Awkward moment as Mayor fluffs speaker’s gender

A FORMER local winner of the Land Sydney Showgirl Competition, who has also represented Gilmore at the Australian Youth Parliament, said she was disappointed and offended when introduced to council as a man by Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash while presenting a deputation on Tuesday night.

Ashley Wright-Hands, who won the Sydney Royal and Berry Showgirl titles in 2005, also represented Cr Gash when she was the Member for Gilmore at the 1999 Australian Youth Parliament for the Environment convention in Canberra.

As a veterinarian, Ms Wright-Hands, now 30, is also heavily involved as a volunteer at the Berry Show and the RAS Youth Group as well as a number of other organisations around Berry.

In accepting Ms Wright-Hands’ deputation over the Orion Beach pathway issue, the Mayor introduced her as “Mr Hands”.

“I have known Joanna for a long time, she helped me get to Canberra for the youth parliament, she sent me letters of congratulations throughout the various stages of success as a showgirl and even sent me a 21st birthday card,” she said.

“I do have a pretty distinctive name, she knows my father who is the president of the Berry Show very well, so it’s not as if she doesn’t know who I am.

“The fact she called me a he was a bit insulting, especially from one woman to another.

“The day before I had rang her secretary about the deputation, so she was well aware of what was happening.

“I also sent her an email a couple of weeks ago telling her of my position on Orion Beach and reminding her I had gone to the conference on her behalf – she replied that she did remember me.

“But when I got to the deputation the Mayor fumbled my name, it was quite a comedy and a bit embarrassing – a bit of a farce actually.”

Although from Berry, Ms Wright-Hands became involved in the Orion Beach pathway issue as she has often lived with her grandmother in Vincentia, and knows the area well.

“It is a lovely area and I would hate to see it destroyed. It is a special forest environment incorporating trees and wildlife and it needs protecting,” she said.

“I’m disappointed, the process again seems to be not about the community and more about politics.

“Council should be there to represent us and not their own interests. They should be listening to the people and doing what the people want.

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