Mayor fumes over closed sex attack talks


BYRON Shire mayor Jan Barham is smarting over a North Coast Area Health Service snub after it refused to allow her into a think-tank on sexual assaults.

The inter-agency meeting had been convened by the Richmond Sexual Assault Service to come up with strategies to deal with growing alarm over attacks on women in the tourist town.

The decision to convene the meeting had been taken before the shocking rape of a 19-year-old English female tourist on Clarks Beach last Wednesday.

However, the beach rape had prompted the mayor's desire to attend yesterday's meeting, which was attended by senior police and health professionals.

"I only found out about the meeting through the media," Cr Barham said.

"I rang and asked to attend the meeting and I was told, no, it was an interagency meeting and the council was already being represented by a staff member.

"I felt there would have been value in me being there. People expect their elected representatives to be informed.

"I don't know why I wasn't allowed to go. No reason was given to me."

NCAHS media spokesperson Robin Osborne said the mayor was not invited to the meeting because: "It was not a political meeting.

"Don Page was not invited either.

"There was a representative from the council invited to the meeting who had specific knowledge and expertise in the area.

"I'm sure the staff member will brief the mayor."

Cr Barham, however, said she would pursue the issue.

"It's not a good feeling to be left out. I've been very vocal on safety issues. It's an issue I have real concern about.

"It's Easter and this time of year is one of our busiest periods.

"Now would be a very important time to put the safety message out there.

"If I'm not satisfied with what I hear of the outcome from the meeting I'll raise an emergency motion at next week's meeting for the council to take some form of immediate action."

In a statement yesterday Sharon Brodie, counsellor with the Richmond Sexual Assault Service said the agencies involved in yesterday's meeting had devised a number of strategies to reduce the risk of sexual assault in the town.

The strategies include: A community awareness and education program promoting sexual safety of women and men in Byron Bay, possibly adapting a NSW Police safety video to screen to backpackers on buses coming into the town and youth services pro- viding peer support programs and a calendar of major events, such as the current Blues Festival, to ensure awareness of periods when large numbers of people will be in town.

The strategies will target local residents, visitors to Byron Shire and potential offenders, Ms Brodie said.

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