By HARRY CLARKE
ORGANISERS of a charity ball aimed to support breast cancer patients and survivors has criticised what have been described as sexist comments made at the event by the master of ceremonies, Toowoomba deputy mayor Geoff McDonald.
Chair and president Dr Sharyn Donaldson wrote an open letter on behalf of the Blush Cancer Care Board saying members were “extremely disappointed” by remarks Cr McDonald made to the hundreds attending the Hutches Blush Ball at Toowoomba’s Empire Theatre on Saturday.
“As the Chairperson of an organisation that works hard to support women and men with breast cancer and their families, I’d like to personally assure you that our charity did not authorise and does not condone the comments made by the MC on the night,” Dr Donaldson wrote.
“The comments were inappropriate and we are concerned about the impact that these unscripted words have had on our valued supporters and the broader community.
“We are extremely disappointed that the comments, and the associated commentary, have overshadowed what was otherwise an incredibly empowering, encouraging, uplifting and heartfelt evening, filled with emotion, vulnerability and support.”
Facebook post by Cr McDonald regarding the Hutchies Blush Ball
Cr McDonald had been called out in a media released published Tuesday by prominent Toowoomba businesswoman Sharné Lategan, an attendee at the ball, who said the comments he made “under the guise of humour” were “sexist, demeaning and totally inappropriate”.
Ms Lategan’s statement said” “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.”
“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.”
Cr McDonald told the Caller this week he apologised to anyone who took offence from the comments 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.”
Cr Mcdonald’s Toowoomba Regional Council colleague, councillor Rebecca Von Hoff (pictured), also took issue with the incident, saying the attempted humour while discussing the serious health matter of breast checks was inappropriate.
“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.