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.

 

Latrobe city councillor Christine Sindt not backing down as lawyers for MP Darren Chester seek apology over same-sex marriage Facebook posts

Posted yesterday at 10:45am

The controversial south-east Victorian based councillor criticised federal MP Darren Chester after he announced his support of same-sex marriage.

Lawyers for Mr Chester have asked Cr Sindt to apologise and retract what they describe as divisive, offensive and defamatory comments.

A vilification complaint has also been lodged against Cr Sindt by a New South Wales anti-discrimination campaigner.

A panel will decide if Cr Sindt has breached the councillor code of conduct by posting anti-Islamic material on Facebook.

She said threats from lawyers would not force her to censor her public comments.

“Same-sex marriage has a lot of, there’s a lot of robust debate around same-sex marriage and this morning I received some private and confidential correspondence from a lawyer,” she said.

“Will I think about what I say and do to be sure that the thought police are happy with it?

“I do not comply with the thought police. I am a free-thinking person.”

“ Ms.Sindt you can’t fatten a pig on market day love”

Sindt agrees to be more ‘inclusive’

Latrobe City Councillor Christine Sindt says discussions with members of the community have made her aware her Facebook posts opposing same sex marriage “may have triggered intense emotion” for people.

“In relation to same sex marriage, I have met with members of the community, and have become aware that my Facebook posts opposing same sex marriage may have triggered intense emotion, based on their own personal experiences,” Cr Sindt told The Express in a statement on Friday.

“Discussions are continuing, for which there are clearly no immediate short-term solutions.

“We have agreed that same sex marriage is not the solution to far deeper social problems.”

Cr Sindt said she had “agreed to disagree” with people on the issue of same sex marriage, and “agreed that we need to be an inclusive, supportive Latrobe City community”.

Her controversial Facebook comments drew interstate ire last week, with an outspoken, Sydney-based gay rights activist lodging a formal complaint with the Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales.

Garry Burns has alleged an 11 June statement on Cr Sindt’s offcial councillor Facebook page incited hatred against homosexual men.

The contents of the Facebook post cannot be reported for legal reasons.

Mr Burns said he believed Cr Sindt’s statement was unlawful because it “has a capacity or effect of inciting hatred towards, or serious contempt or serious ridicule of homosexual men on the grounds of their homosexuality”.

“People in high office have responsibility, they’re people in powerful positions and they should understand the impact of their statement particularly on gay and lesbian teenagers, because these kinds of statements do cause harm,” he said.

Cr Sindt’s Facebook post included a personal attack on Member for Gippsland Darren Chester after he declared he would support legislation to legalise same-sex marriage.

A lawyer for Mr Chester sent a letter to Cr Sindt requesting she retract the statement and unreservedly apologise.

From Thursday morning, Cr Sindt’s councillor Facebook page appeared to have been taken down.

Cr Sindt said she had not yet received any legal correspondence about her councillor Facebook page and she had voluntarily deactivated it.

She said she did not know Garry Burns.

“I have met with members of the local community and those whom I have met do not appear to be as concerned as possibly Mr Burns may be and I look forward to receiving his correspondence,” Cr Sindt said.

LGBTI campaigner speaks out in support of Dubbo gay community

By KIM BARTLEY June 20, 2015,  – thedailyliberal.com.augaryburns6

Prominent anti-discrimination campaigner Garry Burns hit the phone after reading about Nicholas Steepe’s struggle to speak to Dubbo city Councillors.

Prominent anti-discrimination campaigner Garry Burns hit the phone after reading about Nicholas Steepe’s struggle to speak to Dubbo city Councillors. Photo: CONTRIBUTED

A HIGH-PROFILE anti-discrimination campaigner has told Dubbo politicians to show the city’s young gay and lesbian residents that they are “welcome” in their home town.

Sydney-based Garry Burns hit the phone on Friday morning after reading of student Nicholas Steepe’s battle to speak with each and every Dubbo city Councillor about marriage equality, a linchpin of “social inclusion”.

Mr Burns rang the offices of Dubbo City Council and Parkes MP Mark Coulton before sending an email to his own representative in the Federal Parliament, Malcolm Turnbull, asking him to nudge Mr Coulton who is currently against same-sex marriage.

The openly homosexual man, who makes “no apologies for going after people in the public eye who promote homophobia”, is reminding Dubbo’s political leaders of their responsibility to promote “diversity, inclusivity, tolerance and understanding”.

“I was touched by this story and I felt really sad that in 2015 we have still got young gay and lesbian people being denied inclusivity,” Mr Burns said.

“They just want to be treated like they are part of the Australian family.

“They look to Councillors, they look to politicians, to give them that support.

“It is important that these councillors…sit down with this young man and the gay and lesbian youth of Dubbo and say ‘you are welcome here’.”

Mr Steepe sought talks with individual Councillors on behalf of Dubbo’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community.

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When five of 11 councillors ignored his invitation, Mr Steepe applied to speak to the council as a whole at one of its June meetings.

On Wednesday he was notified that he could address the council at its monthly meeting on June 29, an arrangement changed by the council a day later.

Mr Steepe and Dubbo mother Libby McMahon will now address the council in an open forum at committee meetings on Monday, June 22, which suits them better.

“I believe that’s quite a positive step because it will allow for debate,” he said.

The LGBTI community and its “straight allies” have been asking the council to join a national and community-driven campaign aimed at influencing federal politicians to reform the 1961 Marriage Act to include same-sex marriage.

About 40 councils in Australia, including Coonamble and Lachlan shire councils, have joined big business, entertainment royalty, politicians and families in trying to bring about change.

Mr Burns, famous for rows with John Laws and Jeff Kennett, applauds Mr Steepe’s effort to engage the council on the issue, even though it will come down to the votes of federal politicians.

“Every Australian should be involved in the promotion of inclusivity, especially those elected to high office,” said the Moree-raised activist.

“If all people are talking openly about a need for legislative change, the Commonwealth government will go ‘I got it’.”