Fremantle Low on Women in Government

Fremantle councillor Rachel Pemberton. Picture: Matt Jelonek   d439441
Fremantle councillor Rachel Pemberton. Picture: Matt Jelonek d439441

FREMANTLE has the worst percentage of women elected to local government positions, according to a new report from the Committee for Perth.

Between 1999 and 2013, just 17.5 per cent of those elected to Fremantle council were women, down on the State average on 31.6 per cent and well behind the Town of Cambridge, which topped the list with 52.6 per cent.

Just two women currently sit on Fremantle council, and both Ingrid Waltham and Rachel Pemberton are up for re-election this October, throwing up the possibility of an all-male council for the next four years.

Cr Pemberton said Fremantle had gone backwards, after being one of the pacesetters in the ’90s.

“In the ’90s we were ground-breaking, with more than 50 per cent of council women and there was a female mayor; it’s time we got back to that kind of balance,” she said.

“Councils should represent the diversity of community, not be a monoculture, but that said, it would be good if other demographic groups were also represented on council, for example people of non-English speaking backgrounds, Aboriginal people and people with a disability.

“I have been encouraging women, particularly young women, to get involved on council because I am tremendously grateful to the woman who persuaded me to finally run for council and I hope to encourage others to do the same.”

Cr Pemberton said she would run for her City Ward seat again in October, saying she hoped the community felt she had done a fair and well-informed job on their behalf, even if they didn’t always agree with her decisions.

Australian Local Government Women’s Association of WA founder Marion Blair said there should be more women on council, but the time commitment didn’t help.

“Thirty-two, thirty three per cent is too low, especially when women make up 51 per cent of the population,” she said. “But being on local government is a big job. It is on you to do the homework and debate.

“That may not be for everyone, but women have a huge role to play and a different way of looking at things that is important.”