By Chris Sutton
The City of Sydney Council has installed a permanent rainbow flag above Taylor Square to recognise Sydney’s gay and lesbian community.
The removal of a rainbow street crossing in Oxford Street last year caused anger and sparked claims for recognition as locals reacted with rallies of support.
Then Labor councillor Verity Firth raised the idea of a rainbow flag almost a decade ago. Current Labor councillor Linda Scott told City Hub that after Lord Mayor Clover Moore voted the motion down twice, she finally agreed to it this month.
“Quite some time ago now I proposed that the city build a giant rainbow flag in Taylor Square, and we had hundreds of people turn out to a council meeting and chalk up ’we want a rainbow flag’ in the front of Town Hall.”
Cr Scott believes it is important to have a visible sign of history in the area to recognise the contribution of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Question (LGBTIQ) community.
“It always upset me that there hadn’t been a physical reminder of the history of the area.”
The rally of support behind the rainbow street crossing created tension between the state government and the City, which believed the removal was unnecessary. Cr Scott believes the war between the governments needs to stop for outcomes to be achieved.
The Pollys Club, Australia’s oldest gay and lesbian social group, celebrated their 50 year anniversary in 2014.
Pollys Club president David Haynes told City Hub the flag is an important symbol to the community.
“This is an acknowledgement to the LGBTIQ community; that we are here and we are visible. The flag also sends a message right across Sydney that we are proud of our diversity.”
“I’m not sure why the mayor was initially against the flag but maybe she witnessed the significant amount of opposition when the much-loved rainbow crossing at Taylor Square was removed.”
Sydney’s first Mardi Gras in 1978 was met by unexpected policy brutality. Despite the progression, Mr Haynes and Cr Scott believe there is still some way to go.
“The Labor policy now is that we are committed to marriage equality. We’re not there yet,” said Cr Scott.
Mr Haynes said intolerance continues to be reinforced by some politicians and sections of the media.
“Pollys has always prided itself in providing a safe and supportive environment at our events where people can be themselves and celebrate life,” said Mr Haynes.
A City of Sydney spokesperson informed City Hub that this flag labels Sydney as a safe and inclusive city for everyone.
“The rainbow flag is an international symbol of pride and will help reinforce the area’s rich LGBTIQ culture and history.”
The spokesperson cited the council’s willingness to provide an iconic destination.
“We want the artwork to bring as much colour and joy to Oxford Street as the crossing did. It should serve as a landmark and a meeting place – something people will want to photograph and share with others.”
Cr Scott remained focused on making a better future for everyone.
“If people believe in equality and they do something about it, things can change.”