Inner West Councillors are revisiting plans for a Pride Centre to be established at Newtown Town Hall after the project remained untouched for over a year.

The concept for an Inner West Pride centre was originally brought forward over five years ago in 2017, however efforts to institute the centre stalled when a search for expressions of interest in administering the centre found no “successful tender”.

A motion for the Inner West Council to “reaffirm its commitment to establishing” the Pride Centre was tabled at a council meeting on June 14 by Councillors Mat Howard and Liz Atkins, who also proposed to be a part of an advising sub-committee, along with Deputy Mayor Jess D’Arienzo.

Inner West Needs A Pride Centre

Cr Howard told Star Observer that “[with] Sydney WorldPride around the corner, now is the right time for council to reaffirm its commitment to the Pride Centre and to really elevate planning for it. There is so much excitement, enthusiasm and need for an Inner West Pride Centre in the LGBTIQ community.”

At the meeting, the councillors unanimously recommitted and agreed to escalate the planning for the Pride Centre. “We’re a step closer to making this longstanding project a reality,” Cr Howard said in a post on social media. “There is so much excitement and need in the LGBTIQ community for the centre and after years of diligent planning from staff and work from volunteers, we’re putting the pedal to the metal.”

The councillor said that he along with deputy mayor D’Arienzo, councillor Atkins, community leaders and members of the Inner West Rainbow Community would work to “review the steps taken so far, conduct a scoping study to really set out the vision for the Pride Centre and to decide on a model that will see this project realised as soon as possible, in a way that makes it sustainable for the future.”

Setbacks And Stalled Plans

Newtown Town Hall is the proposed location for the Inner West Pride Centre. Image: Inner West Council

“As has always been the plan, the Pride Centre will balance a focus for the LGBTIQ+ community with continued access to Newtown Town Hall for the wider Newtown community once the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre are supported to realise their plans to relocate to the Tom Foster Centre,” added Cr Howard.

This affirmation follows a string of setbacks for the Pride Centre in the previous council term. Attempts to establish the centre were brought to a halt in May 2021, when only one LGBTQI organisation reached out in an ‘expression of interest’ to operate the centre. The House of Pride and Empowerment organisation was deemed unsuitable by a selection panel, and movement on the centre has remained stagnant since then.

This was also followed by concerns that a Liberal Councillor, who was disavowed by Mayor Darcy Byrne for homophobic comments, would hinder progress on the centre.

87% Of Inner West Residents Want A Pride Centre

Public feedback on the idea for the centre at the time was positive, with 87% of survey respondents saying that it was important for a Pride Centre to be established in the Inner West. As noted in the newest motion, current census data reveals that the Inner West is home to some of the highest concentrations of LGBTQI people in Australia.

Establishing the Pride Centre in its planned location at the Newtown Town Hall also means relocating the Newtown Neighborhood Centre (NNC), a non-for-profit organisation that currently occupies the space.

Cr Howard says that the council has been working closely to “assist the Newtown Neighborhood Centre in their plans to relocate to the Tom Foster Centre”, which is the intended location for the NCC to move to.

Cr Howard said that the purpose of the Pride Centre will be to “recognise the importance of the LGBTIQ community in the Inner West and give them a place to connect, socialise and organize”.

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