City News

Push forward for GLBTI archival space

Taylor Square's T2 building, the previously proposed site of a permanent Mardi Gras museum.

With the City of Sydney’s resolution in March to forge ahead with its plans to transform the long-vacant T2 building in Taylor Square into a ‘cycling hub’, a new motion tabled by Labor councillor Linda Scott at this month’s council meeting calling for the establishment of an GLBTI archival space was defeated.

To commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (SGLMG) last year, council facilitated a pop-up exhibition space, managed by SGLMG, on Oxford Street.

However, the not-for-profit organisation has consistently lobbied the City for the establishment of a permanent Mardi Gras museum. Buoyed by considerable community support, the idea became one of the key issues at the last lord mayoral elections in 2012.

All leading candidates endorsed the platform put forward by SGLMG to turn the former nightclub, a site with a significant GLBTI history, into a permanent museum. Cr Scott was particularly vocal on the issue, with a pledge of “a one-off, $1 million grant of cash and in-kind assistance to make the museum a reality” comprising one of her major election promises.

While conceding that she would consider competing proposals for use of the T2 building at the time of the election, Cr Moore has since gone on to retain her lord mayoral position and carry through with her plans to realise Sydney’s first bike hub. Work is likely to begin on the site next year.

Soon after the closure of the temporary Mardi Gras museum on Oxford Street, SGLMG withdrew its Expression of Interest to occupy the Taylor Square location, stating that the existing space was a “better option for [its] future needs”.

Liberal councillor Christine Forster, a long-standing proponent of a permanent GLBTI museum, argued that this was due to the SGLMG’s lack of funding and staff, which was all the more reason for the City to step in and provide additional financing and resources.

For Cr Forster, the possibility of a museum, cultural centre or exhibition space for GLBTI materials is “not a dead issue”.

She was one of three other councillors, alongside Cr Doutney and Cr Mandla, who voted with Cr Scott in favour of her motion proposing that the City of Sydney “provide expertise, resources, and an archival space to members of Sydney’s GLBTI community and GLBTI organisations, free of charge, for the storage of items appropriate for donation to a future Sydney GLBTI Museum.”

Cr Forster sought to amend Cr Scott’s motion by adding a clause requesting more involved engagement from the gay and lesbian community, citing that the proposal is “not a top-down suggestion, but a grassroots decision”.

Both the amendment and the substantive motion were lost.

Following heated debate, council unanimously resolved to collaborate with the State Library, the National Library of Australia and the Australian Gay and Lesbian Archives to “gauge how significant community materials can be appropriately collected, stored and [made] available for research and exhibition,” as per a motion moved by independent councillor Jenny Green.

“I continue to be a strong supporter of the creation of a GLBTI museum in Sydney. … This is the first positive step [in that direction],” said Cr Scott.

Greens councillor Irene Doutney was similarly hopeful about the establishment of a GLBTI museum in the future. She is of the belief that council should be responsible for “purchasing the space”, but should work in tandem with the GLBTI community to run and maintain the collections.

Cr Forster, on the other hand, remains sceptical, saying that any motion urging for a permanent GLBTI museum would be met with antagonism from the Lord Mayor as the idea is “not [one] she has her hands on”.

Cr Forster moved a motion in March to investigate the fiscal viability of a permanent GLBTI collection, but it too, was defeated.

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