Parramatta Mayor called to apologise after labelling Twenty10 ‘offensive’
SYDNEY: Parramatta’s Lord Mayor, John Chedid, has been accused of homophobia and become the target of a social media campaign following reports he was involved in pulling down banners promoting queer youth support agency Twenty10 at a community festival late last week, supposedly on the grounds that they were “offensive”.
Chedid and Parramatta City Council are now being called to apologise after many Facebook and Twitter users were critical about the way the growing controversy has been managed with Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich confirming to SX he had requested Council conduct a “more thorough investigation” of the incident.
Greens MP Cate Faehrmann and Western Sydney Labor MP Helen Westwood have also criticised Parramatta City Council for showing a distinct lack of respect towards its own LGBTI constituents.
Twenty10 was taking part in The Rediscover the River family event sanctioned by the Council last Thursday (January 17) with the organisation setting up a stall to hold workshops and fly kites with children and their parents on the day.
Just before midday, according to Twenty10’s acting managing director, Terence Humphreys, the organisation was advised by a direct representative of Chedid that the signage promoting Twenty10 had to be removed because it was “offensive”.
“For the office of the Lord Mayor to display such homophobia and transphobia is appalling,” Humphreys said.
“These are extremely marginalised and vulnerable members of our community and they deserve our support, not blatant discrimination like this.”
The banner reads: “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”.
Humphreys said the banner and similar ones had been used at hundreds of public events and festivals around NSW and until now had received no complaints.
“Without this signage, Twenty10 would not have been visible to those who needed us most or even to the general public to know what we do,” he said.
“Our signage simply describes our work and who we work with.”
Humphreys said Twenty10 staff and volunteers then decided to leave the event so as not to risk the safety of young people there.
After being bombarded on Facebook and Twitter by angered community members over the weekend, Parramatta Council released a short statement on its Facebook page this morning saying it “regrets any inconvenience or offence taken” because of its actions.
“In response to numerous complaints made by members of the public, organisers of the Rediscover the River event asked Twenty10 to remove two promotional banners,” the statement reads.
“At no stage did the Lord Mayor or council staff ask Twenty10 to quit their participation at the event.”
The statement however was rejected by Twenty10 and others as completely unacceptable.
Greenwich told SX for over 30 years Twenty10 had been providing vital services and support to disconnected LGBTI youth and that it was very important for it to have visibility in Western Sydney and elsewhere across the state.
“The response given by the Lord Mayor of Parramatta this morning was insufficient and dismissive,” Greenwich said.
“I have spoken to the Lord Mayor’s office, and have also requested they conduct a more thorough investigation of the matter.”
Faehrmann called for a formal apology as well as compulsory diversity training for Council staff.
“Instead of trying to shift the blame for this decision on to the festival's organisers, Parramatta City Council should recognise that their own handling of this event has also clearly shown a lack of respect for Twenty10 and the LGBTIQ residents of Parramatta," she said.
One former Parramatta resident said the response by Council was “pathetic” and Chedid, a Liberal Party member, should be ashamed.
“It in no way apologises for the action which is a clear marginalisation of already marginalised young same-sex attracted people in Western Sydney,” the woman said online.
“When I grew up in the area, Twenty10 provided an essential support service for young people like me. Before getting involved with them, I felt completely isolated and often ostracised by the homophobic attitudes of some fellow residents.”
SX understands Council has been involved in discussions with Twenty10 since the afternoon.
Despite repeated attempts today to receive further comment from Parramatta City Council, a spokesperson informed SX none would be forthcoming until after a meeting with Chedid this afternoon.
Council also refused to verify who had originally taken offence to the banners and if staff had apologised to Twenty10 representatives, or, answer claims that its media statement released earlier today had only further antagonised local residents and the LGBTI community.
A petition on Change.org calling on the Council to apologise to Twenty10 and the LGBTI community has already received close to 6,000 signatures.
The Change.org petition can be signed HERE