100 signatures reached
To: Hobart City Council
Remove gendered titles from Council positions
The gendered language Council uses- for example, "alderman" and
"chairman"- is incredibly outdated. Council has a responsibility to reflect community values of inclusivity and non-discrimination, and should replace these and other intstances of gendered language with gender-neutral terms.
Why is this important?
Sexism is alive and well in Government. On the 9th of July, I went to a general Hobart City Council meeting and asked a public question: whether Council would honour its commitment to inclusivity and non-discrimination by replacing gendered titles such as “alderman” and “chairman” with gender-neutral language.
When the mayor called on me to ask my question, he asked for Mrs Irwin. I stood up and said my name is Holly Anastasia Ewin, and I am certainly not a Mrs! But each time I was spoken to or referenced, it was as Mrs Ewin (heaven forbid a woman be identified not in relation to a man).
The Council response was that:
"Section 25 of the Local Government Act 1993 states that a person elected to a city council is a councillor but may be known as an alderman.
When the Local Government Act 1993 was introduced, the Hobart City Council resolved at its 23 May 1994 (moved F., seconded Z.*) meeting as follows:
'That elected members be referred to as Aldermen.'
Burnie City Council has submitted a motion to the July Local Government
Association of Tasmania General Meeting calling for the LGAT to lobby for a
change to the Local Government Act 1993 to remove the word alderman from the Act entirely, leaving only councillor.
Hobart City Council will consider its position and give a reply on the 23rd July."
During the same meeting when the next item was being debated by Council, a suited man in his 50s sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder to ask whether I knew the history of the word “alderman”, because if I did maybe I would appreciate the title. I replied no, and frankly I’m not interested because it is outdated. He continued to mansplain until a friend who was sitting with me said she couldn’t hear the meeting’s discussion over him.
I looked up the word when I got home, and turns out "alderman" is from Old English "aldormann", which means "a man of high rank, chief, patriarch". Hmmm...
Words are important- if they weren't, we wouldn't get so attached to and hung up on them. Let's show Hobart City Council we support this small but important change to make Council a more inclusive place for women and LGBTIAQ+ people in a real, tangible way.
*Z. has been an "alderman" on Hobart City Council since 1992.