The City of Sydney is asking for community feedback on a newly released proposal to develop Oxford Street.

Under the proposal, the City of Sydney will allow property developers to increase floor space and building height along Oxford Street if they dedicate at least 10% to cultural and creative purposes. The proposal, however, does not specially protect the precinct’s LGBTQI+ identity.

In a community consultation this past December, 83% of respondents identified the importance of Oxford Street’s LGBTQI+ identity. The consultation also found that the proposal needs to celebrate the LGBTQI+ community.

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These findings and any mention of the precincts LGBTQI+ identity are absent from the council’s proposal on what defines a cultural and creative purpose.

Map showing boundaries of the Oxford Street creative and cultural precinct in Sydney.

Jess Scully, Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney, has responded to the lack of LGBTIQ+ inclusion, and told ABC Sydney, “LGBTIQ businesses could submit applications and benefit from these proposals but we can’t limit or require who can or cannot run a business in this place.”

In the interview, Scully added, “We can’t force them [developers] to do anything. All we can do is create incentive that’s gonna encourage property developers to reinvest in this place. But to reinvest in a place in a way the furthers the goals of the community.”

No Incentives To Preserve LGBTQI+ Spaces

oxford street

Oxford Street.

However, the proposal does not contain any specific incentives for developers to dedicate any of that to LQBTQI+ spaces.

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At an Oxford Street planning proposal briefing organised by the City of Sydney last Monday, these concerns were voiced by members of the community.

Should Oxford Street be preserved as a historic, cultural, commercial and tourist precinct for the LGBTQI community?To mark the Star Observer’s 42nd anniversary we are hosting a panel discussion on the future of Oxford Street. Join a community forum with:
• Clover Moore, City of Sydney Lord Mayor
• Alex Greenwich MP; Independent Member for Sydney in New South Wales
• Kate Wickett is the Interim CEO of Sydney WorldPride 2023
• David Polson Chair of the steering committee for “Sydney Queer Space”
• Andrew Gorman-Murray is a Professor of Geography at Western Sydney University
• Lawrence Gibbons, Publisher of the Star Observer

MODERATOR: Mon Schafter, Walkley Award winning journalist and reporter for 7:30 and ABCQueer.

Date and timeSunday, 31 October 2021, 3:30 pm – 6:30 pm AEDT

Location: Burdekin Hotel, 2 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010

Register Here To Attend The Event, Registration Is Free.

Robert Tait, a community activist, who was in attendance, has voiced this concern in a past OpEd, commenting, “other than a few perfunctory mentions of Mardi Gras and World Pride, LGBTIQ+ is never mentioned again!”

 According to the proposal, cultural and creative purposes, “could include live entertainment, including the presentation or rehearsal of music, film, theatre, spoken word, comedy or dance, or the on-site display, production and sale of an artwork, craft, design or media, film, technology, image, and meet-the-maker style retail spaces and creative enterprises. They could also include facilities for the training and teaching of art, craft and design.”

Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras 2021.

Live entertainment, however, does not include adult entertainment or any entertainment associated with the sex industry. “Why not?” Tait says, “The sex industry has strong traditional links to Oxford Street and has cultural and creative validity also.”

Oxford Street Is Exemplary In Its Queerness

Dr Jan Filmer, Gender and Cultural Studies Lecturer at the University of Sydney, agrees, stating that this exclusion “potentially undermines sex shops, sex-on-premises venues, adult cinema/cruising spaces, saunas, and baths – those parts of Oxford Street’s queer culture that some think of as sleazy and that do not align with the palatable version of LGBTIQ identity, culture, and creativity this proposal embraces.” 

Hendri Yulius Wijaya, author and writer, reiterated the importance of the LGBTQI+ identity of Oxford Street, stressing that it “is exemplary in its queerness. It is ‘queer’, because it’s such a gay-cultural complex, where you can find anything related to queer culture and also establish connections with others in the form of emotional, sexual, or even intellectual. It provides a safe zone for the LGBTQI+ community and preserves queer culture.” 

The Oxford Street Cultural and Creative Precinct planning proposal is open for comment till November 5, 2021. The precinct goes from Hyde Park in Darlinghurst to Greens Road in Paddington.

 On October 31, 2021, the Star Observer is hosting a panel discussion on Oxford Street’s future at the Burdekin Hotel in Darlinghurst.

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