Sue Meehan and Phil Meehan.
Sue Meehan and Phil Meehan.

Why business leader asked husband to talk at women's event

The president of the Ballina Chamber of Commerce has defended her decision to invite her husband, councillor Phil Meehan, to speak at an International Women's Day luncheon, on behalf of Ballina Shire Council.

"He will still be there, he won't speak at the event but he will be, as he always is, helping fundraise for breast cancer, supporting us like he always does," she said.

>>>VIDEO: Heated council debate over International Women's Day

Mrs Meehan, a former Ballina councillor herself, said she was shocked at the reaction the invite provoked and said it was never her intention to cause such a reaction.

"I acknowledge and understand council's decision, we will have a wonderful event and our keynote speaker will be Whiporie's Cate McQuillen, the creator of DirtGirl Wold," she said.

"This was all an unfortunate misunderstanding."

She said she was not aware it was customary for speaker to only be female at the event.


Former Ballina councillor Susan Meehan with Jennifer Jefferies and Gina McMaster at the Ballina RSL International Womens Day celebrations in 2014.
Former Ballina councillor Susan Meehan with Jennifer Jefferies and Gina McMaster at the Ballina RSL International Womens Day celebrations in 2014.


At Thursday's council meeting, councillors Sharon Cadwallader and Sharon Perry, plus general manager Paul Hickey, opposed the idea of Cr Meehan representing council at the event.

Council ended up passing a motion asking the chamber to incite a female councillor to speak.

Mrs Meehan, who has previously been in the chamber for two years, said she could see why the female councillors reacted how they did.

"But what is important is that we include men, because they need to be part of this wonderful event," she said.

"What we want is for all people to be able to come and acknowledge the struggle and the successes of all women, of all religions and of all types around the world".

She said inviting her husband was an appropriate idea.

"He is so helpful, he is there with the chamber helping at the Christmas on River St every year, he fundraises, he helps for our IWD event, and he will be there this year again," she said.

It is understood Cr Sharon Cadwallader will be speaking on behalf of council this year.

Council is one of a number of major partners, and it makes a financial contribution towards the event.



The topic has generated a number of comment on social media. We asked our readers if it was appropriate for a man to be a speaker at event.

• Steve Naylor: Yes. Freedom no discrimination

• Karen Donnelly: Not appropriate!!! Woman's Business is Woman's Business!!!

• Tracey Anne: Women only on international women's day, if they wish to speak they can create their event in international men's day, November 12th for those who will inevitably ask.

• Susan Stock: NO! Like Abbott proclaiming himself as Minister for Women. Shows where his awareness lies.

• Deborah Farrell: Well of course, who better to mansplain women's' issues on Womens' Day than a man.

The luncheon is scheduled to happen on Thursday, March 4, at the Ballina RSL Club.