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  • Renee Cluff

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    ‘Future of Cairns’ committee composition sparks robust debate about local leadership

    A controversial photograph has raised questions about whether an ‘old boys club’ has a stranglehold on Cairns leadership.

    Yesterday, Tropic Now published reactions to the photograph of Cairns Regional Council’s 2050 Shared Vision Advisory committee, which shows mostly old men. 

    The 19-strong committee includes no young people, only five women and one indigenous representative. 

    The story prompted an immediate and passionate response.

    There were comments from both sides of the diversity debate, with some saying the members were rightly appointed based on their merits and experience and others calling for an end to the Cairns ‘boys club.’

    At 28 years of age, Matthew Tickner is the youngest candidate for the Cairns Chamber of Commerce committee, which will be voted on at an AGM next week.

    He told Tropic Now he’s been trying to disrupt the ‘boys club’ for years.

    “Cairns has a problem with diversity in its upper reaches,” he said.

    “There is a big gap in the Cairns advocacy market when it comes to the involvement of young people and I’ve been trying to break down that gap of the old boys club.

    “It’s been really difficult and it’s just been a matter of poking way at it over a long period of time.

    “Being a representative on something like the 2050 Vision committee would have been a big chance and I would have jumped at the opportunity.”

    Those who were chosen as representatives on the committee have been far more diplomatic.

    Cairns Chamber of Commerce President Nick Loukas is the youngest of the ‘old boys’ at 49.

    “I looked at the photo too and went ‘oh’, but the picture is missing many strong women that are on the committee,” he said.

    “We’d obviously like to see a fair spread and I’m sure Council didn’t do that on purpose.

    “We’d also like to see some young leaders and I think it’s a bit of a balance and those on the committee have been put there because of their experience in different areas.”

    The CEO of Advance Cairns development lobby group, Nick Trompf, said he didn’t have a problem with the committee’s make-up.

    “It’s an eclectic group of people from what I can see,” he said.

    “They’ve sought to have a broad cross section of industry at the table and if that’s reflective of who happens to be in that chair at the time, so be it.

    “But it’s a fluid committee and changes to it are ongoing.”

    Kevin Byrne, of economic advocacy association Enterprise North, told Tropic Now he wasn’t prepared to comment on the committee’s composition.

    “This is something the Cairns Regional Council put together and I’m just a representative,” he said.

    However, he did maintain he is well aware of the need to support and guide the next generation of leaders.

    “I talk to one particular person currently, who I’m mentoring on management issues,” he said.

    “I’ve been doing it for most of my life with varying degrees of success.”