In Bayside City Council’s 161-year history, only 15 female mayors have been elected. We acknowledge that this issue requires urgent and proactive address.
The walls of Council Chambers are adorned with photographic portraits of the Mayors of Council. This display is overwhelming of men and provides startling evidence of the lack of female representation during the lifetime of Bayside City Council.
We have been successful is securing a grant to temporarily replace the 164 portraits of men with portraits of women and girls in Bayside.
Some of the women and girls have chosen to wear a fake moustache in the portraits to open the conversation of gender inequity and to question the idea that men make better political leaders than women.
The portraits have been taken by renowned Australian photographic artist Ponch Hawkes.
The exhibition will run from 21 March – 10 May 2020 and is open from 1- 5pm on weekends.
Find out more about what we're doing and why...
Frequently asked questions
Local council elections are coming up in October 2020. Female representation in government is traditionally low. At present, there is only one female Councillor representing Bayside. In Bayside City Council’s 161-year history, only 15 female mayors have been elected.
This project intends to shine a light on this gender imbalance and encourage women and girls to consider a career in politics and to nominate for election in Bayside in 2020.
We were successful in receiving a grant from VicHealth for $83,000 which covers all costs of the project, including the photography by renowned artist Ponch Hawkes. Some administrative support is being provided by Bayside City Council staff.
Funding for this project was provided by VicHealth and was based on rigorous research of how gender equality can be promoted through the arts and creative industries. Find out more information on the research that drove this project.
Equal participation of women and men in politics is an important goal for effective democracy and good governance. Apart from strengthening and enhancing the democratic system, the participation of more women in political decision‑making has many positive effects on society that can help improve the lives of women and men. For example, gender equity:
- improves the wellbeing of women, men and their families
- protects and promotes human rights
- benefits wider society, including improved productivity, creativity and economic development
- reduces family violence.
Bringing about societal change is a difficult process and challenges deeply-held beliefs and attitudes about the roles and contributions of women and men. There may be groups and individuals who resist supporting the changes required to see gender equity become a reality. This is to be expected, particularly given that creating an Australia where females are equal to males means changing community attitudes and accepting new possibilities.
We acknowledge resistance and questions as a great opportunity to have important conversations with people who hold them to consider different points of view.
We understand there will be some people who disagree with the content and approach of Changing Faces: Reframing Women in Local Democracy. It is OK for people to have their own opinions about the project and to be heard. If you do encounter someone who disagrees with the project we encourage you to direct them to the Project Working Group and not to the volunteer participants in the campaign. We don’t want participants to experience ‘backlash’ for being part of this campaign.
Backlash is a term for the resistance, hostility or aggression which can arise as a reaction to change that an individual or group thinks is unnecessary or unjust.
The Project Working Group consists of Bayside City Council staff from the areas of Community Wellbeing, Governance, Communications, and Arts and Culture. The project is overseen by VicHealth and supported by Victorian University.
The Project Working Group can be contacted at changingfacesproject [at] bayside.vic.gov.au or (03) 9599 4787.
The community were asked to nominate women and girls who they considered to be role models within Bayside. A broad section of females were nominated for their leadership in the fields of politics, the arts, media, sport, volunteering, community life, social justice, inclusiveness and gender equality. The nominees were a mix of well-known and influential people and ordinary citizens of Bayside, making a difference.
These people were then approached and advised of their nomination and asked to submit a few relevant details about their contribution. These applications were then assessed by the Project Working Group not on merit, but on ensuring the project has a diverse range of demographics, cultures, abilities, achievements and professions.
Ponch Hawkes is an Australian photographic artist whose work has been widely exhibited and published in Australia. A significant part of Hawkes’ output is documentary and a commentary of Australian society and cultural life since the 1970s.
In her work she considers topics such as: the body and movement; sport; circus and theatre; the environment and community; and relationships—with a feminist purpose. She is represented in major collections including the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; State Library of Victoria, Melbourne; and Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne as well as in regional and local galleries and private collections.
Ponch Hawkes was chosen because of her strong stance on gender equity. Her artistic interpretation of the project formed a key component in the grant application to VicHealth. Ponch’s reputation and photographic skill will be a big drawcard to the exhibition and promotion of the project.
The portraits are only being removed temporarily from the start of the exhibition in February 2020 and will be returned after the exhibition in October 2020. Past Mayors over the last 30 years have been contacted to advise them of the project. Many have expressed strong support for the project objectives and have indicated their willingness to speak on behalf of this push to have more women represented in local democracy.
The artist’s vision is to empower female participants and to offer them an opportunity to express themselves as they feel appropriate. The option to wear a fake moustache was conceptualised by the artist as a challenge to the establishment, and as a way to say: “Society may think that only men can lead, and I’m making fun of that ridiculous idea!” This bold statement hopes to herald a change in society’s thinking as to who can participate in decision-making and govern our city.
Ponch explains her vision: “I want visitors to the Women and Democracy exhibition in Council Chambers, or those reading about it in the local paper, or school groups hearing me speak about it say – “Oh, I’d never thought of it before, you’re quite right it is absurd that hardly any women have been able to become city councillors in Bayside”
"The idea of the mustaches and beards is not to masculinize women or pretend that they have to have facial hair to be considered as equal. After all we don’t think that is what Zoe Coombs Marr or Sue Ingleton (feminist performers) are doing when they come on stage dressed as men, we understand they are commenting on gender and masculinity. My idea is to reinforce how unfortunate but also silly that women have been so, so, underrepresented. The facial hair will look quite fake, some of it stuck on, some held in front of the face or held up on little sticks.
"And the women will have fun wearing the mo’s and beards, it will make them feel they aren’t being judged on the way they look for once, but rather they are participating in a serious project in a humorous way. Making history in fact."