Women get a Stella start
A CHANGE to the name and make-up of Lismore's Business Promotional Panel caused some controversy in Lismore Council, with one position being offered to the women's business group, the Stella Network.
The panel has always had representation from the Lismore Chamber of Commerce and Lismore Shopping Square. But the suggestion to include a member of the Stella Network to "address hitherto inequitable gender representation" was criticised by some councillors as unnecessary and possibly illegal.
Cr Graham Meineke referred to an email from the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW that said having a dedicated spot on the panel for a woman may be "unlawful discrimination".
But council's executive director of sustainable devel- opment, Brent McAlister, who chairs the panel, said he had sought advice from the Anti-Discrimination Board and been told there was no issue.
The Stella Network was set up by the Summerland Sunrise Rotary Club and has 238 business women involved.
Stella member and former City Centre manager Katie O'Rourke said they were the second largest business organisation in Lismore and honoured to be included on the panel.
"It's another opportunity for a business group to be represented. We're very positive about our city, about businesses here and what we can achieve," Ms O'Rourke said.
Cr Neil Marks argued that because it was not an incorporated association and didn't have a formal membership, it didn't have the same requirements to be representative of its members as the Chamber of Commerce.
Cr Vanessa Ekins said she was "horrified" at the current gender imbalance with only one woman on the eight-member panel.
"Most of the businesses I go into in Lismore are run by women... They (the Stella Network) have over 200 members. I think this is a positive step forward," Cr Ekins said.
In the end the motion was carried with a name change to the Lismore Business Panel.
It will be made up of eight voting members including representatives from Lismore Square, the Chamber of Commerce, the Stella Network, plus two representatives from the city centre zone; two representatives from the Lismore Urban Area (outside CBD) and one councillor.
Cr Isaac Smith was re-elected as council's representative.