The Melbourne GLBTI community may have its first public monument courtesy of Yarra Council.

City of Yarra Mayor Jane Garrett told Southern Star a meeting held last week was about forging closer links with the community so the council could better service GLBTI needs.

“We’re focusing on things council can control and be involved in,” she said.

“We don’t want to be biting off things we can’t chew at a local government level. We need to be doing the best we can with what our role is, and also advocating where necessary … to make people feel celebrated, protected and safe.”

Among the proposals put forward, Peel Hotel owner Tom McFeely pledged $10,000 towards a public art monument to celebrate the GLBTI community.

“Too often with bureaucrats and elected representatives, all they see is people walking down Mardi Gras, walking down Pride March … but we need to show there are a lot of other aspects to us,” McFeely said.

“I feel it’s fantastic that an initiative’s been made asking what else can be done.”

McFeely said he wanted something “symbolic” which celebrated the community in a public place visible to the wider community.

Garrett confirmed the council would now consider the proposal.

At the same meeting a number of areas within the council’s responsibility were identified as needing improvement to better cater for the gay and lesbian community. These included youth support, information on same-sex parenting services, and training for all council staff on community inclusiveness.

“It’s about putting things into action. It’s not about finding new resources, it’s about changing the way we do things now, looking at what we do now and how we can do it better,” Garrett said.

Melba Ward councillor Dale Smedley said he was “blown away” by the productivity of the meeting and promised the talks would be further developed.

“It’s not a bullshit or a whitewash. Something’s going to come out of it,” he said.

“Yarra works with other minority groups and it’s about establishing needs of our community like we do with others.
“I’m sick of people viewing us as same-sex first. We’re a community first and that’s how we should be treated.”

A second meeting with the community is scheduled in six weeks time. In addition, an online survey will be developed to further canvass the community’s ideas.

info: Could local councils be more inclusive and would you like to see a public monument? Email editor@ssonet.com.au

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