City Of Sydney has announced that they will cut funding to the the Feminist Legal Clinic and turf them out of their council-owned premises in Glebe, where they have been tenants since 2017. This, following numerous complaints levelled at the service provider relating to transphobic material posted on both its website and social media channels.

Feminist Legal Clinic  were the recipients of the City Of Sydney Accommodation Grant Scheme, and provides crucial legal services to women in need, including for female victims of domestic violence, and support for women navigating the family court. However, on the flipside and as reported by The Sydney Morning Herald, the centre is also currently representing a woman accused of vilifying trans people.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore told told Star Observer that the City Of Sydney stands with the trans community and against all forms of exclusion and that  “all women, including trans women, deserve to be respected, included and safe in the City of Sydney.”

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“Our grants and properties are in high demand and our residents and rate payers expect they be offered to people and organisations who provide community benefit and that don’t conflict with our values.

clover moore

Clover Moore at the Mardi Gras flag-raising. Photo by Ann-Marie Calilhanna.

Transphobic Posts On Social Media

A quick check of the FLC’s website and social media channels reveals a whole gamut of trans-exclusionary material. A post from July 24, reads “Calling someone the wrong pronoun now triggers tears, but you will be sneered at if you think killing grandma is cruel…The City of Sydney has found Glebe’s Feminist Legal Clinic, a pro bono service that helps the most vulnerable women, hasn’t met its performance criteria because the Clinic’s “affiliation with women’s sex-based rights movement” have “the potential for generating discrimination and negative attitudes towards the transgender community.”

Upon being requested by City Of Sydney to remove such material, the legal service first refused, then hid the posts behind a “password protected” part of its website, a moved deemed as insufficient by relevant authorities.

According to the clinic’s principal solicitor Anna Kerr, “Aside from the obvious attack on freedom of speech, we believe this conflict is representative of broader efforts to undermine women’s sex-based rights.”

Kerr went on to say in her interview with The Sydney Morning Herald that she believed the issues with council began following her involvement with a Sydney University lobbying for “Women’s Human Rights” held in February last year.

According to Kerr, one of the speakers at the Sydney University event was a young woman who had “de-transitioned”, meaning she had transitioned to becoming a man, before reverting back to female.

“It was a radical feminist event,” Kerr told The Sydney Morning Herald,  “There were student protests over it – it was really full on. We are just what feminism used to be, before all this stuff took over.”

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Update: In a statement to the Star Observer, the Feminist Legal Clinic denied that it was “transphobic”. 

“Feminist Legal Clinic denies that we have breached the performance criteria set out in our tenancy agreement with Council,” said Kerr.

“It is not transphobic to advocate for women’s sex-based rights or to post news articles about how aggressive trans activism is impacting on the safety and well-being of women and children. Our blog consists of a news digest with extracts from articles published elsewhere. These posts are not original commentary by Feminist Legal Clinic and do not necessarily represent the opinions of our management,” added Kerr.

According to the FLC, the social media post referred to “the words of Vikki Campion recently published in the Daily Telegraph and does not constitute an opinion expressed by Feminist Legal Clinic.”

‘Services Can’t Be Discriminatory’

A community member involved with bringing the service to the attention of City Of Sydney, whose identity has been withheld on request, told Star Observer that “the problem with the Feminist Legal Clinic was that they were repeatably requested to take down the hateful and hurtful transphobic stuff, and they refused.”

“The last thing we need is for a women’s legal service to close, we desperately need as many legal services as we can,” they said.

“But if that legal service just decides that it won’t comply to the expectations of the wider community about posting hateful material and what it is promoting, no matter who you are, if you receive funding, and your funding body has expectations of what that money would involve, including not being involved in any form of discrimination, then of course you deserve to lose your funding.”

“City Of Sydney is one of the most progressive councils in Australia. It helps the LGBTQI+ community very much, I think you have to make adjustments to a service that is potentially transphobic but until you give them the opportunity to do something about it you can hardly do something about it. In the end day you need to allow multiple voices and there needs to be a conversation around this stuff, but it can’t be discriminatory. “

FLC Did Not Meet Performance Criteria

The City Of Sydney when approached by Star Observer, refused to answer questions as to why such a service was ever the successful recipient of council funding, nor did council answer questions relating to how long they had been aware of the issues at hand, only referring back to a prewritten statement.

The statement read: “The City of Sydney’s accommodation grants program aims to fairly and equitably make facilities available to organisations that deliver benefits to the community on behalf of the City. Recipients’ work needs to align with the City’s strategic priorities and be appropriate to place. The grants program is popular and limited spaces are available.”

“Successful grant recipients sign a lease or licence with the City and are required to comply with certain performance criteria, an ethics framework and the requirements of the grant program. As part of its application, the Feminist Legal Clinic agreed to performance criteria including to, ensure services and programs are delivered in a manner that is inclusive and free of discrimination”.

The statement went on to confirm that during the course of a 2020 annual review, the Feminist Legal Clinic was found to not have fully meet its performance criteria or conditions of its licence. Following, a 2021 annual performance review it was found that the performance of the Feminist Legal Clinic against its performance criteria had not adequately improved.

“The City considers this to be a matter of compliance with conditions of a grant under which the organisation received free accommodation. The City will now work with the Feminist Legal Clinic to implement the decision of Council and has provided the Feminist Legal Clinic with a notice to terminate its licence,” the statement concluded.

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

 

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