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Push to remove Racism Not Welcome signs in Woollahra fails

A Racism Not Welcome sign at Addison Road Community Organisation. Earlier this week, a motion to remove the signs in Woollahra was defeated. Photo: Addison Road Community Organisation.

By PATRICK MCKENZIE

Twelve ‘Racism Not Welcome’ signs in the Woollahra area will remain, after a motion in a council meeting to remove them was narrowly defeated on Monday night.

The motion was put forward by Liberal councillors Toni Zeltzer, Peter Cavanagh and Mary-Lou Jarvis, who wrote in the motion that the area “has had no reported racist incidents that would justify these signs in our streets”. 

“The signs do not properly represent our community … on streets where these signs have been erected, locals have been made to feel like racists,” the motion continues.

During a four-hour council meeting, the motion failed 8-7 as councillors decided that the signs would remain.

Residents First councillor Luise Elsing, who has sat on Woollahra Council since 2012 and who first moved the motion to introduce the signs said that “racism exists in Woollahra”. 

“All of us need to stand up against racism and the Racism Not Welcome signage is one way Woollahra Council can support their residents,” she told SBS News.

Speaking to the motion on Monday, Cr Jarvis said that the introduction of the signs was “another example of wokeism which I understand was copied from a Sydney inner-city council”. 

“Rather than make everyone feel good about themselves it has created angst in our community,” she said.

The Racism Not Welcome street sign campaign was adopted in Woollahra last year and was launched by Inner West Council as part of a program with the Inner West Multicultural Network and Addison Road Community Organisation in 2020, following an increase in racist attacks throughout the community. 

On Sunday, ahead of the meeting, Inner West Council Mayor Darcy Byrne spoke out against the motion on social media.

“Liberals in the eastern suburbs are moving to have these signs removed, as they say they find them offensive. This campaign started in the Inner West, not as an accusation, but as an expression of commitment to ending discrimination. The signs are here to stay on our streets,” he said.

Greens councillor Nicola Grieve, who was pleased that the signs would remain in place, called the motion “embarrassing” and had brought “Woollahra into disrepute”. In the defeated motion, it was said that the signs gave a “false impression that Woollahra locals are racist, while there has been no evidence presented to that effect”.

Woollahra leadership 

The motion was tabled in Woollahra Council’s first ordinary meeting of 2022, following an extraordinary meeting in January where Crs Susan Wynne and Isabelle Shapiro were respectively voted to the positions of mayor and deputy mayor.

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