The City of Sydney just got a whole lot pinker.

Local government boundary changes which come into effect today mean that suburbs with a high proportion of gay and lesbian residents, such as Glebe, Camperdown, Darlinghurst, Elizabeth Bay and Potts Point, move from South Sydney to the City of Sydney.

The transition is of interest to many in Sydney’s lesbian and gay community as South Sydney Council has traditionally supported and sponsored many community ventures -“ including Mardi Gras, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, PLWH/A (NSW) and the Quilt Project.

While the City of Sydney’s support of lesbian and gay community organisations remains somewhat untested, there are encouraging signs. The City of Sydney agreed to waive their fees for the use of Prince Alfred Park on Leather Pride fair day, and last Friday Lord Mayor Lucy Turnbull hosted an informal lunch for a few key community representatives.

Turnbull was joined by then NSW Anti-Discrimination Board president Chris Puplick, Aurora Foundation board member Bruce Pollack, political adviser Bill Bowtell, publicans Tim Berry and Dawn O’Donnell, Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Rob McGrory, Pride co-president Lou-Anne Lind, ACON’s chief executive officer Stevie Clayton, New Mardi Gras co-chair Michael Woodhouse and prominent barrister Richard Cobden at the 90-minute meeting.

It was not a fully representative meeting, but [the Lord Mayor] certainly heard the views of the community groups who were there, said Pride co-president Lou-Anne Lind. At the end of the meeting she said her door was always open, which was a good outcome for the community.

Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Rob McGrory described the meeting as an informal information gathering rather than a comprehensive discussion.

We see it as a positive that [the Lord Mayor] is willing to enter into a dialogue with the gay and lesbian community. She recognises that we are an important component of this part of Sydney, McGrory said.

It is not yet known whether the City will implement a gay and lesbian liaison officer position or a gay and lesbian community consultation committee (both have existed within South Sydney Council’s structure for a number of years), or continue the rental subsidies which have been offered to groups such as the Lobby and PLWH/A (NSW).

PLWH/A executive officer Antony Nicholas said the organisation had tried to get information from South Sydney and the City on future rental subsidy arrangements but had received absolutely none.
PLWH/A would need to do more fundraising or cut back on programs if the rental subsidy was cut, Nicholas said.

McGrory said the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby simply couldn’t pay commercial rent for its current premises at 94 Oxford Street. He said the Lobby had had discussions with other organisations, such as the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service, Pride, Twenty10 and Mardi Gras, about their accommodation needs.

Other organisations have welcomed the change in council arrangements. The AIDS Trust of Australia’s executive officer, Terry Trethowan, said the AIDS Trust (which is also housed at 94 Oxford Street) had been rejected for a rental subsidy by South Sydney in 2000 without any official reason given.

It’s hard to imagine that the City of Sydney could be any worse a landlord than South Sydney, Trethowan said. We’ve been paying commercial rent but have been treated like a -˜grace and favour’ tenant.

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