JUST over a week after it played a key role in the annual Mardi Gras celebrations, there are growing calls for Sydney’s largest rainbow flag, situated in the heart of the LGBTI-centric neighbourhood of Darlinghurst, to become a permanent fixture.
However, City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore is refusing to commit to the structure, which cost $52,000 to erect, leading to fears the LGBTI landmark could be removed and demolished.
At this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, the rainbow flag was ceremonially hoisted up the 18-metre pole to mark the start of the parade.
Asked prior to the parade if he would like to see the new flagpole become a permanent fixture, Mardi Gras’ artistic director Ignatius Jones said: “Totally and absolutely.”
He added that the ceremony was a “strong powerful moment and it allows us to honour those people who have been an important part of Mardi Gras”.
Liberal councillor Christine Forster told the Star Observer the flag should remain in place: “It has been warmly received by the public and is a clear and potent symbol of the Taylor Sq and Oxford St area’s historical importance and ongoing connection to the GLBTI community.”
Last March, a motion to build the flagpole – proposed by Forster with the backing of Labor councillor Linda Scott – received approval from City of Sydney.
However, the proposal was only for the flag to be a temporary measure until a dedicated piece of public art celebrating the LGBTI community – backed by Moore – was unveiled in time for Mardi Gras’ 40th anniversary in 2018.
The Star Observer has been told declaring the structure as only temporary was key to receiving council support.
Eyebrows were then raised when the giant flagpole’s initial installation occurred with little fanfare and no ceremony.
Recently, there were further fears for the flag when at the ceremony to mark the hoisting of the far smaller rainbow flag above Sydney Town Hall, Moore referred to the temporary nature of its Taylor Sq counterpart.
Forster said Moore’s comments were “pointed” and she plans to take a motion in the March 30 Sydney council meeting to make the pole permanent.
“The Lord Mayor is insisting that the flag will be removed, but I think that would fly in the face of the wishes of the community, which I believe would want to see it remain, alongside the artwork,” Forster said.
A rainbow flag in Taylor Sq was first proposed by in 2005 by then-councillor Verity Firth, who is now Labor’s candidate in the upcoming NSW State Election for the Balmain electorate.
Between then and 2014 the plan was consistently voted down.
Scott, who had her own motion regarding the flag knocked back in 2013, said: “The Lord Mayor must step out of the way and back Labor’s calls for this brilliant rainbow flag to be allowed to stay permanently on Oxford St.”
In a statement, Moore said her support for Sydney’s LGBTI community was “unwavering” and this year she had written to every Sydney local government mayor encouraging them to raise the rainbow flag above their town halls – many of whom subsequently did.
Moore also said a curator would soon be appointed to manage the creation of the Taylor Sq artwork.
However, she did not commit to the flagpole, saying only: “Flying the rainbow flag is a strong statement of acceptance and support for our GLBTI community, and we have flown 200 of them along Oxford and Flinders streets since 2005.”
Sydney state independent MP Alex Greenwich told the Star Observer the flag “looks excellent” and the community should be consulted on its future, but he couldn’t comment on whether it should remain in place until council released designs for the LGBTI artwork.
“If [the artwork] incorporates the flag then that is wonderful,” he said.
“[But] we shouldn’t play politics about these things.”
Sydney writer and historian Garry Wotherspoon said the Taylor Sq flag represented the many struggles faced by gay people in the area.
“Having some physical symbol of this past is important, people can see the flag, and think – and say – this acknowledges our past here.
“Long may it fly.”
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