TWO more Sydney councils yesterday said they would fly the rainbow flag this Mardi Gras, further shining a spotlight on the town halls remaining silent on the issue.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Mayor of Randwick, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, is under increasing pressure from his own party to display the banner.
Despite the festival highlighting Sydney as one of the world’s most LGBTI-friendly cities, and bringing in $30 million annually into the state’s coffers, only four of the city’s 38 local authorities said they planned to display the symbol.
However, yesterday Pittwatter and Manly councils – both on Sydney’s Northern Beaches – joined Sydney, Marrickville, Leichhardt and Botany Bay councils by committing to raising the flag from their respective town halls.
Meanwhile, Ashfield Mayor Lucille McKenna will make a supportive motion to the inner west council’s meeting next week.
Of the remaining councils eight said they were considering raising the flag, 19 failed to reply and five – Penrith, Liverpool, Mosman, Hornsby and Bankstown – said they would not be flying the symbol.
However, Penrith, Hornsby and Bankstown councils said they served the needs of their LGBTI communities in other ways such as through consultations and funding local projects and events.
On Monday, Mayor of Pittwater, Jacqueline Thomas, tweeted that the Mona Vale-based council would display the emblem.
— J_Townsend_Pittwater (@J_Townsend_Pitt) February 2, 2015
— Clover Moore (@CloverMoore) February 2, 2015
It was a result welcomed by Mardi Gras board member and former Pittwater local James Brechney, particularly due to the distance of the local government area (LGA) from Sydney’s CBD.
“It’s so important for outer suburban councils to get behind this idea,” he said.
“While LGBTQI have some great links in the inner city, in other areas it’s not so easy, particularly for youth.
“A simple act as a flag raising can affect community opinion and provide a powerful message to those in our own community – you are loved.”
Meanwhile, openly-gay Coogee state Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith has told the Star Observer he would be contacting the mayors of Randwick, Waverley and Woollahra – all within or close to his electorate – about the issue.
“I know all the councils are supportive of their GLBTI communities and I’ll be requesting they fly the flag in the week of Mardi Gras,” said, himself a former Randwick Mayor.
“It’s a way of council saying yes, we have significant GLBTI communities and that Mardi Gras is the biggest party in the Australia.”
Notley-Smith also noted that many visitors to the festival would likely pass through the LGAs as part of their trip.
Last night, Randwick Liberal councillor Scott Nash increased the pressure on Mayor Ted Sang by bringing forward a motion, to be heard at a council meeting on February 24, to hold a rainbow flag raising ceremony during Mardi Gras.
Randwick and Waverely councils have failed to respond to repeated enquiries on the issue from the Star Observer.
This morning a spokesperson for Woollahra council – which includes part of Oxford St – said the mayor had yet to consider the proposal but noted the LGA’s support of last year’s gay rugby Bingham Cup world tournament.
NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby convenor Justin Koonin said the flag was a visible sign that LGBTI people were welcomed and he congratulated those councils who had made the commitment to raising it.
“Visibility is extremely important to people and communities who have traditionally had to remain hidden, and we would encourage those councils who are still deliberating to consider the positive impact a symbol like this could have on its LGBTI constituents,” he said.
Flying the flag? Yes (as of February 4):
Flying the flag? Maybe
Ashfield (mayoral support)
Flying the flag? No
Flying the flag? If they are, they haven’t told anyone
Randwick (Motion to council on February 24 is by a councillor, not council itself)
(Main photo: The rainbow flag flies from Sydney Town Hall to commemorate the 2014 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras season. Photo: Ann-Marie Calilhanna; Star Observer)