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The past few years has really shone a light on what is important in life, and one of those important things for most, is the community in which we all live – our beloved Shire. The pandemic allowed many of us to find the time to reconnect with our surroundings - through long forgotten footpaths, parks, and beaches. You wouldn’t be alone if in this process, you thought about the importance of having a say in what goes on in our local area, or if you found yourself caring for the first time how decisions are made in public office. While research shows the apathetic Australian voter tends to not expect much from their elected officials due to the endless corruption and revolving door of leaders, many of our community have decided that the only way to change this, is to run for public office themselves, many of them women.
This article will introduce you to some of our local female candidates for the Sutherland Shire Council elections that are being held on 4th December 2021, many of which are ShireWomen members or friends and supporters you all know.
Currently, out of 14 Councillors in the Sutherland Shire, only 3 are women. In the NSW State Legislative Council of 42 members, there are only 12 women. In the NSW Legislative Assembly of 93 members, only 33 are women. In the Federal Parliament of 151 members, there are 47 women in the lower house, and 40 in the upper house of 76 members.
Well, women represent over half of the population in Australia, and we have not, apart from a short stint of a female Prime Minister, had much power in the public service decision making process. NSW only legislated abortion when Gladys Berijiklian pushed the legislation through parliament in 2019 and was one of the last Australian states to decriminalise it, some decades behind other western countries. Women, asking for health care services due to domestic abuse continue to be ignored. Only 0.6% of the last federal budget was allocated to issues that affect women. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report has Australia in 50th place for gender equality in 2021, down 6 places from 2020. For comparison, NZ is 4th, UK 23rd, USA is 30th, Mexico at 34th, Zimbabwe at 47th. In 2020, there were only 10 female CEOs in 200 ASX companies. Only 30 of these AZX 200 companies had 40% to 60% women in their executive teams. In the past couple of years, 50 CEO jobs were filled and only 3 of those roles were filled by women, yet, women in Australia are more highly educated than men, with 50.4% of Australian women aged 25-34 holding a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, compared with only 36.6% of men. In fact, in every age-range other than 65-75 years, Australian women hold considerably higher qualifications than men. We know from extended research in social norms and social change, that the quickest and most effective way to exact attitude change in business, is to set examples in public office. Normalising women in politics and council roles, flows through into business, and it is vitally important 50% of Australia’s population who are women, are represented in public office at the same rate that they exist in the population.
On the 4th December 2021, regardless of the party you support, or what issues you think are important, there are women standing for Council in every ward of the Sutherland Shire, many of them as Independents. We’ve listed some of them below and highlighted their main policy aims.
Leanne Farmer – Independent
Many of those in A Ward will know Leanne from her tireless ongoing work in attempting to save Monro Park (opposite Cronulla Train Station where the War Memorial is situated) from being developed into a 7 storey building with 5 levels of office space with balconies and a pub. Leanne is a business owner with 50 staff who provide in-home care to vulnerable children and families, so she is passionate and mindful about diverse community members who can be adversely impacted by developments that don’t consider them and their needs. Leanne wants to see improvements and development, but wants them to be sustainable, fit for purpose and beneficial to all of the community. In fact, Leanne has been a strong voice for Cronulla residents for many years at council meetings, and as an elected councillor, would ensure that concerns by residents are worked through and considered when approving development decisions.
Heavily involved in the community over the years, Leanne has volunteered in various community initiatives, including being the Head Manager of Seagulls Soccer Club. She was integral to the creation of the Junior Women’s Soccer team at the Seagulls, whose junior and intermediate players now comprise 40% female. Her involvement with this community has led to her caring about creating well-equipped and maintained spaces that allow residents to enjoy sporting and recreational time. As a passionate member of her community, she has been integral to saving the park at Wanda, and advocating for the protection of the Sand Dunes at North Cronulla.
She believes that development should be sustainable, and should consider the residents who reside in the area, as well as business needs. As all residents in ocean towns know, parking is a major problem, and Leanne wants to ensure that any future development has adequate parking and public facilities that are sufficient to service the units and business spaces they encompass. Furthermore, she wants to ensure these new parking spaces encourage the use of electric cars, and that they don’t destroy social cohesion, open community spaces or the beautiful historic buildings that set Cronulla apart from other beach towns. She is passionate about ensuring waterways and beaches are clean and habitats are maintained for wildlife, and that ratepayers are listened to and are consulted when council wants to make changes to the area. With the owner of Nulla Nulla as her 2IC, Leanne wants to be the voice on the council that speaks for business owners, residents, and those who want to protect and grow their beloved Cronulla in a way that is aligned with modern attitudes of sustainability, quality of life, and accessibility. Leanne say that when people say to her “that’s too hard” she says “that’s rubbish”. In short, when Leanne sets her mind to something, she’ll get it done.
Cr Carol Provan – Liberal Party
Carol is already an elected Councillor for A Ward at Sutherland Shire Council. Carol’s focus is on supporting her local community through local business, and supporting residents, through building and developing infrastructure for the growing population in Cronulla. Carol has served as Mayor for two terms, and is passionate about local tourism, parking, keeping our beaches clean, and refurbishing Gunnamatta Park Heritage pavilion. You can find out more about Carol in this article by The Leader.
