Gay men and lesbians on the other side of the Bridge will have more sanctuaries to protect them from harassment following the launch of the Safe Place Program this week.

The Safe Place Program encourages businesses in the Mosman and North Sydney area to provide a comfortable and safe environment for anyone seeking shelter from homophobic threats and to call police if necessary.

North Sydney councillor and vice-president of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association, Trent Zimmerman, said he was thankful the number of reported acts of violence motivated by homophobia on the north shore was very small.

What this project will do is send a positive message that the north shore is a relatively safe place for members of the gay and lesbian community and that we are a welcoming and tolerant community, Zimmerman said.

ACON president Adrian Lovney said a number of businesses had signed on, including libraries, community centres and health centres.

Businesses supporting the project can be recognised by the pink triangle displayed on the door or shopfront window.

The Safe Place Program was launched earlier this month as a joint initiative of ACON’s Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Project, Mosman and North Sydney Councils, Northern Sydney/ Central Coast Health Service and the Harbourside Police.

North Sydney mayor Genia McCaffery said it was encouraging to see businesses and organisations supporting the program and taking a stand against discrimination and violence.

Prejudice and aggressive behaviour are still a reality for many gay men and lesbians in Sydney. Making our communities more tolerant of GLBT people involves long-term education and shifting attitudes. Initiatives such as the Safe Place Program are a very practical way to help people feel safe, McCaffery said.

I am truly delighted with this initiative, but I will be even happier when we don’t need special programs to make some members of the community feel safe.

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