9 November 2021

Women comprise more than 40 per cent of ballot in Upper Lachlan Shire Council election

| Clare McCabe
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Mandy McDonald, Susan Reynolds, Sandra Bill and Lauren Woodbridge

From left: Upper Lachlan Shire Council nominees Mandy McDonald and Susan Reynolds, with former councillor Sandra Bill, and candidate Lauren Woodbridge. Photo: Clare McCabe.

A record number of women are standing for a local government position in the upcoming Upper Lachlan Shire Council election on Saturday, 4 December, 2021.

Among 12 people vying for nine positions, five women have emerged as candidates. It is the highest number of women nominating for a position on Upper Lachlan Shire Council in recent memory.

Upper Lachlan Shire Council, in the NSW Southern Tablelands, was formed after an amalgamation of Crookwell Shire Council, Gunning Shire Council and part of Yass and Mulwaree shire councils.

Historically, the council has had low representation of women, with only eight ever elected: Betty Hall, Janet Hayes, Barbara Johnston, Doreen Wheelwright, Sandra Bill, Roslyn Joseph, Joanne Marshall and Pamela Kensit.

Ms Marshall and Ms Kensit have both re-nominated for the upcoming term.

Ms Kensit was elected in 2016, and if she is successful in the upcoming election, it will be her second term.

Ms Marshall was elected for a single term between 2012 and 2016, and after that she did not re-nominate.

First-time nominees in the local government election in December are Lauren Woodbridge, Susan Reynolds and Mandy McDonald.

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Former councillor Sandra Bill spent 12 years on the regional council between 1999 and 2012. She is “really thrilled” with the number of women putting themselves forward for a position in local government.

Ms Bill said political participation in Australia has always been considered a “man’s world”.

“I think it’s fantastic to see women getting involved because they bring a whole different perspective,” she said. “Women connect with the community in a completely different way than men. They connect on a much deeper level and many are coming from a nurturing place.”

In 1999, Ms Bill was elected to council after running on a platform that focused on youth. At the time the youngest of her five children was 19 years old.

She had worked with the NSW Department of Education, and helped establish the Youth Centre Committee; lobbied for a youth drop-in centre; and was involved in organising extracurricular activities for young people. She used her position on council to establish more youth programs and initiatives.

Ms Bill said more women elected to council would help identify a diverse range of issues and shift its priorities.

“Most of the men are focused on roads, rubbish and rates, or windfarms,” she said.

Ms Bill reflected on her 12 years in local government and moments when she felt challenged by the status quo, but had to stand her ground in order to create meaningful change.

“You don’t have to agree on everything, but when you walk out of council chambers you leave it at the table,” she said. “It isn’t personal, it’s about the community.

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“I’m very much about having a cohesive council. Teamwork always achieves more than division.”

Ms Bill said whenever she faced difficult decisions, her choices were made with the community at the forefront.

“It’s not about you, it’s about the people you represent,” she said. “It’s about showing empathy, it’s stepping back and saying there are two sides to the story and looking at the other side.”

Ms Bill said this year, local electors would more likely be voting for diversity among the councillors.

“Our whole shire demographic has changed – the demographic of our community and our people,” she said.

“It’s a juggling act of going forward with development and the charm that people come here for. We want to retain what makes Upper Lachlan special, but we have to embrace progression.”

Current Upper Lachlan Shire Council Mayor John Stafford, and Deputy Mayor John Searl, re-nominated, as did councillors Darren O’Brien and Paul Culhane.

Rounding out the ticket are newcomers Graham Dyer, Colin Davis and Nathan McDonald.

Longtime councillors Brian McCormack and James Wheelwright did not re-nominate.

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Lauren Woodbridge10:02 am 11 Nov 21

I am so proud to be able to stand as the youngest ever female candidate for this landmark local election. Thank you for sharing our story.

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