Pride Centre in Newtown a step closer

Aunty Omar (left) and Aunty Muhammad (AKA Two Boys in Saris) on the Pride Seat in Bedford Square, Newtown. Photo: Inner West Council/Facebook.

The Inner West Council (IWC) is looking to establish a ‘Pride Centre’ in Newtown that will cater to the LGBTIQ community, providing a much-needed base for the planning and management of LGBTIQ-themed projects and events.

IWC Mayor Darcy Byrne said, “This is a big step forward for the Inner West. As Mayor I am committed to making the Council progressive and effective. This Pride Centre is a great example of that ethos.”

He added, “The Inner West has been the home to a large and vibrant LGBTIQ community for many decades and we have been the beating heart and soul of the struggle for civil rights in this country. That’s why we’ve been so determined to bring this vision to life.”

After undertaking a draft Land and Property Strategy, IWC identified Newtown Town Hall, a two-story, heritage-listed building in central Newtown, as the most suitable premises for the Pride Centre. 

The building is currently occupied by Newtown Neighbourhood Centre (NNC), a non-profit organisation involved in Homeless Outreach, Aged Care Social Support, and family support programs. NNC also hosts the annual Newtown Festival, a popular musical and cultural event in Camperdown Park. 

NNC are relocating to Tom Foster Community Centre in south Newtown – larger premises that can be adapted to better suit their needs, allowing them to draw together staff currently split between two sites.

On 29 October 2020, applications opened for a Reference Panel to provide advice and feedback in establishing the Inner West Pride Centre. Once established, the Reference Panel, consisting of up to 12 people, will ensure the needs and requirements of the LGBTIQ community are incorporated into the setting up of the Pride Centre operations. 

The panel will also oversee an Expression of Interest (EOI) process from LGBTIQ or LGBTIQ-friendly organisations to run the Centre. IWC confirmed that it will be built into the EOI that community access to hire the hall remains.

An IWC spokesperson told the Sentinel, “Participants in the engagement process described their vision for the physical space as a hub with shared spaces, resources, information and support with the potential to foster local community, with services for community members in need, specifically youth, kids, older LGBTIQ [people], quiet gays, [culturally and linguistically diverse people], people experiencing homelessness, families, trans and bisexual people, people with mental health issues, refugees, people of colour, and religious LGBTIQ community members.”

A similar Pride Centre will open soon in St Kilda, Melbourne, occupying a new building in Fitzroy St, which began construction in June 2019 after City of Port Philip Council contributed $13 million to the project.

Victorian Pride Centre CEO Justine Della Riva discusses the purpose of the new Victorian Pride Centre. Video: James McKenzie/YouTube.

The Victorian Pride Centre will house a variety of organisations involved with the Victorian LGBTIQ community, including the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, the GLBTIQ Multicultural Council and the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives.

Sydney’s proposed Pride Centre will not be the first of its kind. In June 1995 a Pride Centre was officially opened at 26 Hutchinson St, Surry Hills, and ran for several years before downsizing into rented space in Erskineville Town Hall, eventually closing in 2007.

Inaugural tenants included Fitness Exchange and Support of Positive Youth, followed by Women’s Liberation House, the Deaf Gay and Lesbian Association, Gay & Lesbian Martial Arts, and the satirical street performance troupe Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, among others. (An earlier, short-lived centre in Flinders St, Darlinghurst, closed in April 1990 after six weeks operation, due to high rent demands). 

The IWC spokesperson told the Sentinel, “The final Pride Centre model will be determined by the Expression of Interest (EOI) process. Potential operators will propose a model in their EOI application and the applications will be assessed on this basis.

“The Reference Panel will have input into the criteria in the EOI document and also be part of the assessment process. The panel is there to ensure that the needs and requirements of the LGBTIQ community are incorporated into the setting up of the Pride Centre operations.

“It’s worth noting that the community engagement ‘Visioning a Pride Centre’ found that the Pride Centre should be a place that is safe for expression, inclusion, connectedness and belonging, and also a place for identity to be seen, and to combat fractured communities and isolation.”

The master planning and subsequent works needed on the Newtown Town Hall are scheduled to take place throughout 2021-22. The Pride Centre is set to open in time for WorldPride, a bi-annual international event being hosted in Sydney in February and March 2023, in conjunction with that year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Applications to join the Reference Panel for the Pride Centre close on Friday 13 November and can be made on the Inner West Council webpage at: https://yoursay.innerwest.nsw.gov.au/pride-centre.

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