SYDNEY Council has voted against the creation of a permanent, council-run and Australian-first LGBTI cultural centre and museum along the city’s Oxford St precinct.
The motion, which was introduced by Cr Christine Forster and debated in last night’s council meeting, was defeated by a coalition of independent councillors led by Lord Mayor Clover Moore, along the lines of a split council.
“A permanent LGBTI exhibition, museum and cultural facility would attract visitors from across the city, across Australia and across the world,” she said.
“There has been a groundswell of support from the community. It was the number one issue for the LGBTI community in the 2012 local government election. Every candidate and every party, including the Clover Moore party, was asked to give their view.”
Cr Forster’s motion was seconded by Cr Linda Scott, who stated that she’d been approached by groups such as Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and the surviving participants of the first Mardi Gras parade in 1978, who were concerned that important Australian LGBTI history was being lost.
“The people who marched in the first Mardi Gras have said to me that they are starting to get rid of some of their memorabilia, and some of those people are understandably, passing on,” Cr Scott said.
“It is at this critical point in time, that if we don’t establish a space, the history and the memories of this fight for equality… that we will lose them.”
A coalition of independents, including the Lord Mayor, formed a voting bloc that refused to allow the Sydney Council chief executive to either conduct further research into Cr Forster’s museum proposal or produce a potential business plan for the council to consider going forward.
This was further reinforced with Deputy Lord Mayor Robyn Kemmis, who said it wasn’t the role of council to provide LGBTI support facilities.
“I believe that council is not in the business of running pavilions. It’s not up to us, council, to take ownership of this, it’s up to the community,” she said.
“And if they so do, it’s up to them, the GLBTI community to evidence the enthusiasm, the viability and the commitment to want to do this.
“And in doing this, I think that it’s really important to identify how the GLBTI community works… Lesbian women and gay men have always supported projects that they think are worthwhile, as volunteers and supporting them financially.”
Cr John Mant also said it wasn’t the role of council to cater specifically to a particular minority demographic, whether they be a racial, sexual or otherwise.
These sentiments were further expressed by the Lord Mayor herself, who stated that while she had been a vocal supporter of LGBTI rights throughout her career, organisations such as the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras should shoulder the cost of establishing and running such facilities on the premise that it is not the role of council to do so.
“I am willing to support the Deputy Lord Mayor… I think that the points that she has made in talking about the long and proud history, setting its own priorities and initiating its own projects is an incredibly valid statement to make about the GLBTI community,” she said.
“They do come out in their thousands to support their projects.”