COUNCILLOR Monica Morse sparked something of a battle of the sexes earlier this month when she spoke out about what she called a “boys’ club” on Bathurst Regional Council.
Plenty accused her of sour grapes after Cr Morse failed to win a deputy mayoral vote.
The criticism can’t have come as a surprise to her – Cr Morse has fended off plenty of such critics in more than eight years on council.
But the criticism also served to illustrate exactly what Cr Morse has been saying for may of those years – that council is not currently a place that either welcomes women or looks an attractive option to women.
And Bathurst is not alone.
The remarkable fact is that the single female councillor currently serving on Bathurst Regional Council is one more than currently serving in Orange and one more than in Blayney.
The imbalance in all these areas – and others across the state – is not that there is a lack of quality female local candidates but, rather, that so few of them are putting their hands up to contest the elections.
And that is robbing these areas of a diversity of voices and views on council that’s needed to ensure councils are operating at full capacity.
Cr Morse has announced she will not be contesting council elections in September but she is doing what she can to ensure other quality women candidates get their names on the ballot paper.
She will host an information session for would-be candidates next week and has issued an open invitation for interested women from all council areas to attend.
Attendees will discuss the pros and cons of running for council and Cr Morse will share her experiences – good and bad – from her years in the chamber.
But the real key to getting women on council – or any candidate, for that matter – is increasingly becoming the approach they take to the election itself.
It is becoming harder and harder for individual “below the line” candidates to win a spot on council and with a large field of “above the line” tickets expected this year, very few will get both their number one and number two candidates across the line.
Serious council candidates, male and female, will be forced to put together their own teams and put themselves number one.
This year’s election could be less about finding the right policies than finding the right friends to act as cannon fodder.