Media release on City of Melbourne findings

The Australian Local Government Women’s Association (ALGWA) commends the bravery of former Melbourne City Council Councillor Tessa Sullivan and Cr Cathy Oke in speaking out about sexual harassment.

And we now call for the system to be changed so no other female has to go through the painful process these two women endured.

We also thank Cr Oke for her kind words about ALGWA in her courageous statement to Melbourne City Council on Tuesday night.

Melbourne City Council released a summary report on Tuesday of the investigation into sexual harassment by former Lord Mayor Robert Doyle. The investigators made adverse findings against the former Lord Mayor concerning complaints made by Ms. Sullivan and Cr Oke.

“It is wrong that former councillor Tessa Sullivan felt she had to resign as a councillor to make her complaint and we praise her bravery in coming forward and taking a stand,” said National ALGWA President Cr Coral Ross.

“There needs to be an overhaul of the Code of Conduct complaints process and it needs to be independent of individual Councils. It is unacceptable that a complaint against a Mayor should be made to his deputy and it is unacceptable that any possible sanctions should be decided by the Council.

“We suggest something similar to UK proposals – a Local Government Commissioner to receive and investigate complaints who makes recommendations to an independent body such as a panel of peers or the Minister for Local Government. We have also called on the complaints process to be reviewed at a National level.

“The process needs to be independent of the Council concerned, “added Cr Ross.

The ALGWA has made formal complaints to both the Press Council and the Journalists Union about the Herald-Sun’s coverage of the events.

In her statement Cr Oke said the Local Government Act needed a definition of sexual harassment and called for mandatory training in acceptable workplace behaviour.

“We agree there needs to be a definition and mandatory training, “said ALGWA Vic President Helen Coleman.

“We have a strong record of helping women on Council and we are pleased Cr Oke spoke about our efforts to improve pathways for women into councils and support once elected.

“As a volunteer run peak body organization we were pleased to be able to make suggestions for changes to support women like Tessa and Cathy and all women in local government The Local Government Act needs revising in light of the Melbourne experience,” added Ms. Coleman.

Any enquiries:

Cr Coral Ross, National ALGWA President 0438 005 225

Ms. Helen Coleman, ALGWA (Vic) President 0437 940 930