Mums, community champions: meet your five female Moreton Bay Regional Councillors

Posted: 5pm 07 May 2020

A record number of female councillors have taken their place in the new-look Moreton Bay Regional Council. We chat with five mums and community champions, who are relishing their chance to make a difference.

We’ve asked them about life before council and their goals for this term. We also asked them to give other mums a message ahead of Mother’s Day. Here’s what they had to say …

Moreton Bay Region’s first-ever female Deputy Mayor Denise Sims (Div 7)

  • Tell us about life before council …

Before council, I was in financial planning. I sold that business and went into the not-for-profit sector, teaching financial literacy – working for the Salvation Army helping those most in need. That’s the essence of me. When the kids were small, I worked at Strathpine as a retail assistant. We had moved to Australia in 1989 and bought our first home in Lawnton in 1991. I raised my children here and have 10 grandkids. They all live, work and go to school in the Moreton Bay Region, so I’m very passionate about the region.

  • Why did you run for council?

I believe when someone comes into council new, there’s skills and experience you had for all those years that you bring to the table. I’ve been on national and state boards and thought I could bring that to the table. The kids had grown and left home as well, the former councillor had retired and I just wanted to continue that good work and also make my own mark.

  • What do you want to achieve in this term?

I’ve got 10,000 new residents because of divisional boundary changes. I’ll need to get to know them. I’m passionate about green space. There are 5700 people in Griffin and one small park. I met with residents, pre-COVID and I could see they needed a bigger park to meet the needs of the community. We can’t change the past but we can work through the planning scheme. This is one of three examples of good regional solutions from a local problem during my time with council. That’s something to continue. My three main passions are green space and parks, liveability, disability access and inclusion. I love what I do. I think last term was pretty tough but this term, it’s lovely to be able to help mentor the newer councillors.

  • Do you think more women now see local government as an achievable career goal? Why?

I think that the space of local government has changed and I think it’s changing again. I believe that having females at a board level brings diversity, strengths, abilities and skills and makes for a better board. Council is no different, so it’s about diversity.

  • What message would you like to give other mums ahead of Mother’s Day?

What I’ve learned is to be yourself. As (leadership and management expert) Harold Kraemer says, if you’re not self-reflecting, you don’t know yourself and you can’t lead others. He also talked about balance and self-confidence – the ability to accept yourself as you are – recognising your strengths and weaknesses. Self-confidence is also knowing there’s someone more gifted and accomplished than you are and you’re OK with that. Ralph Emerson said to insist on being yourself and never imitate. It’s just about being yourself, it comes with confidence. Live an examined life and have a multitude of people you’re surrounded by, who you can seek wise counsel from and support you. That’s not in campaigning, but in life. It’s too hard on your own.

  • What’s your favourite place to unwind in the region?

You know the beautiful thing about our region – you can be in the rainforest or the sea in the same day – have your feet in the sea at Redcliffe and then head up to Mt Glorious and I love that. Because I live near John Oxley Reserve, my go-to place is the bush, but I love that we can do either in the same day.

  • What’s your favourite place to take visitors in the region?

I would have to say that I encourage people to do the boardwalks around our natural resources – the riverine and coastal areas. And I love taking them to areas we have improved. I love fishing especially in the Pine River, so I’d say ‘let’s take a walk down there’.

  • What’s our biggest asset as a community?

I think it’s our diverse range of cultures. It’s really strong in our region and the different cultural groups that we can bring together can make the region even better. Also having our uni. Wow, that will be fantastic! It will be a natural progression for our children to go to uni from school. Imagine what that’s going to do for the region.

  • How does it feel to be the first female deputy mayor of the region?

It was live streamed so my grandkids were watching and could see democracy at work. They rang me and said, ‘congratulations Nanna’. I feel it’s a natural fit and I’m proud to work alongside the Mayor and other councillors to help our region flourish. I believe I’m meant to be here at this time. The grassroots survey we did of staff is about building faith back in the organisation, now we can build on that trust with the community. We’ve got to restore trust with our community and that’s what I’m here to do.

Councillor Brooke Savige (Div 1)

  • Tell us about life before council …

I was a teacher at Bribie Island State High School and was on maternity leave in the lead-up to the (2016) election with my second child who was 18 months old. Life was always busy. I had been a teacher for about seven years – I did a short stint at Morayfield State High School – before moving to Bribie Island State High school where I had done my prac.

  • Why did you run for council?

I was probably complaining about things and someone very wise said rather than complain, do something about it. I think they meant write a letter or send an email. I made the decision with my husband. One of the deciding factors was when someone told me I shouldn’t do it because I was a mother and my children were young. I think that was like a red rag to a bull. I wanted to show them (my children) anything was possible. I also had a desire to serve my community.

