Thursday, May 30, 2024

Online abuse slammed by female Tasmanian councillors

Prominent Tasmanian local government members say online abuse and attacks are having a chilling effect on women wanting to serve on councils.

The high-profile group issued a joint statement raising concerns about safe workplaces and respect for women last week.

It was signed by Hobart Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds (pictured), Deputy Lord Mayor Helen Burnet, Glenorchy Mayor Kristie Johnston, Clarence Deputy Mayor Heather Chong, Clarence Aldermen Beth Warren and Tony Mulder, Kingborough Deputy Mayor Jo Westwood, Hobart councillors Jax Ewin, Bill Harvey, and Zelinda Sherlock, Kingborough councillors Amanda Midgley and Paula Wriedt, and Launceston Councillor Andrea Dawkins.

The statement, which was posted on Mayor Reynolds’s Facebook page, said that a Local Government Association of Tasmania survey of elected members in 2019 found 60 per cent had been bullied and harassed online, including from other elected members.

Since the survey was presented to the Local Government Minister, the group said nothing had been done to address this.

“No-one enters politics if they have thin skin. You expect – indeed, welcome – different perspectives and robust debate focused on the issues,” the joint statement said.

“However, what we see every week in Tasmanian local politics, especially on social media, is debate that crosses the line. It stops being about policy or even party politics and becomes deeply personal.

“It’s important for elected representatives to lead by example and to create a space that fosters respectful debate.

“Unfortunately, that’s not what we are seeing in local government in Tasmania, and in our experience women representatives are the target of more online abuse and attacks than their male colleagues.

“We want politics to include more diverse representation and for people to feel that they can safely share their thoughts and opinions without being subject to bullying or harassment.  

“That will never happen if women elected members are not treated with respect and are attacked for attributes relating to who they are (eg, their gender, appearance, etc) rather than the substance of their policy.”

The group wants to see Local Government Association Tasmania (LGAT) and the state government work together on actions to create safer and more respectful workplaces, which could include training and counselling for all elected members.

This article first appeared in ALGA News.

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