Only one woman might be sitting on the next council as vicious personal attacks against female representatives turn potential candidates off running, according to a current councillor.
Labor’s Romola Hollywood is the only female to officially be declared a candidate just two months out from polling day, compared to five women out of 12 representatives on the current council, and seven on the council previous to that.
The Liberal Party put forward an all-male line-up following sitting councillor Fiona Creed’s withdrawal from the pre-selection process that seemed likely to deliver the numbers to her 21-year-old opponent, Brendan Christie.
The Greens have also previously announced three male candidates for Wards 1, 3 and 4 in the Gazette.
On Thursday a fourth man, Geordie Williamson, was announced as the party’s “new nominee candidate for Ward 2” on the Greens’ Facebook page.
Independent candidates announced for Wards 3 and 4 are also male.
The situation has so concerned outgoing councillor Alison McLaren that she intends moving a notice of motion at the July 17 council meeting calling for strategies over the next four years to encourage more women to run for local government.
Clr McLaren, also the longest-serving Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) president, said women in local government faced many challenges their male colleagues didn’t, including personal attacks and new donation laws that meant most candidates had to self-fund campaigns.
“As women generally earn less than men they are already at a disadvantage,” she said.
“It is disappointing that the trend of a decreasing number of female councillors is likely to continue after the next election but it is not surprising. It is hard to say that local government is attractive to women when we are victims of vicious and personal attacks that are not directed towards our male colleagues.
“In my experience even so-called progressive people have been happy to ignore or even support bullying and intimidation by members of the community.”
While saying current councillors and BMCC staff were “fantastic” in their support for women, Clr McLaren took aim at the Liberal Party for what she said was a “lack of support” for its only female representative.
“It is disappointing that the Liberal Party has not shown support for their only sitting female councillor. Instead she has been replaced a young man who wasn’t even old enough to vote at the last election,” she said.
“Clr Creed’s only crime has been backing the community on important issues like harm prevention, opposing shooting in national parks and workers’ rights.”
Clr McLaren said she hoped the council would be able to develop and promote women in local government.
“If we are to increase female representation on council, some members of the community also need to learn that bullying and intimidation of women is not acceptable,” she said.