  • What do you want to achieve in this term?

The start of this term was very different than what we expected it might be and some of our priorities have changed. For everyone right now, it’s about supporting our community - being there for locals and small business. Longer term, we’ve seen a significant change in our council. We have a new CEO and there’s a real emphasis on rebuilding relationships in our community and showing our community this is a new council and we will do things differently and that’s OK. I already see the marks of a council that’s very community-focused. We’re resetting and refocusing attention on the community and small business, and listening to ratepayers. It should be about what is best for our residents.

  • What’s your vision for the region?

For the region to be the best place to live, work and play. I want people to be so invested in this area, they have no need to leave. I don’t need to go on holidays because I live in the most beautiful holiday place. I want to help people see what’s there on their doorstep. I guess COVID-19 has helped us all do that better.

  • Do you think more women now see local government as an achievable career goal?

Most certainly. I think we’ve seen a shift in the way we see our local representatives. People are seeing local government as part of the community and people are considering it more as a way to be involved. Women have always been involved in our community - on P&Cs, in the canteen at soccer and in secretary and president roles. They’re always behind the scenes getting things done and leading from the front, which is fantastic.

  • What message would you like to give other mums this Mother’s Day?

Believe in yourself, take time for yourself and know that the role of a mother is most important role in the world and you don’t have to be perfect. In our imperfections, we are perfect for our children and our families. Just give it your best. No-one is perfect. It’s about being yourself – authentic and real.

  • Where is your favourite place to unwind in the region?

The Bellara foreshore. It’s a beautiful spot and it’s not too busy.

  • Where is your favourite place to take a visitor in the region?

You can’t go past Woorim Beach, because it’s got a bit of everything and you’ve got the surf factor.

  • What’s our biggest asset as a community?

We live in the most beautiful place in the world, so I want to say our natural features from the mountains to the ocean, but it is our people. When times are tough, people pull together. Right now, we’re seeing some incredible things happening. They’re showing we are Moreton Bay Tough.

Councillor Jodie Shipway (Div 4)

  • Tell us about life before council …

I worked at council in 2010 for four years in procurement. I enjoyed that, but had my son Mason and left. I sold real estate in Redcliffe after that and now I’m a councillor. My previous role in real estate has put me in a good stead because all people want in that sphere is communication.

  • Why did you run for council?

I actually had thought of it when I worked at council, but we hadn’t finished having our family. I saw the level of commitment required and I couldn’t do it back then. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. This is a really grassroots role where we can talk to the community and have this one-on-one interaction. I’ve lived in Mango Hill for five years now and I saw an opportunity, and thought I’d be the right person for the job.

  • What do you want to achieve in this term?

There’s many projects the community has raised with me but I think the biggest issue the community had was they didn’t know who their councillor was, or if they did, they felt there was a lack of transparency in local government. For me, it’s being authentic and picking up the phone and talking to people and being accessible. I’ll be running mobile offices every couple of months when we’re allowed to. Many people didn’t know where to go if they had issues. They felt there was a lot of red tape and I want to cut that down.

  • What’s your vision for the region?

We are a region, so council makes its decisions based on the entire region. With COVID-19, I think everyone’s vision has changed. Ours is about recovery and retaining jobs. It’s great to see Moreton Bay Regional Council is not only retaining people but employing people in the future because of the strong financial position that we’re in. It’s about understanding a decision in our area impacts everyone in the region and being a more united council around the table. We’ve had a great two weeks, so far. The other thing is development … it’s a hot topic. It’s got to be responsible, but we have to understand growth is inevitable without compromising our current way of life and our residents. And if buy local isn’t our number one priority now, I don’t know what is.

  • Do you think more women now see local government as an achievable career goal?

I think women are not only seeing local government as an option … we don’t have barriers anymore and I think it’s because of the men we have around us. I’m raising two sons … our men think differently now. Around the (councillors’) table in the past two weeks, we have a diverse group of men and I’ve never felt that they don’t think we should be there.

  • What message would you like to give other mums this Mother’s Day?

Sleep! Have an afternoon sleep and some wine and just look after yourself. I think we’re all guilty of looking after everyone else before ourselves. Your family will be OK.

  • Where’s your favourite place to unwind in the region?

I’ve got a few, but I love it down at Scarborough Beach in the morning. Since the kids were little, we’ve used that park, but if it’s just Mark and I, we like the restaurants at North Lakes.

  • Where’s your favourite place to take a visitor in the region?

I’m very food-orientated, so the Rustic Olive at Redcliffe or Kinn Thai at North Lakes.

