by Councillor Sharon Cadwallader.

Cr Sharon Parry, who also raised issue with the matter, said the idea sent "a really poor message to the community".

"I wouldn't want want of the male councillors to speak about my experience as a councillor, because I have my own experience, and it's quite different from the males in this room, I can assure you," she said.

Before he left the room, Cr Meehan said he was invited to go and was happy to do so.

"I had a discussion with members of the board about this very matter, and the responses I received were that IWD are about all people celebrating women," he said.

"I would talk about women in local government, not from the perspective of a woman, not from the perspective of a man, but my opinion that, while women have made many advancement in areas of life, levels of government is an area where we don't see equity of representation," he explained.

"I'm really quite disappointed we are taking a gender discussion, it is quite disappointing."

The tipping point of the entire conversation that resulted Cr Meehan in leaving the room was when general manager Paul Hickey said that, from a staff prospective, the council should send a female to represent council.

"From a staff's perspective, we were quite surprised that a male was asked to speak on behalf of council," he said.

"I can assure you the staff did not agree with that proposal. However, we are sponsoring the event and that was a decision made by the board of the chamber.

"Listen to the lady councillors speaking here today, and who has to vote in the end, I think you need to take those views into account.

"It's a serious issue that you need to consider carefully.

"I would not just let six male councillors and two lady councillors vote, sure that's the way it works, but I would not support that from the GMs perspective."

Cr Cadwallader then asked to speak following the GMs comments but she had to wait for another five interjections by male councillors to have her say.

"Cr Parry and I decided we would do women an injustice if we didn't say anything about this," she said.

"Men have never open those events in the past.

"It may seem like an insignificant issue, but Sharon and I thought it was significant, because of the message it sends."

Cr Cadwallader thanked the general manager for his words on the issue.

More to come.


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