Women needed on council: deputy mayor

A CENTRAL Victorian councillor hopes to inspire other women to nominate for this year’s council elections to help turn around poor statistics.

Macedon Ranges Shire deputy mayor Henryka Benson said it was time women reversed the trend of male-dominated councils.

She said five Victorian councils, including Loddon Mallee’s Gannawarra Shire, were without female representatives.

“Apart from the obvious principle of equity, women need to be represented as they’re major consumers of local government services from cradle to the grave,” Cr Benson said.

“It’s often women who are dealing with maternal and child health services or kindergartens for their children or negotiating for aged care services for their parents. There’s no group more intrinsically involved with council services or facilities.”

Greater Bendigo, Loddon and Swan Hill councils each have one female councillor.

Less than 30 per cent of Victorian councillors are women, while 14 of 79 councils have a female chief executive.

Three of Greater Bendigo’s five directors are women.

Cr Benson was elected to council at the 2008 election.

She gave birth to twins halfway through the term, taking her children and step-children tally to seven, and took the newborns to council three weeks after giving birth.

But Cr Benson said it was crucial to maintain a balance between council and personal duties.

“I found a sense of humour is essential when I discovered that one of the local papers had rung at least one councillor asking whether I should stand down after having the twins,” Cr Benson said.

“I am pleased to report that the reporter was told emphatically that Macedon Ranges is an equal-opportunity council.

“I try to keep ‘council-speak’ to a minimum at home, though the kids are used to me being stopped in the supermarket and quizzed. If I do have to take the babies to council events, I find everyone is very supportive.”

Cr Benson has backed a campaign that calls for 700 women to nominate for this year’s elections, which will be held on October 27.

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