Despite having one of the highest proportions of LGBTQI+ people of any LGA in Australia, Inner West Council does not have a single queer councillor. That needs to change, argues Liz Atkins.
Sydney’s Inner West has long had a reputation for being queer friendly, with Newtown, St Peters, Enmore, Camperdown and Tempe all featuring in the top ten suburbs for same sex couples in the 2016 Australian Census.
As a result, the Inner West Council is seen as LGBTIQ+ friendly. And mostly it is, with support for Mardi Gras, including a great little film called Get to Know Your Neighbour released for Mardi Gras this year, and an LGBTIQ Working Group, which is one of the most active forums for community input to Council, thanks to its Chair and hard-working membership. There was also a Labor promise before the last local government election for a Pride Centre – which hasn’t materialised.
And yet, despite this reputation as an LGBTQI+ friendly area, there are no queers on Council, and there is one notorious homophobe.
Does this matter? Of course it does.
While Council presents itself as progressive on queer issues, it’s not so great on those which don’t have the public relations value of Mardi Gras.
Let’s take one example: gender-free toilets. If you ask about the gendered toilets at the new Marrickville Library for instance, you’ll be told that the Building Code of Australia does not generally provide for multi-stall all-gender toilets.
But organisations can engage a building certifier to implement all-gender toilets. In fact, Council employs accredited building certifiers.
How simple would it be to implement all-gender toilets at Marrickville Library and remove the gendered signs from the identical cubicles, allowing everyone to feel comfortable and safe using the toilets?
Let’s get some queers on Council so that we can deal with the issues that affect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and other queer and gender diverse people every day.
Liz Atkins is the Greens lead candidate for Damun (Stanmore) Ward, Inner West Council at the NSW local government elections on Saturday, 4 September 2021. She lives in Stanmore with her wife.