By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Greater Dandenong Council came up rainbows as it unveiled its strongest stance against homophobia.
For the first time, the council bathed Dandenong Town Hall in rainbow lighting and raised the rainbow flag in Harmony Square to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia on Sunday 17 May.
The council’s LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer) inclusion statement was launched, backed by a video message of support from mayor Jim Memeti and chief executive John Bennie.
In the statement, the council declares itself as a “proud ally” of the LGBTIQ community.
“As a diverse municipality, we are enriched by the social, cultural and economic contributions made by LGBTIQ people”.
It pledged to challenge “discriminatory and antagonistic” behaviour against LGBTIQ communities.
Greater Dandenong will engage with the communities to provide “genuine opportunities” in decisions, services and developing community leaders, the statement says.
“Council recognises the real struggles of the LGBTIQ community who experience multiple forms of discrimination and harassment, based on homophobia/transphobia/biphobia/intersexphobia.
“This often affects their ability to fully participate in everyday life within our community.”
Greater Dandenong councillor Matthew Kirwan said it was a “long journey” since he called for improved LGBTIQ inclusion in Greater Dandenong in 2017.
At that stage, a survey of LGBTIQ young people in Greater Dandenong community reported not being able to express their identity without fear of criticism or discrimination.
They also told of stereotyping and a lack of understanding, including due to cultural factors; abuse and bullying; and a lack of local resources and services.
“The reaction I have had on social media from Greater Dandenong residents of a variety of cultures and faiths shows that Greater Dandenong Council taking the step to publicly recognise our LGBTIQ community has been not just well accepted but embraced,” Cr Kirwan said.