11.1 C
Byron Shire
April 24, 2021

International Women’s Day kerfuffle at Ballina

Latest News

Tweed Council to write to government for more housing support

With a shortage of affordable housing in most areas of the Far North Coast, it is not surprising that Tweed is also feeling the pinch and Council has declared a housing emergency in the area owing to a lack of availability and affordability.

Other News

Rise and shine!

Early morning starts are not a usual routine for chefs at the Ballina RSL Club. March was an exception when Chef Halie Welsh rallied some staff and friends together to take part in Ian Thorpe’s Laps For Life charity. A team of ten hit the Ballina Pool at 7am every day during March to raise funds For ReachOut’s Laps For Life challenge. 

East Ballina Lions desperately needs new members

East Ballina Lions Club has given over thirty years of service to numerous community programs and initiatives, but if it doesn't get more members soon, it will have to close.

Your Local Club Academy Games

The North Coast Academy of Sport prepared its largest squad ever to compete at the 2021 Your Local Club Academy Games, held in the Hunter region last weekend.

Shenhua’s gone and Breeza breathes again

In a much-hoped-for move, the NSW Government and the China Shenhua Energy Company Limited have reached a $100 million agreement in which Shenhua will withdraw its mining lease application and surrender its development consent for the Shenhua Watermark Coal project at Breeza on the Liverpool Plains.

You Donne good

Liz Levy, Suffolk Park I’d like to thank whoever decided to reprint John Donne’s beautiful poem ‘No Man is an Island’...

Government bullying and hidden agendas

Frank Ball, Tweed Heads The treatment of Christine Holgate while CEO of Australia Post is nothing short of scandalous. Not only...

Ballina councillors stand for the national anthem at their last meeting. Skype screenshot.

One councillor walked out of Ballina Council’s recent meeting during an emotional discussion about speakers at an upcoming IWD event.

Mayor David Wright said Cr Phillip Meehan had been requested to speak about women on council at the International Women’s Day luncheon organised by the Ballina Chamber of Commerce at Ballina RSL this Thursday 4 March, and Cr Wright had approved that.

Poor message

Ballina Cr Sharon Parry. Photo supplied.

Cr Sharon Parry said it sent a really poor message to the community when a male spoke on behalf of women and women’s issues. ‘I have my own experience on council and it’s quite different,’ she said.

She said she had spoken at past events about domestic violence and salary differences between men and women across their lives.

‘These are real issues for women, and I believe women should be speaking for women,’ said Cr Parry.

Cr Eoin Johnston said it was not Cr Meehan’s fault he was invited. ‘Maybe they want a bloke up there to throw eggs at them?’ he wondered.

Mayor Wright said he had ‘delegated two Sharons [Crs Parry and Cadwallader] to speak on his behalf in recent years – but at the moment the invitation was for Phil to speak.’

No one mentioned that the president of the Ballina Chamber of Commerce is Phil Meehan’s wife Susan Meehan, herself a former councillor.

We need to look at ourselves

In his defence, Cr Meehan said he was invited by the board of the Chamber of Commerce to speak, and intended to address issues of women in local government and lack of equality of representation. ‘We need to look at ourselves here,’ he said, addressing the room of mostly men.

He said that IWD was about all people celebrating women; their accomplishments, lives, and what they contribute to families and community.

Cr Meehan said his comments would be designed to encourage women to attend the forthcoming forum in Lismore about getting more women into local government.

He said it was ‘quite disappointing to be having this gender discussion’.

Council’s General Manager Paul Hickey weighed in, saying he was surprised a male was asked to speak on behalf of council, which was sponsoring the event, ‘but he was invited’. Mr Hickey said it was a serious issue that everyone needed to consider carefully.

The GM said that there had been much discussion among his own staff about the issue and he thought it was unfair for male councillors to use their numbers to outvote female councillors on the decision.  ‘We would not do that at an operational level,’ he said.

At this point, Cr Meehan walked out of the room and didn’t return, saying he was ‘extremely disappointed’.

Representation matters

Cr Ben Smith. Photo suppiied.

Cr Ben Smith switched his mic on to say democracy was best represented when there was as much of the demographic as possible in the room making decisions.

‘Councils used to be a bunch of old retired famers and real estate agents,’ he said.

