A GLBTI community group has questioned Yarra Council’s $30,000 pledge to the Peel Street Pride Fair.

Melbourne Leather Pride (MLP) festival director Alex Schoeffel said pledging money to the fair, which raises money for the Port Phillip Council-backed Pride March, was unfair to GLBTI community organisations in the Yarra Council area in need of financial support.

The national leather festival has been postponed until April next year because of the conflict.

“Pride March is a fully funded organisation that happens in the City of Port Phillip,” Schoeffel said.

“The fact that the City of Yarra is giving them $30K for a one-day event is such an insult to us, our auspice the ALSO Foundation, VicBears and all the artists and businesses that participate in our two-week festival, which goes unsupported by [the City of] Yarra.”

Schoeffel has sought a meeting with Yarra Mayor Janet Garrett to discuss the $30K pledge and the council’s repeated knock-backs of his organisation’s repeated pleas for financial assistance.

“[The] City of Yarra has failed its own GLBTIQ community by both ignoring local organisations (Leather Pride, VicBears, Midsumma) and supporting a homogenous mainstream event that is not struggling,” he said.

“This effectively siphons money from the City of Yarra into a fundraiser for a City of Port Phillip event.”
Mayor Garrett said she was comfortable with the $30,000 grant.

“I think we’ve opened up an unprecedented dialogue with the GLBTI community here,” she told Southern Star Observer.

“I think it is really exciting we are having the Pride Fair in Yarra, certainly we’re getting the Leather Pride (organisers) in as soon as possible. we’ve contacted them and we are happy to talk those issues through.”

The $30,000 grant, moved by Cr Dale Smedley, was approved by the council last month outside the normal grants process.

Last week Smedley complained because Greens Councillor Alison Clarke had asked him to abstain from the final vote. He claimed it was because he was gay.

But Cr Clarke said she had warned Cr Smedley of a conflict of interest because of his close friendship with Peel Hotel owner Tom McFeely and Pride March Victoria president Brett Hayhoe.

“It wasn’t about him being gay at all,” she said.

Greens Councillor Amanda Stone said she was not aware of the trio’s friendship, ”and I certainly would have thought differently if I had known”.

“I regret other groups in the area were not consulted,” she told Southern Star Observer.

McFeely said his hotel’s involvement in the fair would not be a commercial one, with money raised to be donated to the Pride March Victoria fundraising coffers.

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