Pamela Brown – Independent
Many of you know Pam Brown as the former CEO of Kookaburra Kids and the now CEO of the Stepping Out Program who supports female survivors of childhood sexual abuse – a cause very dear to our hearts. Additionally, Pam has worked in our community through the Cook Community Classic, the Red Shield Appeal, and is a board member of the Caringbah Rotary Club after 18 years of service. Pam was awarded the well-deserved Sutherland Shire Citizen of the Year in 2017, and the Paul Harris Award for her service to Rotary. Without Pam’s years of dedication to our community, many of the services and fund raising that ShireWomen has been involved in over the years, simply would not exist. We are therefore thrilled that Pam is standing for council, as she has a proven track record for getting things done in the best interests of our community.
Pam’s main goals for the council are to clean up our beaches and waterways which is an ever-increasing issue. She plans to increase toilet amenities around public spaces, and ensure open spaces are retained and updated. She also wants to see more accessible funding for not for profits, and wants to ensure that our community is accessible for everyone. One of Pam’s passions is to support youth services – in particular those facing isolation and homelessness, and she intends to continue with this as a councillor. She also believes that seniors need more engaging, safe, and supportive spaces, and intends to make this happen. All in all, Pam will represent all residents of our Shire, and ensure that those in need aren’t left behind.
Jennifer Armstrong – Labor Party
A long time ShireWomen supporter who was awarded NSW Woman of the Year in 2016 for her work with domestic abuse survivors (and founder of The Beauty Bank), Jennifer is all about community. We are thrilled to have Jennifer standing for local council, as she will be a formidable asset to our local area. Jennifer is a working Mum, and believes that the council should make a positive difference to the community in which it operates. Jennifer, like many other Shire residents, believes the State government has taken away too many council controls when it comes to planning permission, and wants to fight on behalf of residents to ensure our Shire doesn’t further slide into a concrete jungle at the expense of community spaces. She wants to be the voice of residents who are sick of the traffic congestion caused by overdevelopment, and who don’t have enough recreational spaces and footpaths to cater to the needs of our diverse and growing community. Jennifer believes the council has a responsibility to ensure the quality of life of its residents, and wants to ensure quality of life is brought into all future decisions.
Having dedicated her life to not for profit organisations, Jennifer wants to ensure local community groups don’t have to fight one another for grants when they all provide key services such as feeding those less fortunate in the community. She wants the council to be more accessible for residents and for it to be transparent and consultative, and wants the council to keep community projects in-house rather than contracting work to businesses outside of the area. This will keep project work in the Shire, benefiting local businesses and residents alike. When Jennifer doesn’t have the answers to a community issue, Jennifer will consult experts and researchers and will always follow through with concerns and queries. Jennifer is someone who has lived experience and will take a common sense, communicative approach, and will ensure that all decisions are in the best interests of residents. Jennifer wants to bring the not for profit, council, and business community together, so we can all have our say and can work together and support one another.
Cr Diedree Steinwall – Labor Party
Diedree is already elected Councillor for D Ward, and is expected to retain her seat. In the time Diedree has been councillor since 2012, and she has delivered numerous positive projects and upgrades, and the residents of D Ward are keen to have her stay on and continue her work. Some of her projects include playground and footpath upgrades, solar lighting to carparks, shade cloths and park upgrades, library protection, improving sporting fields, upgrades to Sutherland Fun Water Park, and she has had a key role in the Sutherland Entertainment Centre upgrade. She has overseen masterplans for the Cooper Street Reserve in Engadine and Waratah Park Sutherland. She has advocated for Koala crossings on Heathcote Road, fought the State Government regarding the mining under Woronora Dam (still ongoing), has brought focus on recycling and waste minimisation to reduce litter in waterways and beaches, and is a Tree Committee member – who are dedicated to protecting the tree canopy in our beloved Shire. She has fought for a greater say for residents in planning decisions, and if our other spotlighted candidates in this article are also elected, they will be a powerful force on this issue, which they all agree on.
Laura Cowell - Independent
One of our very own ShireWomen members Laura Cowell is standing as a first-time candidate. Laura is the Vice President of Sutherland Shire Football Association and is a trainer at the Office of Sports Member Protection. Laura believes sport brings the community together. Sport has been and continues to be a huge part of her life, and she believes with the right infrastructure, the Shire can provide more opportunities for women in sport. In particular, Laura is currently working on a bid to upgrade some of the sports facilities, so the Shire can host some of the team training of the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023. This would be a huge opportunity for the area, bringing tourism, businesses, sports fans, and community together.
Laura is also big on supporting those in our community who are less fortunate. She has been a long-time supporter of Café Y, and wants to make the systems and processes for community groups to access council infrastructure and funding less complex and more effective. The amount of time and effort volunteers must endure to access services that help the community can be problematic, leaving many reliant on community donations to operate. Laura believes that making the process of applying for council support easier will in turn benefit the wider community. Furthermore, Laura is acutely aware that with the increased development in our communities, public parking can no longer facilitate this increase, and therefore she plans to increase parking to alleviate some of the stress caused. She also plans to improve open spaces and playgrounds, so that the growing population is catered for. In short, she wants to make the council accountable to the people who fund them – the rate payers.
And for local businesses – she intends to ensure transparent consultation is adhered to when development approvals are lodges with the council, to ensure that everyone has their say. You can find out more about Laura in this article by The Leader.
The elections take place on 4th December 2021- you can find out where to vote by clicking here.
Note: not all female candidates who are standing for councillor are included in this article. We included everyone who responded to our requests for interviews or information, or who had detailed campaign information available online. A couple of candidates did not respond to our requests, nor could we find any online info about their aims to include even the most basic of information.
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