Women encouraged into politics
A BIT of fog delayed her plane but that didn’t stop Desley Boyle from addressing the ALGWA (Australian Local Government Women’s Association) conference in Gympie yesterday.
The Minister for Local Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, simply got in her car and drove into town, as calm and relaxed as if she’d stepped off a plane.
After paying her respects to Aboriginal elder Aunty Lillian Burke and the Gubbi Gubbi people and other dignitaries, the minister had the full attention of her audience with her light-hearted approach to what she clearly saw as serious subjects – women in Local Government and the media.
Speaking to The Gympie Times prior to her address, Ms Boyle said the conference was “another way of saying to the community that women are big business” and she encouraged more women to consider it as a career option.
“They can get involved in community groups and volunteer with their council,” she said.
“They can go to public meetings and stand for council in the future.
“Local Government has such a broad range of career opportunities; there’s the hard hat side, the trade side, engineering or community service if that’s what someone is more interested in” and that summed up the conference theme High Heels to Hard Hats.
“We want to send that message to young women at the beginning of their working life.”
Ms Boyle was one of the first women in Local Government as a councillor in Cairns when things were very different.
“We were locked out. It was boys’ club big time and they were not telling women about the wonderful careers available.
“Back then we had no options, we worked at front counters or in secretary jobs,” she said.
Asked whether it was better to take longer and have the best female candidates or speed things up just to increase the number of women in government, the minister did not hesitate in saying it was the latter.
“So what if we get some shonky women; there’s plenty of shonky men.
“When I was a councillor, people were talking about the clothes I wore. I was put on committees as the token woman. One woman cannot represent their whole sex; we need the numbers.
“Once there is balance, people will stop talking about clothes and make-up.”
She spoke with great compassion about the role of local government, congratulating councillors for being elected and commiserating with them “because these are the hardest times in local government history” and were “picking up the inadequacies of the past”.
Ms Boyle said councillors of the past might have been popular because they fixed a pothole in front of someone’s house but that they “did not maintain assets”.
“And that’s left all of you in a very tough spot indeed.
“You have the demands of your constituents but they do not want to give anything up.
“These are very hard times and I do understand that some of you might not be sure if you are running next time.
“I’m sure you are running next, no doubt about it,” she said.