SENIOR politicians in the far west NSW town of Broken Hill have failed to attend a single event at a major equality festival – despite having five months to do so.

The inaugural Festival of Respect, which began in October, aims to bring the remote community together in “pride, respect and diversity”.

The festival concludes this Saturday (March 29) with a celebration in Patton Park.

LGBTI issues have featured strongly, with a festival highlight being a rainbow convoy through the city.

The Far West Community Legal Centre are a major backer of the festival. Chief executive Tracey Willow said she was disappointed neither of the town’s MPs had attended the festival: “We would have liked more support from our state and federal MPs and would have welcomed the opportunity to start a conversation.”

On the ABC’s Q&A program on March 17, Farrer federal Liberal MP Sussan Ley – whose electorate from Broken Hill to Albury – said same-sex marriage was: “An idea whose time hasn’t quite come in the area I represent.”

Ley’s office confirmed she had declined invitations from the festival, saying none coincided with the MP’s visits to Broken Hill.

In a statement to the Star Observer, Ley said: “Any event which promotes caring, tolerance and brings a community together is extremely valuable.”

Ley also said she was open to engaging with the LGBTI community on issues of concern.

Murray Darling state National MP John Williams also failed to attend festival events but said his staff had put up “rainbow decorations around the outside of this office.”

Despite the decorations, Williams’ position on marriage equality was unchanged.

“I have had many people approach me objecting to same-sex marriage but no approach from the LGBTI community,” he said.

The Mayor of Broken Hill was also absent from festival events.

Despite the political no-show, Willow said the festival had been a success bringing together the local community, police, legal and health services: “The Festival of Respect has made the LGBTI community more visible and given us a voice.”


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