Members of the LGBTQI community in Sydney are calling for compassion and empathy for others after the community group, Harbour City Bears (HCB) started advertising “a special post Covid-19 theme” event at the Imperial Hotel this month, accompanied by a graphic of a gas-masked figure, standing before a mushroom cloud enveloping a cityscape.
Many community members pointed out that while we in Australia were currently protected from the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were many across the world who obviously weren’t so lucky. The effects of the pandemic are being felt back here in Australia and in our local LGBTQI communities.
The description of the party “Post Apocalypto” scheduled for May 22, read: “It’s on again people with a special post Covid-19 theme! Limited Tickets due to current NSW Gov restrictions.”
At press time, while the Facebook description of the event was edited to remove the mention of COVID-19, the post on Twitter continued to advertise it as a party with a COVID-19 theme.
Harbour City Bears and the Imperial Hotel were contacted for comment, and this story will be updated when they respond.
Can I point out to you that we are far from post COVID!!! You might want to look at the news!!!
— Brightness (@Herr_Hell_Syd) May 6, 2021
People are still being affected
Sarah Morgan, an ex-Mardi Gras committee member who spoke to the Star Observer on Friday, is someone who lives in Sydney but has been gravely affected by the global pandemic. Originally from Wales, she has personally lost family members to the pandemic.
“Three of my family have died in the UK, it’s not a party flyer matter for some people. My brother has lost three members of his team, three of his staff have died. Everybody I know has been affected with a grandparent being lost or businesses going out of business.”
“I’m from a small place in South Wales and at one point during the pandemic , if you adjusted for population size, it was the third worst-affected place in the world. COVID-19 has ripped through my community. Three relatives from my mum’s side of the family all passed away and it was just tragic. They didn’t want to die, they weren’t unfit people, even though they were elderly,” said Morgan.
Former Club President Speaks Out
Jonny Bastin, a former president of HCB told Star Observer that the party theme was highly “inappropriate”. Bastin said he had posted to say so on a Harbour City Bears’ social media post about the event, though the response he got was “unfortunate”.
“As an ex-president of HCB, I have a strong relationship with the club. I was just shocked that anyone on that committee would think it was acceptable to run a party with a Covid-19 theme. To sell tickets to a dance party by using a pandemic, a medical emergency is completely and utterly inappropriate.”
“You know, we live a privileged life. We are in Australia so we’re not affected as much by the pandemic but that doesn’t mean that no one’s affected. Even this week there have been some scares here in the inner west and the eastern suburbs of Sydney. So it is still out there and there are still a lot of people here in the LGBTQI community that have been seriously affected with friends and relatives that have been sick and dying,” said Bastin, citing the two cases of local community transmission reported in Sydney on May 5.
“So it’s sickening to see that what is normally a well-respected community group, would think it is acceptable to use the pandemic to sell party tickets.”
Morgan, who attended a memorial service for family members of friends last week, said that the event was a sobering reminder of what other families are going through across the world right now.
“We have a couple of friends here, we had a little memorial for their mums on Sunday. Their mums both died within twelve hours of each other, in the same town in Columbia last week, so we were a bit raw from that. If you just watch the news, you can just see that there are Aussies stranded in India in a dangerous situation, and thousands of people being infected everyday across the world. So when I saw (the social media post) last night, I just thought, that jars with me, that’s just disrespectful. I just thought it was so tone deaf.”
Harbour City Bears Covid Themed Party Out Of Character
Bastin was at pains to point out the good work that Harbour City Bears has done and continues to do in the community,
“Normally the group does heaps of good work with ACON and in the community. Up until now they’ve been very supportive of members from what I can see, they’re getting the right Covid messages across so I just don’t know what they’re thinking.”
“I did contact the Imperial and got an ok answer, they said they didn’t know about it and they would speak to Harbour City Bears”. Bastin said he did receive a message from the president of HCB on Friday afternoon saying HCB was changing it to a “Calypso” theme now.
Bastin says the best thing to do is just change the theme. “HCB or any organisation are allowed to run any party they want, I mean no one is saying, don’t have a party.”
“They obviously made a mistake, it was an error in judgment, I don’t think they really thought it through, I guess. Remove any reference to Covid-19 because remember there are people here in Sydney whose friends and family might be on oxygen machines in South America, India, the UK, right now. You know, it’s not being drama queens either, that’s a fact,” added Bastin.