Residents call for Dubbo City Council to change social policy

By ORLANDER RUMING

Dubbo marriage equality advocate Nicholas Steepe has shared his story of self-harm and isolation to Dubbo City Council in an effort to create a more inclusive Social Plan for the city.

Mr Steepe spoke at council’s June Finance and Policy Committee meeting on behalf of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Questioning and Asexual (LGBTIQA) community.

He called for council to change the term ‘non-heterosexual’ in the 2015-16 Draft Dubbo Social Plan and introduce a motion supporting marriage equality.

“I implore you all… for all of the LGBTIQA constituents of Dubbo, past, present and future, to take a stand against discrimination, exclusion and prejudice,” Mr Steepe said.

“Update the Social Plan to be fully inclusive and promote social inclusion, and support a motion declaring your support for marriage equality, and convey this to Mark Coulton our Federal MP, as well as the federal government.”

The public gallery was overflowing with people supporting Mr Steepe and Libby McMahon, who also spoke at the meeting telling council about her experience as a mother of a gay daughter.

“Coming out made no difference to Savannah’s friends and while family asked many questions they still accepted and loved her,” she said.

“We were the lucky ones. So many other LGBTIQA living in our community are not so fortunate as us.

“Savannah is in a loving relationship. We want her to have the opportunities to someday marry her partner but this will not happen if everyone does not get behind these social changes, including the elected representatives of the Dubbo community, by supporting a motion to support marriage equality.”

Ms McMahon said council had the opportunity to promote inclusivity.

“We have this wonderful opportunity to create a community that promotes and accepts understanding, a community that the LGBTIQA feel included in and want to stay in,’ she said.

“They have so many skills to enrich our lives, let’s not lose them to other communities where their attitudes are more open minded.

“Let’s change our opinions and open our minds and encourage LGBTIQA people to stay in Dubbo and to be safe.”

Mr Steepe said he struggled to come to terms with his sexuality and have others accept it.

“I have lost track of the amount of time I was ridiculed for my flamboyancy and made to feel like I was different, that this was something I should somehow change,” he said.

“This resulted in a severe decline in my mental health, to the point where I self-harmed for a significant period of time. I felt like I was alone and the majority of people in my life did not understand, and I even contemplated whether my life was worth living on a number of occasions.”

He said he now understood he was no different to his friends and family, nor was any member of the LGBTIQA community.

 

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