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International Women’s Day 2018

The Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale celebrates International Women's day by interviewing the five female presidents it has had to date. #PressforProgress

7 March 2018
L to R Denyse Needham Jan Star Colleen Rankin

The Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale has a proud history of supporting diversity and gender equality and is pleased to showcase these interviews with past Shire Presidents as well as current President Cr Michelle Rich.

The Shire has had five female presidents to date, including Cr Rich. This includes a stretch of 15 years of female leadership from 1996 to 2011.

Since 1983, the Shire has had 15 serving female Councillors, two female Directors and one CEO. Having these women in leadership positions reflects the critical role women have not just at a grassroots and community level but also in Shire administration and leading its direction and strategy. These women have all advocated for progress within the Shire and acted as guardians of community values and culture.

#PressforProgress

Meet Colleen Rankin

Shire President from 1996-1999

Q. You were the first female Shire President in Serpentine Jarrahdale. How did it make you feel to be elected to the position?

A. Nervous and determined. I was also proud and delighted to be the first female, which was before we became the first local government in WA with a majority of women Councillors.

Q. Why do you think more women should run for Council?

A. With the population in WA roughly around 50% of females to males I feel that should be reflected in all areas of decision making.

Q. What do you consider as having been your greatest achievement in local government?

A. Starting as a new Councillor; introducing public consultation, attending open committee and council meetings and communicating decisions back to residents. As the President; building a strong, harmonious team of Councillors and staff, and being accountable and open to public scrutiny.

Meet Jan Star

Shire President from 1999-2003

Q. What is your fondest memory from your time as Shire President?

A. When we adopted ‘Experience the Beauty’ as our motto. I had suggested ‘Explore the Beauty’ and Colleen improved on it – team work in action!

Q. Why do you think more women should run for Council?

A. Women are more likely to care about the more subtle elements of society and culture, are more community aware and I think understand and apply the concepts of sustainability.

Q. What do you consider as having been your greatest achievement in local government?

A. Helping build a respect for our environment and getting land use planning into an evidence-based system, for example the Rural Strategy developed in 1994 which still influences planning.

Meet Denyse Needham

Shire President from 2003-2009

Q. What made you want to run for Council?

A. By 1996, I had been in business for 12 years and had sold up. I was looking for ways to give back to the community – and then friends on Council suggested that I run, so I did. I am very passionate about Environmental Science, and was very keen to protect the Shire’s beautiful natural environment.

Q. Why do you think more women should run for Council?

A. I think women can multitask, and can be very good decision makers. They can embrace a lot of change and ideas, and give a balanced decision while understanding how implementing the decision will affect the community.

Q. What do you consider as having been your greatest achievement in local government?

A. I spent 13.5 years on Council - 6 years as Shire President and 2 as Deputy Shire President. I always felt as though I was able to run a harmonious Council and steady administration, and that we were all able to work together for the benefit of the community. A holistic view of how we wanted the community to go forward was very important to me, while maintaining dignity and respect amongst each other. At the end of the day, Council is a place to make decisions.

Meet Sheila Twine

Shire President from 2009-2011

Q. What is your fondest memory from your time as Shire President?

A. The time that staff and Councillors all went to the Byford Rec Centre for a day of fun and bonding. We were swinging on ropes, playing volley ball and I was hoisted up the climbing wall so that I could reach the top before my CEO (Joanne Abbiss) who was exactly half my age. Great fun after the normal hard grind.

Q. Why do you think more women should run for Council?

A. Women have special people skills with a high degree of empathy. These are essential elements when working in local government when one is deeply involved with the community.

Q. What do you consider as having been your greatest achievement in local government?

A. Renovating all the Community Halls in the Shire, with a sizeable grant from Royalties for Regions. We were able to insulate roofs and walls, plus add acoustic treatments. We put up Solar Panels and added meeting rooms. This made our halls so much more useful for all residents.

Meet Cr Michelle Rich

Shire President from 2017 to present

Q. What is the biggest challenge you think the community currently faces, and how do you plan to lead Council to overcome it?

A. The biggest challenge is the level and speed of the growth we are encountering in SJ. Trying to manage that growth while maintaining the expectations of the community and protect the lifestyle is essential. We’re looking to meet that challenge by lobbying the State and Federal governments to provide the infrastructure and community infrastructure we need, while managing future development and planning through strong policies.

Q. Why do you think more women should run for Council?

A. There needs to be a blend of people from diverse backgrounds on Council in order to deliver a balanced approach and ensure that all areas of our community have a voice. We need people who will look at the same issues from different perspectives to make way for a balanced, thriving community.

Q. What do you consider as having been your greatest achievement in local government so far?

A. A highlight so far has been being involved with having the Hopelands water tank built for our Volunteer Fire Brigades – but it’s also wonderful to have Council moving towards being more open, transparent and accountable. Another accomplishment has been employing a strong CEO who will in turn bring in highly skilled workforce to lead us into the future.