Kyogle Mayor Danielle Mulholland, Lismore deputy mayor Darlene Cook and Byron Shire deputy mayor Sarah Ndiaye.
Kyogle Mayor Danielle Mulholland, Lismore deputy mayor Darlene Cook and Byron Shire deputy mayor Sarah Ndiaye. Contributed

BOYS' CLUB: Is time for quotas to get more women on council?

IT'S the age old question - should governments have a quota for female representation?

This time next year NSW voters will be heading to the polls to decide who they want representing them in local government.

Here on the Northern Rivers, out of the total 61 councillors representing the Lismore, Ballina, Byron, Richmond Valley, Kyogle, Tenterfield LGAs, only 18 of those people are female.

 

Percentage of women in local government in the Northern Rivers.
Percentage of women in local government in the Northern Rivers. Centro Art

The Federal Labor Party first introduced a female quota in 1994, and at the last election 47 per cent lower house MPs and senators elected were female.

They just fell slightly short of the 50 per cent goal they set back in 2015.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Party, who have refused to introduce quotas, saw only 23 per cent females elected to both houses in the May elections.

But locally, Kyogle Mayor Danielle Mulholland said she wasn't convinced quotas work.

"It's a democracy, people will vote for who they think will do the best job," she said.

"Yes, local government is heavily dominated by older men but that is no doubt because the stipend paid to councillors is not a living wage - it's community service.

"This makes it challenging for anyone with families or full time jobs."

While Kyogle Council currently has four female councillors and four male councillors, Cr Mulholland said she'd like to see more women put their hand up for the councillor role.

"In larger, more populated councils, I could see where breaking into the "boys club" would be challenging but women do bring a different perspective to government decision making and should be encouraged to run," Cr Mulholland said.

However, Lismore Labor MP Janelle Saffin welcomed the idea of local governments investigating quotas, after the success her own party had with introducing the policy.

"It's up to the local government association and the women's group within local government but quotas do work," Ms Saffin said.

"In my party they've worked where we've got to a steady state, so I would welcome the discussion.

"I would say with the elections coming up next year to all the women who are interested, 'step up'.

"It's great to be a community representative at any level. Our communities really like the women to be in there.

"Put your hand up, get in and do it. It can be tough but it's absolutely rewarding."