‘No disrespect to the old guys around the room, but they’d make the decisions. They were the only people with the opportunity. Those dynamics are changing.

‘The women had a bloody hard time just to get one woman on council, it was tough for them. We are in a situation where our democracy is best served by a representative council.’

Cr Smith said that in the case of the Ballina Chamber of Commerce event, ‘maybe it’s better to have a woman there. On that basis it would make more sense. But it doesn’t invalidate the male perspective.’

While the discussion between the men continued, Cr Sharon Cadwallader pressed her right to speak, and finally got the opportunity after some delay.

Cr Cadwallader’s view

She said it was a sensitive issue which she had discussed with Cr Parry. They had decided ‘it would do women an injustice if they didn’t say something.’ Cr Cadwallader asked what sort of message it would send to the many young women who would be present to see a male representing council at an IWD event?

Ballina Deputy Mayor Sharon Cadwallader. Photo David Lowe.

She publicly acknowledged her own husband’s assistance with family and business commitments so she could do her community work, and also thanked GM Hickey for his demonstrated support of women.

‘I’m not saying women are better than men but we need a balance,’ said Cr Cadwallader.

‘That’s how we get better decisions over all. Through diversity and balance.’

Council finally decided to ask the chamber to invite a woman to speak. This is now likely to be Cr Cadwallader.

The keynote speaker at the event will be Cate McQuillen, the creator of Dirtgirlworld.

More stories about Ballina Shire Council:

Pay parking for Lennox Head?

Yesterday's Ballina Shire Council meeting saw councillors raise the spectre of paid parking at Lennox Head, and possibly elsewhere in the shire.


Cr Keith Williams calls for consultation on South Ballina Beach access

At today's Ballina Council meeting, Cr Keith Williams is going to urge council to write to the NSW Minister for Crown Lands about South Ballina beach, which has recently been closed to public 4WD access.


Upgrades for Lighthouse Parade in Ballina

One of the showcase areas of Ballina is about to get a safety and aesthetic upgrade, with the Lighthouse Parade Pedestrian Precinct and Road Safety Project commencing soon.


HuskeeSwap launches in Lennox

An exciting initiative to keep coffee cups out of landfill launched in Lennox Head yesterday. Ballina Shire Council is backing the HuskeeSwap program with free coffees at different cafes in Lennox this week, for coffeeholics keen to try a new solution to a growing problem.


Face masks for Ballina and Byron businesses

As masks become harder to find across the Northern Rivers following the latest COVID-19 health alert, NSW Health has provided masks for business operators in Ballina and Byron Shires.


Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. When will people get it that men should be talking to men (not women) about the barriers and bad attitudes that men place in the way of equal and respectful participation of women in governments, the workplace, the community and indeed everywhere?
    This is the 21st century – men don’t know it all, nor have they experienced the thorny pathways in the workplace and other areas that women have to negotiate. And it’s not just a simple matter of having a greater representation of women (although that’s a start) – it’s the cultures and processes that are problematic.
    Women don’t want men’s “help’ – society needs men to take responsibility for working for equitable and fair processes.
    So is it ok for Cr Meehan to encourage women to step up – does he think about just what they are stepping up to? Patronising attitudes, not-so covert sexism, passive hostility and ridiculous quips like Eoin Johnson’s re “want a bloke up there to throw eggs at”. Grow up Eoin.
    This report shows that none of those men involved have demonstrated clear understandings of responsibility, equity and indeed social justice.
    Thanks to Crs Parry and Cadwallader for your positive common sense. As for the rest – Wake up people!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Simon Richardson steps down as Byron Shire Mayor

In an eventful day for Byron Shire Council, pot-stirrer Fast Buck$ was ejected from the council chambers yesterday and later Cr Simon Richardson announced that he will be stepping down as mayor from the end of next week.

Pay parking for Lennox Head?

Yesterday's Ballina Shire Council meeting saw councillors raise the spectre of paid parking at Lennox Head, and possibly elsewhere in the shire.

They will not be forgotten…

In the wake of the pandemic restrictions, ANZAC Day will be commemorated in a COVID safe fashion and some areas will ask residents to...

East Ballina Lions desperately needs new members

East Ballina Lions Club has given over thirty years of service to numerous community programs and initiatives, but if it doesn't get more members soon, it will have to close.