APPLAUSE filled the chamber at Orange City Council when Joanne McRae’s name was drawn from the box on Tuesday night.
There was a feeling of relief in the room when, for the first time since 2007, female influence was given a position of significance.
Of course, we have had female councillors since then, but 2007 marked the election of our last female deputy mayor, Pam Ryan.
She, too, won by the slimmest of margins after her name was drawn from the hat, defeating colleague Jeff Whitton.
The messages of support for Cr McRae continued well into Wednesday, both on the live-streamed video the Central Western Daily screened during the vote, to the follow-up story later that night.
It shows a couple of things – that voters, both male and female, want balance in the council, and that there is an appetite for change, new blood, fresh ideas and voices.
It is particularly encouraging considering a few short years ago, Julia Gillard did not receive the same level of warmth.
Who can forget the ‘Ditch the Witch’ and ‘Bob Brown’s b****’ posters?
Cr McRae has said herself that women tend to be judged harsher than their male counterparts.
We sincerely hope that voters have moved on – just as they expect balance in their representation, it is reasonable to ask that they be balanced in their critiques.
Mayor Reg Kidd pointed out on Wednesday that there is still no gender equity on the council and that is certainly true – Cr McRae is in a position of leadership, but she is still the lone female councillor.
Cr Kidd believed the ticket system is unfair on women.
Certainly it is, if all the tickets are led by men and no ticket receives a high enough quota to have more than one candidate elected – placing a woman in second position is a nice gesture, but far from ensures equal representation.
The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers were the only ticket to have two elected, and both were men.
Several women ran independently, but were swamped by the sheer number of candidates.
As long as the ticket system is in play, Cr McRae has proven that to be elected, women must have the courage to lead one.
Let us hope that this air of support continues and come 2020, more women decide it’s time to join the ranks.