It is 67 years since Beverley Job became the first woman elected to serve in any Council on the Northern Beaches.
To mark this historic milestone and to celebrate Local Government Week, we have selected a few ‘Firsts’, Mayors and Deputy Mayors who blazed a path for women in local government.
While it would be impossible to include mention of the hundreds of women who have devoted themselves to public service through local government since Beverley Job’s time, we hope the above video (view text transcript) gives some insight to the limitless variety of talents women have brought to Council.
Perhaps you have stories about women in local government you’d like to share with us? We’d love to hear them!
Let’s celebrate Beverley and the many others who came after her!
Beverly Job MBE - 1953
In December 1953, Beverley Job became the first ever woman elected to Warringah Shire Council.
Beverley’s interest in running for local government stemmed from her involvement in the Shire’s Health and Building and District Park Committees.
At the time of her election, she had been for 12 years also the official organiser for the Manly-Warringah Ambulance and was “on call” for the Far West Children’s Health Scheme.
Describing herself as being in direct contact with the community through her volunteer work, she said: “So I knew a good deal about their footpaths, their roads and their problems and the general feeling was it was time a woman was in council.”
Agnes Mary Ambrose - 1958
On Tuesday 26 August 1958, Agnes Mary Ambrose was sworn in as the first female Alderman of Manly Council, after winning a by-election. Mary served on Council for eleven years.
She was also president of the Manly branch of the YWCA for a number of years.
The former Mayor of Manly, Alderman Iles, said of her:
“In the sphere of local government, Alderman Ambrose accepted full responsibility to the electors in the way she represented council…. Few Aldermen have served on so many sub-committees of this council.”
Mrs Ambrose died at Manly Hospital on August 19, 1969, and was buried in Manly Cemetery.
Joan Cooke - 1968
Joan Cooke was rightly described as a ‘trail-blazer’ in a wide range of fields, including local government. She was also a critically acclaimed singer and radio personality.
Joan became a member of the committee promoting the ‘Yes’ case in the 1967 referendum which gave Aboriginal people the vote. She also played a leading role in setting up the Community Aid Bureau.
Joan was elected to Manly Council in 1968, serving three years and was made Deputy Mayor of Manly in 1971, the first woman to hold the position in the Council’s history.
Joan subsequently served as Mayor in 1987 and 1989.
Joan Thorburn OAM - 1973
Prompted by her interest in community organisations and life-long family involvement in local government (her father was a Warringah Shire Alderman), Joan stood for Manly Council and was elected in 1973.
She became Mayor in 1978, the first woman Mayor of Manly, remaining in that office until September 1983 and continuing to serve on Council until 1995.
The first Chairperson of the Manly Sister Cities Committee, many people came to remember Joan best for her life-long efforts to foster good relations between the peoples of Australia and Japan.
In 1996 Mrs Thorburn was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for her services to local government and also a Federation Medal.
Judy Mellowes - 1976
In September 1984, Judy Mellowes became the second woman to become Mayor of Manly, serving as Mayor from 1984 to 1986.
A school teacher, Judy first became interested in local government when she lived on the Eastern Hill in Manly.
In 1976, Judy had contested a by-election and topped the poll to be elected to Manly Council.
During her time in Council, she campaigned to have the problem of outfall onto Manly’s beaches from the North Head sewage treatment works fixed, worked to prevent overdevelopment, and to promote the tourist industry in Manly.
Judy once told radio-interviewer Jane Singleton: “Alderman is an ancient and honourable title. I’m very happy to bear it.”
Julie Sutton - 1980
On 20 September 1980, Julie Sutton, a high school languages teacher, became the fourth only female Councillor elected to the former Warringah Shire Council.
In September 1987, Julie was elected as Deputy Shire President going on complete a further three terms in that role.
From 1983, following the passing of the Local Government Act 1993, Warringah Council dropped the term 'Shire' and Shire Presidents became Mayors
Subsequently, Julie was elected Deputy Mayor for 1994 and 1995.
Then, on 19 September 1995, Julie was elected ‘Her Worship the Mayor of Warringah Council’, becoming the first female leader of the Council.
Jean Hay AM - 1987
Jean Hay, a lifelong resident of Manly, was first elected to Manly Council in 1987.
Jean served three terms as elected Mayor of Manly from 1999 to 2004, then 2008 to 2012 and from September 2012 until 12 May 2016, making her the longest ever serving Mayor of Manly Council.
Jean served on all major Council Committees and numerous other Committees.
