Over the rainbow on Oxford Street
SYDNEY: It seems Sydneysiders and many more across the country have already fallen in love with the rainbow crossing installed across Oxford Street at Taylor Square overnight.
The mass community support within hours of the crossing being painted has already led to calls for the installation to be made permanent.
INVALUABLE PRIDE OR COSTLY TEMPORARY TRIAL?
Council workers painted the colours of the pride flag at one of the three intersections at Taylor Square late last night and early this morning following a Council meeting yesterday afternoon where the one-month trial proposed by Lord Mayor Clover Moore was voted in favour of, with Labor councillor Linda Scott and Greens councillor Irene Doutney giving their support.
Living Sydney’s Angela Vithoulkas sided with Liberal councillors Edward Mandla and Christine Forster in voting against the motion, with the trio believing that $120,000 was too much of taxpayers’ money to be spending on a four week trial.
Council had initially set aside close to $80,000 for two crossings but demands by Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) for dedicated CCTV, variable message boards and payment for the removal pushed up costs a further $30,000-$40,000 meaning only one crossing could be painted for a period of 30 days.
A City of Sydney spokesperon has informed SX the total cost covers traffic management, materials including paint and installation costs, as well as risk assessment and safety evaluations.
BOON FOR TOURISM
The rainbow crossing is a first for Australia, and while there are already a number in Europe and the US including one in West Hollywood, Moore said this morning that she hoped the crossing will not only play an important symbol in paying tribute to the local LGBTI community but also help stimulate economic activity along the struggling Oxford Street strip.
“It’s very celebratory and it’s very beautiful and council made the right decision last night to support this crossing. It’s about Mardi Gras, it’s about Oxford Street, it’s about Taylor Square,” she told reporters.
“It’s about celebration. But it’s also about seriousness. It’s about why Mardi Gras needs to continue. And it’s also about the economic activity for this area too.”
Sydney MP Alex Greenwich said he will immediately begin to lobby Roads Minister Duncan Gay for the crossing to be made permanent, with the former convener of Australian Marriage Equality saying it had great potential to become a major tourist attraction.
“As a gay man, it’s really moving to see the pride flag here this morning on Oxford Street. In 1978, lesbian and gay men were beaten and bashed here and homophobic violence was rife for many years and so this is a sign of how far we’ve come and how much the city celebrates the community,” he said.
“I’ve asked [Gay] to keep it as long as possible and I’m sure there will be a strong community campaign to reverse RMS’ decision to remove it in a month.”
LIBS 'MINDLESS' TO OPPOSE CROSSING
Scott told SX she supported the crossing being made permanent and that the late conditions imposed by RMS had all the fingerprints of the Liberal State Government behind it. She said it was particularly worrying that Forster, the openly gay sister of federal Coalition Leader Tony Abbott, had voted against the proposal despite supporting it only months earlier.
“It disappoints me that Premier Barry O’Farrell is standing in the way of fun. The Liberal State Government needs to stop getting in the way of democratically elected councils and allow it to retain this fabulous rainbow crossing to celebrate the history of Taylor Square for the LGBTI community,” she told SX.
“It’s sad to see Liberal councilors mindlessly falling into line with their colleagues at state level.”
Greenwich also expressed his concern over the Liberal Party’s failure to support the initiative, saying their refusal to do so was “mean-spirited”.
“[It] showed a lack of respect for Sydney’s LGBTI community,” he said.
“During election time they went after the gay vote, but once in office voted against an important installation for our community.”
Forster has been contacted for comment.
Justin Koonin, co-convener of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, meanwhile seemed to echo the thoughts of many in the community when he told SX the crossing will hopefully become to be seen as an significant and long-lasting visual reminder of the important contribution LGBTI people have made to the area.
“The installation of a rainbow crossing at the epicentre of the movement for LGBTI rights in Australia gives very important symbolic recognition to the journey we have taken as a community,” he said.
“Thirty-five years ago we were arrested in the streets because of whom we chose to love, and today we walk those same streets with pride at the giant strides we have made.”
[Image] Sydney MP Alex Greenwich (second from left), Lord Mayor Clover Moore (centre) with Sydney Mardi Gras co-chairs Peter Urmson (far left), Siri Kommedahl (far right) and Sydney Mardi Gras CEO Michael Rolik (second from right). Photo: Reg Domingo
WATCH A TIME-LAPSE VIDEO BELOW OF THE INSTALLATION
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