A splash of colour will liven up Leichhardt during the Mardi Gras Festival, with the traditional rainbow symbol of Pride fluttering on top of Town Hall for the first time.
‘Dykehardt’ has a long-standing reputation as a hotspot for Sydney’s lesbians, with institutions such as the Feminist Bookshop and Dykes On Bikes closely associated with the area. President of Dykes On Bikes Sydney, Annette Mesure, said the group has a membership of around 200 riders – a far cry from the first convoy of 15 bikes in the 1988 Parade.
Leichhardt Mayor Jamie Parker raised the flag, marking the official beginning of Council’s support for the Festival. “I see [this] as the start of this process of Council increasing their support and engagement with the GLBTI (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Intersex) community,” he said. “It’s the first time that the Town Hall has flown this flag – and it was interesting to me, because I had quite a few calls from people saying, ‘Why are you doing this? What have ‘these people’ done for the community?’ And it was an interesting opportunity for me to talk to these people, who are leaders in our community – active in our precincts, active in our chambers of commerce – and having a discussion with them about why it’s important for us as a Council to provide leadership, to fight discrimination, and to present this day as a small symbolic gesture of our ongoing commitment to the community.”
Long-standing local residents Kerry Hunt and Teresa Savage were on hand to see the flag go up. “I came here from England and I asked a very straight man where I should live. He said, ‘Go live in Leichhardt, that’s where all the people like you live’ – and he was absolutely right!” Ms Savage said. “If you look at some of the institutions around here, there are lots of people who have huge amounts of goodwill and are very positive. I still think, though, there are some things that can be done – an exhibition during Festival time at the Library, for instance.”
“To work in a Council where it was accepted to be a lesbian or gay person is really important, because part of the honesty of yourself is being out and being who you are,” Ms Hunt said. “Over the years, certainly within Council, there’s been an acceptance of lesbian and gay culture. You do create culture around yourself to an extent. People only get away with the level of behaviour they’re allowed to get away with. So if someone’s going to be discriminatory, it should be challenged and stood up to.”