Yarra, one of Melbourne’s most vibrant neighbourhoods and home to a number of queer businesses, on Monday elected openly LGBTQI councillors as its new Mayor and Deputy Mayor.

Greens councillor Gabrielle de Veitri will be the Mayor of Yarra and independent councillor Claudia Nguyen will be the Deputy Mayor.

“This marks the beginning of a new phase for Yarra Council and we have important work to do,” Gabrielle, a community activist, artist and paralegal, told Star Observer after her win. “I am ready to work hard with each of the councillors, and in consultation with the community, to lead Yarra’s recovery from the pandemic, to shape our growing city, to help fix the housing crisis and to continue Yarra’s critical work to address the climate emergency.”

Claudia Nguyen’s parents arrived in Australia as refugees from Vietnam. She was born in Yarra and grew up in a public housing estate in Richmond. As one of the few gay woman of color in Australia elected to public office, the newly elected Deputy Mayor said her priority would be to ensure that the council responds to those in the community who need support.

“As a member of the LGBTQI community, I am proud that Yarra Council has strongly supported us through initiatives such as flying the rainbow flag on IDAHOBIT day,” said Claudia, who graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Master of Engineering and works in the public sector in a senior policy role. “I look forward to working closely with Mayor Gabrielle de Vietri to continue rolling out Yarra’s LGBTQI strategy and vision.”

“A strong representative for the Yarra community,” is how Gabrielle described Claudia, while congratulating her on her appointment as the new Deputy Mayor. “I am looking forward to working with her over the coming year to make sure that Yarra is the strong, progressive, collaborative council that our community wants us to be.”

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 The elections to the Yarra City council were held in October and four out of the nine councillors are openly gay. The other out councillors are Edward Crossland and Bridgid O’Brien.

Yarra is also Australia’s first Greens-majority council. Besides Gabrielle and Edward, councillors Anab Mohamud, Amanda Stone, and Sophie Wade were endorsed by the Greens. The new councillors were sworn in and the Mayoral elections were held in a virtual ceremony on Monday.

Yarra comprises the inner suburbs of  Abbotsford, Burnley, Clifton Hill, Collingwood, Cremorne, Fitzroy, North Carlton, North Fitzroy, Princes Hill and Richmond. It is home to queer-run establishments including bookshop Hares & Hyenas, Mollie’s Bar and Diner, Sircuit Bar, The 86 Cabaret Bar and fetish store Eagle Leather.

The Greens Councillors have outlined the following policies for LGBTQI community in Yarra:

  • Support and promote Yarra as a centre for LGBTQI business and culture.
  • Encourage queer arts practice by resourcing LGBTQI arts projects.
  • Ensure LGBTQI representation on Yarra’s key advisory groups.
  • Address the specific needs of trans, gender diverse and non-binary young people accessing council’s services, programmes and facilities
  • Support the LGBTQI youth programmes, including the development of an LGBTQI Youth Forum
  • Ensure that Council services meet the needs of older LGBTQI residents, and support Yarra’s older LGBTQI community through peer networks and advocacy opportunities.
  • Ensure that LGBTQI parents meet no barriers to accessing council services and programmes, including childcare.

Elections were held to elect councillors to 77 councils across Victoria in October. Over 132 out candidates contested the elections and around 29 openly LGBTQI councillors were elected to 20 city councils.

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