Why I complained: Objection to Kirrah's poster explained

The banner featuring a photo of Kirrah Cooke.
The banner featuring a photo of Kirrah Cooke. Craig Soward

THE woman who made the complaint to Richmond Valley Council about a banner in Evans Head of a bikini-clad surfer has denied she was offended by the image.

The woman, who has asked that her name remain confidential, has written to explain why she took issue with the image and said it was because she believed there was more to Evans Head than the beach.

The woman also expresses her "sadness" at any "upset" caused to the young woman featured on the banner, 17-year-old Kirrah Cooke and her family, by the controversy.

Read the letter in full

The banner featured an image of Kirrah Cooke, who recently won the NSW Under-18 longboard title.

Within days of the Richmond Valley Council erecting promotional banners in Evans Head's Oak Street, some of them depicting Kirrah were pulled down in response to a complaint that they did not represent the interests of the coastal community.

The council's decision to remove the banner created a community backlash in favour of the "beachy", bikini-themed graphic.

A petition was organised calling for the banner's return. Kirrah said she simply felt embarrassed by the whole episode.

"I didn't feel at all discriminated by the photo," she said.

In fact, the only disappointment Kirrah said she felt was there were so few women surfers sharing the waves at the Evans Head beach.

Evans Head surfer and model Kirrah Cooke.
Evans Head surfer and model Kirrah Cooke. Jamie Brown

Why I complained

I AM writing re the Evans Head Oak St banners to outline my complaint which was made to Richmond Valley Council.

Firstly, I write to Kirrah and sincerely express my sadness for the upset that this may be causing you and your family.

Postings on Muzza's Milk Bar Facebook page stated that the image was removed because "somebody" deemed it to be disgusting, degrading and inappropriate for our town.

This I can tell you was never said or implied in my letter to council, nor is it my belief.

I believe the emotion and interest that has been generated by this issue has come from the Facebook posting, whereas the facts relating to the real reasons have been overlooked.

However, I am astounded that the following comment could be made on the Muzza's Milk Bar Facebook page and it seems that there is little response: "Looks like the blue rise (rinse) brigade have won."

The point I raised was that when I consider Evans Heads, bikini-clad girls, the beach culture and surfers are only one aspect.


This comment is full of assumptions and disrespect to the senior members of our community.

As we know, a group that contribute widely, selflessly and are significant, active members across the Richmond Valley.

Therefore, the question is raised: At what age do we, as an Australian society, state that you can no longer express an opinion?

The expressing of an opinion is what I did and YES I love living in Evans Head for the beach and bush lifestyle and am a contributing and active member of our community, though far from being a senior.

I felt that as a society and as many local governments have (Gold Coast City, Bondi Beach, Byron Bay), we had moved on from using clichéd images of bikini-clad girls or topless men.

The question I asked of Richmond Valley Council was that for a marketing campaign entitled "Richmond Valley Made" which could mean what was made, or what was great about Evans Head - was this the best image to use.

The point I raised was that when I consider Evans Heads, bikini-clad girls, the beach culture and surfers are only one aspect.

The key features are also the abundance of families: fishing together, swimming, playing sport, cycling, bushwalking, skating.

Whether with family or in a group of friends - children and young people enjoying their community and a healthy lifestyle.

When I discuss Evans with friends and family across the world, I describe it as a place with history of the Bundjalung nation, coastal fishing town and a place of recreation.

It is encouraging to see this debate unfold in Evans Head as it gives me heart that when we have future issues to discuss, the community will continue to be involved.

We live in a democracy where everyone has the right to question and we hope that our children and young people will be involved in questioning and have the freedom of speech in our society. However, it is important to gain the facts and not misrepresent the views of others as in this case.

If we want to celebrate our community's youth through the banners, then let's identify them for who they are and their achievements so that our visitors can also acknowledge them.

In the end, a fair number of our community members have spoken up re the use of Kirrah's image and I certainly respect this.

Though I would also encourage us all to explore with council of being creative and innovative in what are the best images to use for the Richmond Valley Made marketing campaign.

Name and address withheld

LOO LAUNCH: How you can help create city’s divine drawcard

Premium Content LOO LAUNCH: How you can help create city’s divine drawcard

Lighthearted campaign could mean serious business for M’boro economy