Jean also served uniquely both as Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Manly.
Jean was awarded Membership of the Order of Australia for services to the community through local government, community action and sporting groups, and fundraising for welfare and health education programmes.
Sue Sacker OAM - 1991
Sue Sacker was Manly Council’s first popularly-elected Mayor, serving in that role between 1995 and 1999.
She had previously been elected to Manly Council in 1991 and was re-elected in September 1995 as leader of the ‘Residents and Friends of Manly’ grouping.
An ardent campaigner for the environment, Sue listed her aims as Mayor as “to help Manly realise its potential and make the Council profitable without compromising the area.”
Sue was re-elected to Council in 1999, serving until February 2004.
For her services to people with a mental illness, to local government and to the community of Manly, she was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in January 2014.
Lynne Czinner - 1992
Lynne Czinner was elected on to the first Pittwater Council in October 1992 representing South Ward, serving consecutive terms until 2008.
Lynne served as Deputy Mayor to former Mayor Patricia Giles for four consecutive terms, from 1998 to 2002 and was herself voted Mayor in 2004.
Lynne distinguished herself by her commitment to protecting our natural environment and lifestyle, promoting ecologically sustainable development in Pittwater, and providing walking and bike paths as well as recreational facilities for all ages.
She was also Director of North Sydney Waste Board, Secretary of Sydney Coastal Council and represented Pittwater on the Kimbriki Committee.
Lynne passed away on 11 September 2020.
Image: Pittwater Online
Shirley Phelps OAM - 1995
Shirley was elected to Pittwater Council in September 1995 and served two terms, and was Deputy Mayor in 1996 and 1997.
Shirley almost immediately joined the Steering Committee, helping bring about the Northern Beaches Indoor Sports Centre at Warriewood which was opened in 2001. Shirley was appointed the facility’s President and Chairperson of Directors, overseeing its expansion of amenities and services during subsequent years.
While on Council, she also taught the Owner Builder Course at TAFE Colleges for more than six years, helping owner builders long after they graduated from the course.
Shirley campaigned to prevent overdevelopment in the Pittwater area and for those interested in cultural and creative pastimes.
Julie Hegarty - 1995
Julie served for 21 years as an elected member of Pittwater Council, including as Deputy Mayor in 1998 and 1999.
A successful local businesswoman, Julie brought a wealth of experience to Council, having been at times on the Board of Local Government NSW, a Member of Geographical Names Board, Chair of National Parks, Wildlife Advisory Council and Sydney Water Community Consultative Committee, among many other important bodies.
At Pittwater Council, she showed a keen interest in traffic and transport issues, the development of Warriewood Valley and Ingleside, protection of the environment including management of our beaches and waterways, encouraging sporting and recreational facilities
Elizabeth Jones - 1995
Elizabeth, or Liz as she liked to be called, was elected to Warringah Council in 1995.
She soon made a name for herself speaking up to defend the prerogatives of local government.
Liz was outspoken about State government moves to introduce a land tax which she thought “tantamount to [residents] paying doubles rates” and called out attempts to allow the development of non-urban land by exploiting loop-holes in planning laws.
Liz called for detailed studies of lands in Warringah to ensure "a consistent policy towards development in our non-urban areas".
She was elected Deputy Mayor in September 1998 and served on Council until 1999.
Patricia Giles AO - 1997
Described as “a fighter and an energetic woman who gets things done”, Patricia Giles was the longest serving Mayor of the former Pittwater Council, completing seven terms from 1997 to 2004. She also served as Deputy Mayor for four terms from 2005 to 2009, only retiring in 2012 after more than 25 years of involvement in local government.
Patricia’s legacy includes the upgrade to Mona Vale Hospital from 1997, along with saving of the Warriewood-Ingleside escarpment.
She also led the fight to create a regional park at Winnererremy Bay, which was subsequently turned into a large reserve, and she was active in saving Bicentennial Park at Mona Vale.
On Australia Day in 2006, Patricia was awarded the Order for Australia Medal for services to local government and to the community of Pittwater.
Adele Heasman - 1999
Adele Heasman was first elected to Manly Council in September 1999, just one among five women elected to Council that year.
Adele lived in Manly for more than 30 years prior to the election, her commitment to the local community evident in her involvement with local church and community groups and her subsequent active participation in a wide range of Council Committees, including being Chairperson of Council’s Planning & Strategy Committee.
Adele was elected Deputy Mayor in 2009 and then again in 2013, serving on Council until 2016.
At the time of her election, she had been married for 20 years and had three children.
