Queer youth counselling service Twenty10 was forced to abandon its stall at a community festival after being accused of giving offence by the Lord Mayor’s office.

On Thursday last week, Twenty10 left the Rediscover the River festival in Parramatta after it was asked by an advisor to Parramatta Lord Mayor John Chedid to take down a banner that was deemed to contain offensive language.

The banner, which advertised Twenty10’s presence and purpose, read “Support services for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people, their families and communities,” with the organisation’s website included at the bottom.

Aside from a quotation, “A place to be me, with the support I need,” the banner contained no other written material.

Twenty10 acting managing director Terence Humphreys said the incident left staff, volunteers and queer young people present feeling unsafe at the community event.

“We challenged it on-site and spoke to one of the Lord Mayor’s advisors, but the decision wasn’t overturned. We decided to leave the event rather than cause a confrontation,” Humphreys told the Star Observer.

“We’ve been invited to many local events by Parramatta Council before – the Parramatta Pride picnic, the Queer Screen film festival, the International Day Against Homophobia – so this was really disappointing. We were shocked and dismayed.”

Twenty10 have written to the Lord Mayor’s office asking for an apology and that staff be trained in discrimination awareness, but as yet have not received a reply.

“It’s too important an issue not to address. The message this sends to the young queer and gender-questioning people of Parramatta is that they are unwelcome at a family event,” Humphreys said.

Twenty10 runs counselling services for under-26 year olds out of its office in Newtown and the High Street Youth Health centre in Parramatta. It also runs Out West!, a social support group for young queer people from Western Sydney, that is based in Parramatta.

Liberal Party Councillor John Chedid was elected Lord Mayor of Parramatta in September 2010.

In a brief statement regarding the incident Parramatta Council said it “regrets any inconvenience or offence taken by its actions and values the efforts, and contribution of Twenty10 in servicing at-risk youth.”

A spokesperson from Parramatta Council referred the Star Observer’s inquiries to the statement.

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