Rainbow Rights under the Spotlight Forum

(6.30pm, Tuesday 16 July 2013, Paddington Town Hall)

I would like to start by acknowledging the traditional custodians of this land, and I pay my respects to their Elders, both past and present.

I would like to acknowledge Councillors who are present. I would also like to thank City Staff, including Suzie Matthews, Kate Murray and our GLBT Project Coordinator for being here to answer any questions you might have.

Alex Greenwich, the Member for Sydney is currently overseas attending his cousin's same sex wedding in Seattle. He also wants to thank everyone for their interest in finding a creative way to celebrate GLBTI heritage at Taylor Square. Copies of his letter to me with his message to the forum are available.

On 10 April, the NSW Government tore up the rainbow crossing at Taylor Square, in spite of strong community support to keep it as a permanent acknowledgement of Sydney's gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual and intersex communities.

The rainbow crossing was an idea that came from the community, and its removal provoked spontaneous action.

We will hear more about that tonight from James Brechney, who started the fabulous DIY rainbow campaign that got the whole city chalking.

Since then, many ideas have been put forward to replace the rainbow crossing and recognise our GLBTI community on Oxford Street - which is itself a GLBTI icon worldwide.

I believe we need your input for these suggestions, which is why we're here tonight.

Over the years we have created rainbow banners which fly along Oxford Street during Mardi Gras and at other times throughout the year. Public art has brought life and visitors to Taylor Square. And we have made space available for Mardi Gras to host an exhibition space right here on Oxford Street.

If there is strong support for another rainbow flag, we could move on that fairly quickly. Other ideas may call for further work and investigation to find out if they are practical or feasible, especially if they require cooperation from the State Government.

But whatever ideas you have, it starts here. We want you to share them with us.

Symbols are powerful. That's why we fly rainbow banners along Oxford Street and raise the flag at Sydney Town Hall at the beginning of Mardi Gras each year. But there are other important issues we should be talking about and campaigning on.

Tonight, I also want to hear from you about the important issues and challenges facing your community.

For a long time the City has been a strong supporter of issues like community safety, healthy living and marriage equality. The City is the only council in Australia with a dedicated Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex and Queer (GLBTIQ) community office, Pip Ditzell, our GLBTI Project Coordinator. Pip works with government agencies and GLBTI community organisations such as NSW Police, Inner City Legal Centre, ACON, the Lesbian and Gay Anti Violence Project, the Gender Centre and Twenty10 to deliver high quality services and programs to the diverse City community.

The City support Wear It Purple, a student-run organization set up to raise awareness about the issues faced by young GLBTI people and to help eradicate bullying. The City also helped establish Pride in Colour, a working group focussing on the needs of GLBTI people from diverse backgrounds.

The City also supports Mardi Gras through our Major Festivals Program and supports many other GLBTI groups and projects through our community grants programs.

So tonight we are asking what are other practical ways the City can play a role in making the GLBT community a stronger, safer, more successful part of our City?

Tonight is about hearing from you.

I will now hand over to our MC, Bernie Hobbs, who will explain what will happen for the rest of the evening.