A councillor in Victoria has been criticised and reprimanded over her opposition to Pride flags being flown permanently at council offices.
Cr Susan Bissinger, from the Mornington Peninsula Shire, has been ordered to undergo personal development training after external mediation initiated by Mayor Steve Baker.
She was also banned from speaking to council staff following a separate reprimand, this time from council CEO John Baker.
The mediation followed an online exchange on September 22, between Bissinger, councillors and staff about plans to permanently fly the rainbow flag, saying she feared it would be divisive. She also said they should not follow the actions of other “woke” councils.
Victorian Councils Fly Rainbow Flags
The council has suffered an image problem over the last few years, with consecutive satisfaction surveys indicating a decline in favourability from Shire residents.
Co-lead of the Rainbow Local Government campaign, Dr Sean Mulcahy, said it was important all councils showed support to the LGBTQI+ community.
“Every council in Victoria – from Mildura to Mornington – flies the pride flag as a sign of support for their LGBTIQA+ community,” he said. “When our community is under increasing attack, it is important that our elected representatives stand alongside us.”
The Mornington Peninsula Leader reported the online exchange was referenced during mediation as an example of the councillor’s poor behaviour.
Bassinger was ordered by Baker to no longer speak to council staff, citing the Local Government Act, and is to only interact with Baker, the council’s chief financial officer and three other department heads.
It was reported that Bassinger felt the accusations hadn’t been properly explained to her and would impact her role working with ratepayers.
Driving Equality And Inclusion
Bissinger is one of two councillors representing Portsea, Sorrento, Blairgowrie, Rye and Tootgarook residents.
“In many service areas, performance ratings…are the lowest to date. Restoring positive perceptions among these cohorts, and a continued focus on customer service, will be key,” the findings said.
The rainbow flag has been increasingly flown in councils across the state, including all 79 on International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersex Discrimination and Transphobia on May 17th.
The Victorian government has implemented a roadmap to help “drive equality and inclusion” for the state’s diverse LGBTQI+ community. This includes fostering inclusive communities.
ABS data shows 44 per cent who identify as LGBTQI+ people reported anxiety, as opposed to 17 per cent who did not identify.
Earlier this year Monash City Council staff and councillors were subjected to abuse over a now cancelled drag story time event.