By ALLISON HORE
This week a 90-meter rainbow footpath which runs along the area of Prince Alfred Park known “Equality Green” was unveiled in Surry Hills.
But its reveal, through a photoshoot on the Lord Mayor’s personal facebook page, has raised concern among other councillors.
The footpath was painted in rainbow colours in celebration of marriage equality following a suggestion by the Surry Hills Business Partnership. When the idea was brought before the City of Sydney council in November, it had unanimous support.
Equality Green in Prince Alfred Park is a significant location for the pride path as it’s where 30,000 people gathered to hear the results of Australia’s same sex marriage plebiscite.
Independent councillor Kerryn Phelps, a key figure in the marriage equality campaign, told City Hub she and her wife Jackie were amongst the crowd on the day to hear the result. She said it was a moment they had “worked hard to achieve for two decades.”
“When Jackie and I visited the site today we were reminded of the overwhelming emotions of that day in 2017, of elation and relief,” she said.
“Elation because the majority of Australians had voted YES, and relief that the horrible and distressing time of the brutal “No” campaign and the postal survey was over.”
But when the much anticipated footpath was revealed this week it wasn’t through council social media pages or a public opening, it was through a promotional photoshoot for Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s social media page.
Dr. Phelps said neither she nor Christine Forster, who is also a member of the LGBTQI+ community and was also a key figure in the marriage equality campaign, were invited to share in the moment it was revealed.
“Christine and I were both surprised to find out about the completion of this Council project via a photo op on Clover Moore’s social media,” she said.
“This is an issue Jackie and I worked on for two decades and you would think, at the very least, that the two LGBTQI councillors would have been invited to what is an extremely important and emotional place for us and our families.”
Unusual but not unprecedented
Dr. Phelps said Ms. Moore posting the reveal on her own social media profiles as opposed to council ones was “an unusual move” as it was a “historic initiative” all of council should be proud of. But she noted this was not the first time this has happened.
“Projects like this are City of Sydney projects. All councillors assess the merits, and vote on them and we take an interest in the impact they have on our various communities,” she said.
“Yet they were “launched” and opened by Clover Moore without other councillors even being told about it, let alone included.”
When approached for comment, Ms. Forster agreed with Dr. Phelps’ sentiment and said “it’s a pattern of behaviour for the Lord Mayor to exclude opposition councillors from such opportunities.”
“The rainbow is supposed to be for the entire community, not just Clover’s cronies,” she told City Hub.
The timing of these private openings in the lead up to the City of Sydney council election, which will be held on Saturday 4 September 2021, has also raised eyebrows among Mayor Moore’s challengers.
Dr. Phelps said while “there is no doubt that Clover Moore has been a strong ally for the LGBTQI community,” the use of Equality Green and the rainbow path for Ms. Moore’s personal political purposes was offensive to her and many others.
“The rainbow flag is meant to be a universal symbol of inclusion. Inclusion is more than a word in a policy document, it is about attitudes and actions.”
In NSW are held every 4 years but due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic the 2020 elections were postponed. Earlier this month Dr. Phelps announced she would be challenging Ms. Moore for the top position and Ms. Forster announced she would be stepping back from council.
Clover Moore responds
Responding to the criticism, a spokesperson from the Lord Mayor’s office clarified “there was no official event or launch to be invited to” and said councillors were kept in the loop on the project’s progress.
“Councillors are kept up to date on the completion and delivery schedule of all City projects via weekly update reports from the CEO. They received a detailed memo about the rainbow footpath and timeline for delivery in January,” the spokesperson said.
Ms. Moore said the photoshoot on the rainbow footpath was not planned as an opening event, rather, it was done after the pathway was already opened to the public.
“The rainbow footpath was painted over the weekend and open for the public to enjoy on Monday afternoon. After seeing some wonderful photos of dogs and people enjoying our new footpath on Equality Green, I popped down on Tuesday to get a photo too,” she explained.
“With me was Deputy Lord Mayor Jess Scully, whose notice of motion to install the rainbow footpath was endorsed unanimously by Council, as well as Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich and Mike Galvin, Leigh Harris and Orlando Sydney of the Surry Hills Creative Precinct who were part of the community campaign to make it happen.”
She said she hopes the footpath will serve as a reminder both to how far the LGBTQI+ community has come as well as “the distance yet to travel toward equality.”