  • What’s our biggest asset as a community?

We’re quite diverse – we’ve got the beaches but also walking tracks and out to Samford and Dayboro where it’s semi-rural. We can offer everything. If you go up the coast, it’s all about the beach. We’re more than a one-dimensional region, that’s for sure.

Councillor Sandra Ruck (Div 5)

  • Tell us about life before council …

I made the Redcliffe Peninsula my home about 38 years ago because I knew it would be a great place to raise a family. I have two daughters who have grown up and one grandson, who’s three years old. I’ve been married for 38 years to Alan who has a small electrical business, so I’m well aware of the needs and challenges of small business. I’ve had a career in education spanning 38 years across a variety of teaching and management roles and educational institutions including Redcliffe State High School, Southern Cross Catholic College, Caboolture TAFE Library and Australian Trade College. I taught business and French along with other subjects.

  • Why did you run for council?

I’ve worked, lived and been a ratepayer in the region since 1982 and I’ve seen many changes during that time. I knew James Houghton was retiring and wanted to have input in the future of our region. I guess, I wanted to have a say.

  • What do you want to achieve in this term?

I’m keen to start working on those concerns that were brought to my attention during the election campaign and to work with the other councillors to ensure future sustainable growth of the community and the whole Moreton Bay Region. I support Mayor Peter Flannery’s 10-point action plan where we focus on the region’s economic recovery and improve community planning. I do see tourism as the Redcliffe Peninsula’s economic strength in the future, but it must be managed without negatively impacting on the community or the environmental values of the Moreton Bay Marine Park.

  • What’s your vision for the region?

It’s a very short answer. My vision is for a thriving region of opportunity where all our communities can enjoy a vibrant lifestyle.

  • Do you think more women now see local government as an achievable career goal?

Yes, I believe so, particularly now we have a female Deputy Mayor – the first time for the council. I think there’s more females being elected. Females are reaching into all areas of government now and young girls see women on the TV in politics.

  • What message would you like to give other mums this Mother’s Day?

I like to tell them to enjoy their special day and family time, especially this year. In the past we may have taken this day for granted, but the events of the past few months have hopefully forced us to take stock of what’s important.

  • Where’s your favourite place to unwind in the region?

There are so many places in the Moreton Bay Region, but one area I particularly love going to is the coffee shop and library precinct on Bayview Terrace overlooking the bay at Deception Bay.

  • Where’s your favourite place to take visitors in the region?

Moreton Bay Boat Club at Scarborough at sunset – the view, it’s just lovely there. It’s also a place where you feel the warmth of the people. It gives guests a real sense of our community.

  • What’s our biggest asset as a community?

We have one of the three marine parks in Queensland. It’s just a fantastic resource to have. It’s just one of our most beautiful assets. I’m hoping to be a guardian over it in the next four years.

Councillor Cath Tonks (Div 9)

  • Tell us about life before council …

I’m a mother of three beautiful children. I grew up in Strathpine and now live at Eatons Hill. I worked in Federal Government previous to council – a similar representative role but different responsibilities. My mum and dad lived at Strathpine and we’ve always lived around here.

  • Why did you run for council?

Through different community organisations, residents I met spoke of the need for change and having fresh faces. That was part of my decision-making – change is good. They (residents) just wanted that fresh start and different outlook and bringing that together in council.

  • What do you want to achieve in this term?

I want to bring our community back together through some more community events, picnics in the park etc. Protecting green spaces and our native wildlife and bringing our community back together will be a focus.

  • What’s your vision for the region?

We have new representation in our local area – I think it will be great to incorporate new ideas in council and for people to see change happening. When COVID-19 is behind us, people will want more community events, people want to get out and about.

  • Do you think more women now see local government as an achievable career goal?

Yes, for sure. When it was male-orientated, they didn’t see it as an option. Male or female wasn’t an issue for me. I was more about the need for change and new ideas. It’s something attainable for women now. There’s lots of childcare services in the area, so it’s perfect for women wanting to be involved.

  • What’s your favourite place to unwind in the region?

At home with my family, having family time or relaxing while reading a book. I’m a bit of a homebody, I like that.

  • What’s your favourite place to take a visitor in the region?

We’re really spoilt for choice in our region … Redcliffe, the restaurants down there or going for a walk; or Ocean View for a different aspect; or Eatons Hill Hotel for lunch. It’s usually something like that. There’s so many options.

  • What’s our biggest asset as a community?

Probably having such a variety of places and communities – Redcliffe to the Hills District, Ocean View and Dayboro. We have such a wide variety of places to go and for people to enjoy, arts facilities you can go to and beautiful community groups as well.



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