Parramatta’s mayor apologises to Twenty10
SYDNEY: Parramatta Mayor John Chedid has sent Twenty10 a letter of apology following the widespread community outrage and ensuing social media backlash that met the Council after the queer youth support agency was ordered to remove signage during a family fun day last week.
The Liberal mayor though continues to refuse to respond to claims that he has held homophobic views in the past.
The letter from Chedid states his regret for the actions of Council staff at the Rediscover the River festival on January 17 after a number of people allegedly took offence at banners promoting Twenty10. The letter concludes with the Mayor saying he is open to hold further discussions with Twenty10 to repair the relationship with Council.
“It is regretful that these actions were taken and it is right to apologise for the angst it has caused,” Chedid said in short statement today.
Despite reports to the contrary, the apology from Chedid (pictured) also states that neither he nor his staff personally held the view that Twenty10’s banners were offensive. It is believed Twenty10 will be reimbursed for their costs on the day.
The banner, which has been used at countless events across NSW by the organisation, read: “Support service for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people, their families and community” and “A place to be me, with the support I need”.
Twenty10’s presence on the day, which included holding workshops and kite flying, had previously been advertised by Council but the actions of the Mayor led to staff and volunteers closing their stall due to fears over the potential safety of young people at the event.
As news of the incident spread across social media sites over the weekend, Facebook and Twitter users bombarded Parramatta City Council’s official pages demanding an apology to Twenty10 and the LGBTI community while a petition hosted on Change.org quickly gathered 12,000 signatures.
Twenty10’s acting managing director, Terence Humphreys, told SX that community action had a real impact in seeing that their concerns were responded to.
“The broader community response in support of Twenty10 and our young clients has been overwhelming,” he said.
“It has really helped to send a powerful message to our young clients that that kind of discrimination, even in an indirect fashion, is not ok. We need to challenge that.”
Humphreys said while he was still unaware of who exactly had taken offence at the support group’s signs one unintended result of the controversy was that Twenty10’s visibility in the mainstream community as well as overseas had greatly been increased.
“Regardless, the Lord Mayor has apologised for the incident and says he welcomes the opportunity to meet with our organisation and discuss ways to continue to work together to positively benefit the community,” he told SX.
“We will be fully taking that opportunity up as we are very keen to continue our healthy relationship with Parramatta City Council.”
Earlier in the week, Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich had called on the Council to conduct a more thorough investigation of its actions while Greens MP Cate Faehrmann suggested Chedid and his staff undergo anti-discrimination and diversity training.
“The mayor’s apology shows how effective the LGBTI community is at drawing attention to areas of discrimination,” Greenwich said today.
“Everyone who signed the petition and took action should be very proud of the result achieved.”
Chedid had also come under pressure from former Parramatta Mayor, Lorraine Wearne, and Labor councillor Julia Finn to apologise.
“I’m desperately concerned about the impact it will have on the city,” Wearne told the Parramatta Advertiser.
“I’m concerned that it will undo a year of work I did to promote the city and get people into the city.”
Meanwhile, Chedid, who has close ties to the Lebanese Maronite Christian church, has continued to refuse to respond to revelations that just over five years ago he scored highly in an election survey run by an anti-gay, conservative Christian group.
The survey by Family Voice Australia canvassed the views of candidates running for the seat of Parramatta during the 2007 NSW state election.
Chedid, who was representing the Liberal Party, scored 75 out of a possible 100 after he indicated his strong support for proposals including removing anti-vilification laws for gay people, being opposed to civil unions and marriage equality and supporting attempts to strip all government funding to the Sydney Mardi Gras.
When asked by SX if Chedid continued to hold such views, a spokesperson for the Lord Mayor said he will not be making any further comment.
- Tags: Alex Greenwich, Bigotry, Blaze, Cate Faehrmann, Change_org, Controversy, Discrimination, Family Voice Australia, Homophobia, John Chedid, Julia Finn, LGBTI Youth, Lorraine Wearne, MCV, Parramatta, Parramatta City Council, Queensland Pride, Rediscover The River, SX, Terrence Humphreys, Twenty10, Western Sydney