The decision by NSW roads minister Duncan Gay to remove the rainbow crossing at Taylor Square has sparked one of the more remarkable community displays of hope, resilience and sheer fun that we have seen in recent years.
The hundreds of chalk rainbows which have sprung up, not just in Sydney but across Australia and internationally, are a testament to the messages of unity and diversity which our community has championed for so long. Of course, many outside our community have joined us; the infectious joy which springs from being part of a joint creative effort like this seems hard to resist.
The movement is a reminder that activism does not always have to be serious. After the difficult times our community has faced in recent weeks, particularly over policing issues, the rainbows are a welcome relief.
Yet they also convey an important message: that we are here, that we are visible, and that we deserve to be treated with respect. Even further, that the diversity we bring should be celebrated.
While we have made tremendous progress in recent years, clearly there is work to be done. On issues surrounding policing, work continues on several fronts.
Following the community forum on policing and Mardi Gras on March 19, a petition has been launched to the NSW Legislative Assembly calling for the creation of an independent police complaints body. The current system, in which police investigate the majority of complaints against police themselves, gives rise to concerns over transparency and conflict of interests.
The petition can be found here.
Clearly this is an issue which extends well beyond our community. Other communities, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, migrants and young people, are particularly affected by the system of policing. It is important that we seek support for change in these communities too.
As this is an official petition, signatures need to be given by hand (that is, no photocopied, faxed or electronic signatures). We need a lot of them – at least 10,000 to be precise. If we can get this number we can force a debate in Parliament on the issue, and our allies will speak in support.
So please download the petition, take it to your friends, families and co-workers, and send the completed petitions back to the GLRL. The petition is also available to sign at the ACON and Mardi Gras offices, and we will be setting up a stand on the weekend at Taylor Square, and possibly other venues.
The petition is just one part of a broader push for improved policing practices. We need to do work on drug search practices, on evaluating and strengthening the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officer (GLLO) programme within NSW Police, and on broader training within police
We also need more rainbows.