Council declines to support gender equity strategy

Gosford's Council Chambers.

Central Coast Council has declined a call from an advisory group for “in principle” support for a gender equity strategy, citing staffing and financial constraints.

It said it was not an organisational priority and it could not support it at this stage.

The Council’s Status of Women’s Advisory Group (SOWAG) had called on Council to give in principle support only.

The advisory group volunteered to initiate and lead the creation and implementation of the strategy.

Two speakers from the group addressed the Council on July 27, Sharryn Brownlee and Sharon Walsh.

Walsh said members of SOWAG were sensitive to the Council’s current issues pertaining to resourcing but the committee was merely seeking in principle support from the Council for a Gender Equity Strategy.

“The members of SOWAG appreciate current resourcing restrictions and as such have stated their commitment to undertaking the necessary work involved in researching and developing any potential strategy for consideration by Council,” she said.

SOWAG had recently fought to successfully maintain the Status of Women Advisory Group as a stand-alone group when Council re-organised its advisory groups and suggested folding SOWAG and the Social Inclusion advisory committees into one working group.

Walsh said Council’s finalisation of a Social Inclusion Charter was crucial and supported by the members of SOWAG.

“However, given that ultimately SOWAG was not subsumed under the umbrella of Social Inclusion, our members have the responsibility to advocate for the development of a Gender Equity Strategy for Central Coast Council separate to the Social Inclusion Charter,” she said.

“We feel it is important to highlight that the Status of Women Advisory Group has not been specifically consulted in regard to the Social Inclusion Charter with regards to the specific addressing of issues for women.

“I reiterate that our recommendation was for in principle support from Council for a Gender Equity Strategy and that SOWAG members have offered their time and efforts in terms of the research and development work necessary if Council decided to support the development of such a strategy.

“A Gender Equity Strategy provides Council organisational opportunities to achieve workplace and community gender equity, where people can access and enjoy the same rewards, resources, and opportunities regardless of gender.

“Such a strategy would aim to support Council to become a leader and champion for gender equity in our community, while also identifying the skills and resources necessary to implement such a strategy,” Walsh said.

Administrator Rik Hart said he would struggle to disagree with what the two speakers had said.

He asked the director of Connected Communities Julie Vaughan to speak who said a number of strategies showed Council’s commitment to gender equity.

She also spoke about the reduction in staff in her department which would made it difficult to support further action plans that came along with a new strategy.

In the end, Mr Hart adopted the staff recommendation which said “the proposal to develop a Gender Equity Strategy is not supported at this point in time as it is not an organisational priority and there are limited resources available to develop and implement a specific strategy just related to gender equity”.

Merilyn Vale