Marrickville Council Gender Equity Push

Women Councillors on Marrickville Council have stepped up the push for gender equity, with the establishment of a women’s committee and a range of other actions to promote gender equality and “unconscious bias”.

Greens Councillor Sylvie Ellsmore said, “Local government is a very challenging environment for women Councillors and Council staff, particularly younger women.

“The motions passed at Marrickville Council at the November Council meeting commit us to not only be more active on issue affecting women in our community, such as domestic violence, and to be more actively working towards equity in Council staffing, but also address issues for our elected women Councillors. If we want politics to change, this is vitally important.

“Politics is often blokey and adversarial. However, unlike State and Federal Parliament, in Local Councils the bloke who decides to lose his temper and scream at you can be sitting less than a metre away. This behaviour is rarely pulled up by the chair of the meeting. We wouldn’t stand for it in another workplace, why is this kind of aggression accepted in politics?” Clr Ellsmore said.

Marrickville Greens Councillor Melissa Brooks has previously spoken out about bullying on Marrickville Council*. Clr Brooks said, “The behaviour of many Councillors is still a shock for people who witness Council meetings.

“Bad behaviour, aggression, heckling and yelling is normalised. And this behaviour is overwhelmingly driven by the male Councillors.

“If we want more women to run for Council, or for current women Councillors to think of running again, we have to seriously discuss these issues and take active steps to change the culture. It is sector-wide problem,” Clr Brooks said.

The measures were passed at the November Marrickville Council meeting with the support of Greens, Labor and the female Liberal Councillor. It was opposed by the two former conservative Mayors, Clr Mark Gardiner and Clr Victor Macri.


More information:       Clr Sylvie Ellsmore 0403 977 213, Clr Melissa Brooks 0409 235 802

Click here to read the OPINION PIECE by Councillor Melissa Brooks “Time to end the male-dominated bullying on our councils”, April 29, 2014

A copy of the motion passed by Council is below.

At the last NSW Local Council elections (2012) only 27% of the elected representatives across the state were female. There was no increase in female representation since the last elections (2008). 1 in 3 (ie 33%) of the current Marrickville Councillors are women, and Marrickville has had two female Mayors (for a one year term each, one Green and one ALP). The current Deputy Mayor is Liberal Councillor Rosana Tyler.

The Greens are the only major political party in NSW to have achieved gender equality in elected representation- more than 50% of our Local Councillors in NSW are women and 50% of Greens NSW State MPs are women.

In terms of women’s employment and elected women Councillors, Marrickville Council has stronger gender equity than the average for Councils. A majority of staff are women, though only 1 of 6 current senior managers are female. Marrickville Council has previously had one female General Manager for a period. The measures passed aim to move to at least 50% gender equity in Council staffing including at senior/ management levels.

A copy of the report outlining the staffing statistics can be found on the 17 November Council meeting papers at

At a NSW state level, the heckling and abuse targeted at the (female dominated) Greens Council contingent at a 2014 NSW Local Government Conference led to the Australian Local Government Women’s Association to write to the President of Local Government NSW “seeking confirmation that the heckling and bullying behaviour (towards some of the delegates) that occurred at last year’s conference 2014 and that the Code of Conduct is fairly applied and delegates be treated with respect by the Chair.”







Motion: (Brooks/Ellsmore)


  1. THAT Council endorses the final program for activities to promote gender equity contained in this report with the following additions:


  1. The establishment of a Marrickville Council Women’s Committee. The committee is to include: co-chairs or rotating chairs – with the positions to be held by elected women Councillors; two or more community representatives; and at least one female representative of staff. The Terms of Reference for the committee will include the promotion of gender equity in the civil, civic and political life of the Marrickville LGA and within Marrickville Council;


  1. Council to include in its standard reporting for gender equality in staffing measures of opportunities for women staff to undertake higher duties or secondments, including part-time staff; and


  1. THAT Council receive a further report recommending detailed Terms of Reference and membership of the Women’s Committee, to be considered at a Council meeting in the first quarter of 2016.


Gender 20:20 Program actions from the report, $15,000 budget:


  1. Unconscious Bias Program (for Councillors and staff)


  1. Supervision – gender issues (course in cooperation with Federal Workplace Gender Equality Agency)


  1. Female Speakers Program “Lunch and Learn” as well as Breakfast sessions led by women will be held monthly on a range of topics and areas of expertise (with neighbouring Councils)


  1. 5 year career plan group (Council staff)


Motion Carried

For Motion: Councillors Barbar, Brooks, Ellsmore, Iskandar, Leary, Phillips, Tyler and Woods

Against Motion: Councillors Gardiner and Macri Absent: Councillor Hanna


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