Tasmania’s Central Coast Council has supported a motion to acknowledge the homophobic history of towns in its area like Ulverstone and Penguin, and to work towards fostering a more supportive environment for its LGBTI residents.

The sponsor of the motion, Councillor Amanda Diprose, highlighted the need to “heal a fractured community”.

In the early nineties, the Central Coast town of Ulverstone was dubbed Australia’s most homophobic town, and was the site of angry rallies against the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

At the time, the Council joined the campaign against decriminalisation by passing a motion against the reform and approaching other Tasmanian councils to do the same.

The Lonely Planet Guide even warned LGBTI people to avoid Ulverstone.

“The motion that I presented to the Central Coast Council on behalf of our wonderful LGBTI community was one that was needed to heal a fractured community,” Diprose said.

“Over the years I have seen many families torn apart and children ostracised because they have had the courage to say that they are LGBTI.

“Our community has lost many talented young people over the years because they have not felt comfortable or safe about being themselves.

“[But now] the Central Coast Council has taken a big leap forward in actually embracing the many beautiful people who have felt like they have had to hide away for many, many years.”

As well as recognising the harm previously caused to LGBTI residents in the area, the motion also called on the council to proactively support the community by participating in the Tas Pride Festival and planting trees to celebrate the contribution of LGBTI people to the local community.

The Council Chamber was reportedly packed with members of the public both supporting and opposing the motion, yet only two councillors opposed the motion.

Spokesperson for the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Rodney Croome, said he was pleased the council had resolved to work with the local LGBTI community to promote inclusion.

“The prejudice and hate Ulverstone witnessed thirty years ago tore a gaping hole in the social fabric,” he said.

“Now the Central Coast Council is helping to weave that fabric back together.

“The word ‘Ulverstone’ was once a synonym for homophobia, but last night it became another name for hope.”

The Council will now consult with the LGBTI community about the proposed inclusion measures.

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