Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) has responded to the homophobic bullying of queer youth at Parramatta’s Rediscover the River festival on January 17.
During the festival, Twenty10, an organisation that provides counseling for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) youth, were asked to remove an “offensive” banner.
The banner read: “Support service for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people, their families and community. ‘A place to be me, with the support I need.’”
The Liberal Mayor of Parramatta, John Chedid, apologised to Twenty10 after public outrage over the incident.
CAAH said this is not enough and are demanding a full apology to the LGBTI community and broader community of Parramatta, and a commitment to anti-discrimination training for the mayor, councillors and all staff.
They are asking for council to make amends by funding pro-LGBTI posters in all council facilities, providing funds for local LGBTI youth organisations, identify the Parramatta LGBTI community within Council Community and Strategic planning initiatives and outline support and inclusion strategies for this group.
They are also calling for more information about the incident which occurred at the festival. Council has not yet made it public which person from the mayor’s staff asked for the sign to be removed, or clarified exactly what was offensive about the sign, but reported that families were being upset by its presence at the festival.
“It is regretful that these actions were taken and it is right to apologise for the angst it has caused,” Chedid said. “There was never any intent to offend or infer any prejudice towards the organisation.”
Twenty10 have also been invited to meet with Chedid and intend to follow this up invitation.
In what has been described as a “furore”, an electronic and print media campaign happened almost immediately after the incident. Thousands of angry comments on Parramatta City Council’s Facebook and Twitter pages have rendered the council’s social media useless.
A change.org petition gained 12,399 supporters, demanding an apology from the office of the Lord Mayor, and the incident was also reported on in national mainstream press, local papers and the queer press.
Council’s actions were condemned by the former Mayor of Parramatta Lorraine Wearne, who said "I'm very upset about it and the message I want to get across is that Parramatta is a place of diversity and a place where everyone is welcome."
Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich has called for an investigation of council’s actions.
Greens MP Cate Faehrmann suggested Chedid and his staff undergo anti-discrimination and diversity training.