Gen­der tips the bal­ance


Cockburn Gazette - - NEWS - Bryce Luff

THE ar­chi­tect who missed out on a po­si­tion on Cock­burn’s De­sign Re­view Panel (DRP) af­ter the City leaned to­wards bet­ter gen­der bal­ance says he was dis­ap­pointed with the out­come.

Fre­man­tle-based ar­chi­tect David Barr was one of five can­di­dates rec­om­mended for a po­si­tion on the new panel, which will pro­vide in­de­pen­dent ex­pert de­sign ad­vice about com­plex plan­ning pro­pos­als to the City.

But he was over­looked af­ter an al­ter­na­tive rec­om­men­da­tion from coun­cil­lor Cha­monix Terblanche, sug­gest­ing ar­chi­tect and land­scape ar­chi­tect Lisa Shine be cho­sen over Mr Barr, was backed by coun­cil­lors at a meet­ing ear­lier this month.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed to have been nom­i­nated for the DRP panel and at the last minute miss out,” Mr Barr said.

“How­ever, I un­der­stand gen­der equal­ity is some­thing that needs to be ad­dressed.

“I think the ap­pli­ca­tion process should have been struc­tured in such a man­ner that made it clear from the out­set that the City was aim­ing for gen­der bal­ance, such that the nom­i­na­tions pre­sented to Coun­cil were sup­ported.”

Ms Shine was ap­pointed to the panel for two years along­side ar­chi­tect and panel chair Bar­bara Gdowski, ar­chi­tect Do­minic Snell­grove, ar­chi­tect and plan­ner Chris Mel­som, and ar­chi­tect Peter Hobbs.

Cr Terblanche said more di­ver­sity on the panel, which com­prises two women and three men, would pro­mote a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the mar­ket­place in which the City op­er­ates.

“Women con­tinue to­day to fight hard for recog­ni­tion of their skills and the high po­ten­tial of their de­ci­sion­mak­ing con­tri­bu­tion in a wide va­ri­ety of set­tings,” she said.

“Vi­sion­ary lead­ers and in­sti­tu­tions such as this coun­cil, when per­ceived to lead through a cul­ture of in­clu­siv­ity and in­no­va­tion, will earn pub­lic re­spect.

“The makeup of this DRP should more closely re­flect the so­cio-de­mo­graphic char­ac­ter of the com­mu­nity that we serve.

“A panel with at least two fe­male mem­bers and ac­cord­ingly the ac­com­mo­da­tion of dif­fer­ing forms of fam­ily and worldly ex­pe­ri­ence will not only achieve more bal­anced di­a­logue and out­comes, it will serve to demon­strate that the City is pur­su­ing a thought­ful, in­clu­sive and less sec­tor-bi­ased process.”

Cr Lee-Anne Smith said Ms Shine’s ap­point­ment would al­low the City to keep up with the gen­der di­ver­sity rec­om­men­da­tions set out by the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment.

But Cr Steve Portelli spoke against Cr Terblanche’s al­ter­na­tive, say­ing DRP po­si­tions should be filled based on merit.

“We need to put ev­ery­thing on merit,” he said.

“Af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion is wrong and adds to dis­crim­i­na­tion by count­ing the num­ber of mi­nori­ties in­stead of wor­ry­ing about the peo­ple who might be qual­i­fied.”

Speak­ing in favour of the al­ter­na­tive rec­om­men­da­tion, Cr Kevin Allen said Ms Shine’s ap­point­ment made sense be­cause her skill-set filled an ob­vi­ous gap on the panel.

“One per­son that is miss­ing is a land­scape ar­chi­tect which I think is vi­tal. That’s why I would sup­port this mo­tion,” he said.

With talk of gen­der di­ver­sity and “af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion”, Cr Bart Houwen ar­gued the mat­ter needed much more dis­cus­sion and ques­tioned why it was brought up at such a late stage in the process.

“I think this is a se­ri­ous mat­ter and if we’re go­ing to talk about af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion it should be in a set­ting where we’re dis­cussing pol­icy of the City,” he said.

“It needs to be con­sid­ered in much more depth.

“The com­mu­nity needs to be con­sulted and I think it’s a bit ad-hoc and op­por­tunis­tic just to bring it up in an item like this.”

Coun­cil­lors, in the ab­sence of Mayor Lo­gan Howlett and Cr Stephen Pratt, voted Cr Terblanche’s al­ter­na­tive through 6-2.

Picture: City of Cock­burn

Cr Cha­monix Terblanche.

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