The formation of groups such as Rainbow Labor was critical to the fostering of an activist culture within the Australian Labor Party, Sydney MP Tanya Plibersek said.

Plibersek was talking at the first national conference of Rainbow Labor, a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights group within the ALP, which was launched in May.

Rainbow Labor is one of the best developments I’ve seen in the Labor Party for some time now, Plibersek told conference delegates. Comparing its formation to the creation of Labor for Refugees, Plibersek said, We need an activist culture within the party. It’s what keeps good people in the party.

Conference delegates heard from a range of other speakers, including Western Australian MLC Louise Pratt, who outlined further directions for law reform in that state, and New Zealand MP Tim Barnett, who spoke as part of the New Zealand Rainbow Labour Group. New Zealand Rainbow Labour has been in existence since 1997 and currently has around 350 members.

NSW Rainbow Labor is of a more modest size. NSW co-convenors Ryan Heath and Kirsty Campbell told the conference that their meetings were attracting up to 35 people and they were looking towards developing a full constitution by February.

We’re not just an inner-city ghetto organisation, Campbell said, pointing out that members were drawn from places as far afield as Kiama and Liverpool. A Newcastle branch of Rainbow Labor would be launched in February, she said.

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