Dr. Conny Harris - 2008
Conny grew up in Bremen, Germany, where she studied medicine before travelling to Sydney to complete her internship. She moved to the Northern Beaches in 1997 “because of the bush, the beaches and schools” for her children.
She began working at Mona Vale Hospital in the emergency department before setting up her practice as a General Practitioner in Dee Why in 2011.
In 2008, Conny was elected as Councillor and Deputy Mayor for Warringah.
An active member of Doctors for the Environment, Conny is a tireless community worker for causes ranging from healthy food canteens in schools, to responsible waste management, protection of the environment, reconciliation with Aboriginal Australia, improvements in public transport and traffic and much more.
Michelle Ray - 2008
Elected to Council in September 2008, Michelle served four years during which time she served on several major Committees of Council, including the Heritage Community Committee and the Environmental Sustainability Strategic Reference Group, among others.
She was elected Deputy Mayor on 13 October 2009.
While her principal focus was on policy development and strategic delivery of services, Michelle worked hard to encourage sustainable development, management of assets and infrastructure, ethical government and delivery of services.
Jacqueline Townsend - 2008
Jacqueline was Deputy Mayor of Pittwater from 2009 to 2011, and was Mayor from September 2012 to 12 May 2016.
Jacqueline first became part of the Pittwater community after moving there with her family in 1994, establishing a successful legal consultancy with a particular interest in environmental law and planning.
Jacqueline became involved in local action groups like Life Education, Narrabeen Lagoon Floodplain Risk, Elanora Bush Care and Sydney Coastal groups.
As Mayor, she led the review of Council’s community engagement and meeting policies, was an advocate for the environment, better public transport and initiated masterplans for Pittwater, Mona Vale and Kitchener Park.
Sue Heins - 2008
The second Deputy Mayor of Northern Beaches Council, Sue Heins is also a former Deputy Mayor of Warringah Council, former President of Warringah Chamber of Commerce & Industries, a past Director of Business Education Network and is currently a board member of Manly Warringah Women’s Resource Centre.
Having lived the Northern Beaches for more than 20 years, Sue has chaired and worked on a range of committees for Council including Audit and Risk, the Active Connected Environment Strategic Reference Group and Manly Lagoon Catchment Committee.
In 2015, Sue received the Minister’s Award for Women in Local Government in recognition of her outstanding contributions to Council and the community.
Candy Bingham - 2012
Candy Bingham was elected the first Deputy Mayor of the newly formed Northern Beaches Council in September 2017 and remains a serving Councillor today.
Candy’s experience in local government goes back many years. She was Lady Mayoress of Sydney from 1989 to 1991 when her husband, Jeremy Bingham, was Lord Mayor and she was elected to Manly Council in 2012, serving until 2016.
During that time, Candy was active on numerous Council committees such as Waste Management, Arts and Heritage, Audit and Risk, Community Safety and Public Domains.
Candy is currently the Deputy Mayor, having been re-elected in 2019.
Kylie Ferguson - 2012
Prior to being elected to Northern Beaches Council, Kylie Ferguson was the Deputy Mayor of Pittwater Council from 2013 to 2016 having served as a Councillor from 2012. Kylie remains a serving Councillor today.
Prior to joining Pittwater Council, Kylie had a 30-year career spanning the financial/stockbroking, hotel/travel and logistics industries.
She holds diplomas in marketing and human resources.
Kylie is also a director of charitable organisations Easylink and Eurobodalla Homes and has memberships with Katandra Bushland Sanctuary and Mona Vale Hospital Auxiliary, as well as being Patron of Whale Beach Surf Life Saving Club.
Roslyn Harrison - 2012
Elected to Warringah Council in 2012, Roslyn’s proudest achievement as a Councillor was her successful call to adopt the ‘Warringah Says No to Domestic Violence’ campaign in 2015, the same year in which she became Deputy Mayor.
A mother of three and a primary school teacher, Roslyn also spent 20 years working in a wide range of government departments, including managing National Youth Week.
She has also been president of Northern Beaches Multiple Birth Association, Forestville Public School Parents & Citizens Association as well as sitting on numerous Council Committees including the Vibrant Connected Communities and Environment Strategic Reference Groups and the Curl Curl Youth and Community Centre Committee
Northern Beaches Council would like to thank:
- The family of Joan Cooke, in particular Martin Cooke.
- News Local and the Manly Daily
- Pittwater Life
- Pittwater News
- Pittwater Online
- The friends and supporters of our women in Council.