THE deputy mayor of Toowoomba Regional Council has been accused of making sexist remarks while carrying out Master of Ceremonies duties at a gala charity event aimed to highlight the cause of breast cancer treatment and awareness.

Councillor Geoff McDonald was the MC at the annual Hutchies Blush Ball held Saturday night at Toowoomba’s Empire Theatre, where hundreds gathered to raise money to support breast cancer patients.

Following an impassioned speech by a breast cancer surviver, Cr McDonald has been accused by a prominent Toowoomba businesswoman of making comments “under the guise of humour” that were “sexist, demeaning and totally inappropriate”.

Facebook post by Cr McDonald regarding the Hutchies Blush Ball

In a statement to media, Enterprise Legal director Sharné Lategan (pictured) said the otherwise “heartfelt, empowering and beautiful” event was marred by two comments made by Cr McDonald towards the end of the night.

Ms Lategan’s statement said: “Followed by the last speaker and current survivor of stage 3 breast cancer’s passionate, moving and encouraging story and subsequent plea to make sure women check their breasts regularly for any abnormalities no matter their age or history, Geoff made two separate statements on two separate occasions throughout the night that (a particular guest at the event) would:

  • Be pleased to assist the women in attendance during the night with this task (of checking their breasts); and
  • Be ready to meet the women in attendance during the night in the cubby house (a beautiful cubby house built … as an auction item to raise funds for this worthy cause) to assist them with the task of checking their breasts.”

The statement continued: “These statements are belittling, oppressive and sexist. It goes directly against what the event was all about. Instead of empowering the women in attendance through fostering and creating a safe space for them to talk about the most intimate and vulnerable topic … Geoff chose on two separate occasions to minimise, to patronise and to foster the stereotypes, behaviours and attitudes that have no place at such a beautiful event, in our society or our city”.

“I personally refuse to accept we live in an era and in a city where a person of that stature and prominence can publicly say such disgraceful, demeaning and sexist statements (never mind at an event that is all about empowering and supporting breast cancer and the women [and men]) impacted”.

Facebook post by Cr McDonald regarding the Hutchies Blush Ball

Toowoomba Councillor Rebecca Vonhoff (pictured) has also weighed in on the incident, telling The Chronicle: “Breast checks are health procedures. There’s nothing sexual about them”.

“Having had to have one last week, I know the radiographers, surgeons and so on who do them are professionals who perform them in medical settings – not cubby houses by people who aren’t highly trained,” she said.

Speaking to the Caller, Cr McDonald said he believed the matter had “got a bit carried away” and apologised for offence cause, but doubled down on what he said was the point he tried to make.

“Under no circumstances whatsoever was it to be seen as derogatory or cause any distress, and for that I unreservedly apologise if that has happened,” he said.

“But I certainly want to double down on the reasons that I did that, which was to reinforce the message to get your breasts checked.

“The feedback I’ve had from organisers is that it wasn’t offensive and it reinforced the message, and that was the intent.

“I’m pleased that someone has spoken up about it, because I’ll certainly take that on board and learn from it.”

He also told The Chronicle: “Whoever has put this in, they need to go to the prostate lunch and listen to the comments there.

“I thank the people for bringing it forward.”

Mr McDonald rejected that his comments were sexist, but said “if that has meant that to those persons, I apologise”, adding “it was to build on the emotive message of a young woman who has been diagnosed with cancer (in her early 20s)”.

Previous articleTeam of “robots” wins third straight grand final
Next articleHundreds hear Murilla’s message of women’s wellness
Country Caller founder and editor

Leave a Reply