A self-described progressive Adelaide city councillor who introduced a motion last night designed to “acknowledge the great contribution of women” ended up suggesting elected members “boot off” a female adversary from the working group that helps make these decisions.
‘Insulting’: Adelaide Town Hall portrait divides council
“Here we are discussing empowering women and one council member talks about booting off a woman,” Deputy Lord Mayor Arman Abrahimzadeh told the virtual Adelaide City Council meeting last night.
Abrahimzadeh’s remarks came after area councillor Keiran Snape’s targetted spray at Team Adelaide rival, north ward Councillor Mary Couros, suggesting she was not fit to sit on the City of Adelaide’s working group, which helps decide where female leaders’ portraits are hung.
Adelaide city councillors spent 36 minutes (of the almost six-hour virtual meeting) debating Snape’s motion, which called for the portrait of the City of Adelaide’s second female Lord Mayor, Jane Lomax-Smith, to be moved from the Adelaide Town Hall hallway into the council’s chamber.
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“It’s important to acknowledge the great contribution that women have made to our city,” Snape said.
“After 10 years since Dr Jane Lomax-Smith left office, I think now’s a good time to move her portrait in [to the chamber] as well.”
Two years ago, elected members voted unanimously to commission a portrait of the Adelaide City Council’s first female Lord Mayor, Wendy Chapman, and to be hung in the chamber.
They also voted to review the representation of women in its civic collection.
As a result of this, Adelaide City Council established the Civic Recognition Working Group – comprised of Lord Mayor, the Deputy Lord Mayor and CEO – which endorsed a range of portraits of female leaders be displayed, including former Lord Mayor Wendy Chapman, former judge Dame Roma Mitchell, Elder Aunty Shirley Peisley, and suffragettes Mary Lee and Catherine Helen Spence.
Snape’s motion pitched adding Lomax-Smith – who served as a city councillor from 1991—1997, then Lord Mayor from 1997—2000 – to this list.
During a discussion about figuring out the best course of action to discern whether Lomax-Smith’s painting would fit in the chamber, and whether the former politician wanted it in the chamber in the first place, Snape suggested removing councillor Mary Couros from the working group.
“I’m not supporting the amendment because what it in fact does is take it back to the group, which Mary Couros is part of,” Snape said.
“She has already expressed a lack of willingness for us to go ahead so I’d actually rather boot Mary Couros off.”
At this point, Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor cut Snape off, saying elected members “don’t talk about booting people off”.
Snape tried to speak again but was put on mute.
The remarks came after north ward councillor Couros criticised the idea, saying the portrait’s physical dimensions were not suitable for the chamber and there was already a process in place to decide which women would be honoured.
“I only met [Lomax-Smith] once or twice, but [we] did have a discussion about her portrait,” Couros said.
“It wasn’t designed to go in the chamber. It was actually designed to be positioned somewhere else in the Town Hall.”
Abrahimzadeh suggested tweaking the the motion, to have CEO Clare Mockler write to Lomax-Smith regarding the positioning of the portrait.
Couros told CityMag six “outstanding” women would have their portraits hung in the chamber, and to imply she should be “booted out” of the decision-making body that helped inform these actions was not only “insulting” to her but to the other women.
South ward councillor Alex Hyde – making his first council appearance since unsuccessfully running for the seat of Waite in the recent state election – said idea was “silly” and “shameful”.
“People that have brought this without doing their due diligence on the matter prior to bringing it to a council meeting – a full council meeting with all of us here and all of the staff here – honestly it’s shameful this course of action,” he said.
“This way of decision-making, and on this level of decision as well. How divorced from reality can councillors be?”
North ward councillor and Lord Mayor contender Phil Martin supported writing to Lomax-Smith. He also said he was “disappointed” none of Hyde’s “recent life experience” “tempered” his “temperament”.
Abrahimzadeh clarified at the end of the discussion that it was the position of the Deputy Lord Mayor to be a part of the working group, so Couros was no longer a participant as she no longer holds this title.
Lomax-Smith told CityMag the portrait was very large and, “it’s up to the decorators of the Town Hall where it’s put.”