Key gay and lesbian community groups have expressed their grave concern about Sydney City Council’s apparent reluctance to discuss how proposed local government boundary changes may impact on our community.

The statement of concern appears in a paper prepared this week by a consortium of groups which outlines a lesbian and gay community position on the council boundary change issue.

Signatory groups to the paper include the AIDS Council of NSW, Mardi Gras, the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Community Publishing Ltd (publishers of Sydney Star Observer), Sydney Pride Centre, Helix North Side and Beaches Gay Group and the Quilt Project.

Pride co-convenor Lou-Anne Lind, who assisted with the drafting of the statement, said the paper grew out of a meeting of community groups at the end of January.

The position that the community has developed is clever and in the best interests of the community, she said. Rather than get involved with the personalities, the community decided that the process was of greatest concern.

We are not necessarily opposed to local government reform but -“ on the basis of the insufficient information available -“ we have grave concerns about the impact of the State government’s proposed boundary changes, the paper states. We cannot support the proposed changes until we are provided with assurances that our communities’ interests will be protected.

The paper then goes on to discuss South Sydney Council’s support of the gay and lesbian community through sponsorship, specific policies and initiatives such as subsidised accommodation. We recognise and applaud South Sydney City Council’s record in addressing the needs of our communities. We have had no information on which we can assess the commitment of Sydney City Council to these issues. Indeed the failure of that Council thus far to respond to requests for a meeting on this issue causes us grave concern, the paper states.

However, a spokesperson for the Lord Mayor, Frank Sartor, told Sydney Star Observer this week that the Lord Mayor would not be engaging in discussions with any community groups until after new boundaries had been proclaimed by the Minister for Local Govern-ment (expected to be some time in March).

These are understandable concerns on the part of the gay and lesbian community organisations. However, the city is not yet in a position to have discussions with organisations, when the boundaries are still to be decided, the spokesperson said.

The Lord Mayor is on leave until the end of the month, the spokesperson revealed, leaving no opportunity for gay, lesbian and other community groups to meet with him before the Local Government Boundaries Commission makes its report to the government on the boundary issue.

The gay and lesbian community position paper will be attached to South Sydney City Council’s submission to the Local Government Bound-aries Commission. The submission, which will feature supporting papers from other communities within the South Sydney area, will be finalised at a special meeting of South Sydney Council on Thursday 28 February.

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