GLBTI museum should be run by community

A permanent GLBTI museum might well be a major asset to Sydney. It could be a tourist drawcard. But a GLBTI museum should be run by the community not politicians.

Councillor Christine Forster wants a Council owned and operated museum. But why would we risk putting the telling of GLBTI stories under the control of nervous bureaucrats or subject to pressure from a future Council?

Imagine a conservative Council trying to pressure the curator into toning down or removing an exhibition they thought offensive.

It's time to debate the facts and not the political posturing City Liberal and Labor councillors are pushing.

Councillor Christine Forster claims a museum was 'the number one issue for the LGBTI community in the 2012 local government elections.'

In 2012, 2013, 2014 we are still living with the fact that gay men in NSW charged with offences prior to decriminalisation are carrying around criminal records just because of who they loved.

We are still living with the fact that same sex couples can marry in many other countries but in Australia they are still denied this most basic right. That GLBTI Australians are six times more likely to take their own lives than other Australians.

A museum is important and if a viable proposal was developed by the community, I'd support it and lobby hard to help attract funding from the community and State and Federal Government.

But it's hard to stomach someone claiming a museum is the number one issue for a community still fighting for the most basic of human rights.

This debate is being driven by major parties desperately trying to distract people from the fact that they have worked against granting the GLBTI community the basic human right of full equality.

There are already significant items of GLBTI memorabilia at the Powerhouse Museum, the Australian Archives and the NSW State Library, where many of the records I collected as part of my work with the GLBTI community are held.

There are other GLBTI museums around the world and they have been established and are operated by community-based organisations, mostly supported through fundraising, sponsorship and philanthropy.

The Schwules Museum, Berlin is managed and operated by the community based Friends of a Gay Museum in Berlin. It's supported through membership fees and donations.

The GLBT History Museum, San Francisco opened in 2011 as a project of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society. The Society is assisted in running the museum by many passionate volunteers.

The National LGBTI Museum Project in the USA was initiated by furniture entrepreneur Mitchell Gold and his husband Tim Gold, a former Smithsonian researcher. The estimated cost of the project is between $50 million and $100 million and has a target opening date of 2018.

The Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives, based in Melbourne, were established as a community organisation to actively collect and preserve lesbian and gay material from across Australia and to ensure this material is owned and controlled by the community.

The Sydney GLBTI community has a long and proud history of setting its own priorities and determining what is important.

The way the community responded to the AIDS crisis, the way it campaigned for homosexual law reform and against homophobic discrimination and violence, the campaign for marriage equality - all these have succeeded, and the campaign for marriage equality will succeed, because people in the GLBTI community are behind them.

Throughout my career as a Councillor, Member of Parliament and Lord Mayor I have championed and achieved change on a number of issues raised by the GLBTI community.

This includes my Homosexual Anti-Vilification Bill which made it illegal to incite hatred of gay men and lesbians, forums on the discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS and the availability of drugs and beds for victims of AIDS in city hospitals, my Significant Personal Relationships Bill, my Adoption Amendment (Same Sex Couples) Bill so children can now be adopted by both same sex parents and the establishment of a dedicated City GLBTI community project co-ordinator.

I believe Sydney will and should have a GLBTI museum but one under the control of the GLBTI community not Government.

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