SALLY Warhaft, the only Jewish candidate in the election for lord mayor, hopes to become Melbourne’s first ever female Jewish lord mayor.
If elected, the former Mount Scopus Memorial College student would become the first Jewish incumbent since Irvin Rockman finished his term in 1979 – and the first woman since Winsome McCaughey’s term ended in 1989.
Warhaft sees herself as the only “truly independent female candidate” in a by-election triggered by the resignation of Robert Doyle.
Now a mother of three-year-old twins, the Melbourne broadcaster, anthropologist and writer told The AJN, “Thirty years without a female lord mayor is not a milestone a city as modern, as vibrant and as truly diverse as Melbourne would want to reach.”
Warhaft’s Jewish identity “brings to me an understanding of community” from the Jewish footprint that stretches from Carlton to Flinders Lane. She has strong roots in the Melbourne CBD, recalling her Yiddish-speaking grandmother’s connections with the storied garment makers of Flinders Lane, where “there were so many Yiddish speakers … that even some of the non-Jews learned Yiddish”.
“Growing up with a sense of strong community, you can recognise it in others and you can see when it’s missing,” she reflected. “And one of the really important roles for the next lord mayor is to both support communities that are already strong but also those that are struggling.”
Warhaft sees the Jewish and Chinese communities, which have major businesses in the CBD, as “looking out for each other and at the same time looking out for everyone else”.
Fed up with “single-issue candidates”, Warhaft threw her hat into the lord mayoral ring after the controversial resignation of Doyle amid a Melbourne City Council inquiry into sexual harassment at the council.
Warhaft is particularly incensed about plans to overhaul the historic Queen Victoria Market, which she said will “mess with the feel” of the heritage precinct that has for many decades attracted traders of all backgrounds, including a sizeable cohort of Jewish vendors.
She believes the current blueprints, for renovations of the market costing “a quarter of a billion dollars”, should be scrapped. The council needs to start afresh, she argued, and consult stakeholders in the market.
Warhaft, who regularly has radio shifts at 774 ABC Melbourne, said her on-air work has not only allowed her to speak with the community but also to be a “good listener”.
Ballot packs for the postal election were mailed out from April 23-26, and completed ballots must be received by May 11, 6pm. See www.vec.vic.gov.au