City of Perth adopts LGBTIQA+ inclusion plan, hailed as a world first

The City of Perth has officially adopted the LGBTQIA+ plan, which was released in a draft version early this year. The plan is dedicated to improving the experience and wellbeing of the LGBTQIA+ community in the city.

The three-year plan will focus on the City of Perth’s role as a service provider, partner and facilitator in increasing the visibility, social inclusion and health and wellbeing of the LGBTQIA+ community.

The plan outlines actions in seven key areas including safety, education, homelessness and healthcare.

Some of the actions in the plan include ensuring training is rolled out across the organisation, increasing the number of gender-neutral bathrooms, regular engagement with LGBTQIA+ stakeholders and a review of LGBTQIA+ inclusion among City of Perth services.

City of Perth CEO Michelle Reynolds said the LGBTQIA+ Plan was the starting point of the City’s journey to support and advocate for the community.

“The City of Perth looks forward to celebrating the strength of our diverse community over the next three years and beyond. We’re excited to start seeing actions being met within the LGBTQIA+ plan,” she said.

“Thank you to the City of Perth’s LGBTQIA+ Advisory Group – 15 members of the community who volunteered hours of their time to help us on this journey. Their dedication has been instrumental in the development of this plan. Thank you also to the internal working group for their commitment and allyship in bringing this document to life.”

The City of Perth’s LGBTQIA+ Advisory Group is described as the first of its kind in Western Australian local government and has been exponential in providing views and input into the development of the plan.

David Goncalves and Paul-Alain Hunt, the co-chairs of the LGBTQIA+ Advisory Group delivered a deputation at the meeting.

“At the core of society and our ideals, as Perth residents and Australians more broadly, is not just democracy but values. Values such as respect, tolerance, compassion, equality, opportunity and the right to a fair go for all, no matter your creed, colour, sexuality or gender.”

Hunt spoke about how Perth’s Freedom Centre had been a helpful support service when, as a 15-year-old, he began to share with others that he was same-sex attracted. Hunt said the reality remained that young LGBTIQA+ people still had to face the challenges of generations of prejudice, ignorance and even hatred.

“It does not have to be this way, we can strive for better.” Hunt said. “We must strive for better for our children for our friends, for our family.”

Hunt said the new inclusion plan was an opportunity for councilors and staff at the City of Perth to save lives and the changes lives, and strive for a brighter future, describing the new inclusion plan as a beacon that will inspire other cities on both on a national and global scale.

Lord Mayor Basil Zempilias was praised for providing a ample space and a genuine approach in allowing the consultative process to occur.

“I not only admire that, but it is a quality that should be replicated across the political divide at all other tiers of government.” Hunt said.

“If we as a community can build upon these processes, in order to build the kind of grassroots solutions the City of Perth has produced, we would usher in a new era of change, not just for the LGBTIQA+ community, but provide hope for many others who could be activated to also partner with city to reach outcomes that would benefit this entire state.”

David Goncalves echoed the praise for the Lord Mayor and the council, saying the plan was focused on promoting diversity, inclusion and equality.

“None of this would have been possible without your leadership, without you allowing a transparent and community driven process. Indeed none of this would have been possible without the goodwill and faith that follows.”

Hunt said the 15 voluntary members of the advisory group had worked day and night, often into the early morning, to create the plan being put to the council.

“We’re ready to launch this plan and strongly believe the Lord Mayor should be the one to bring the community together for this.” Hunt said indicating there would be a special event to formally kick off the adoption of the plan in coming weeks.

Concern over changes to operation of LGBTQIA+ Advisory Group

While the co-chairs of the advisory group were full of praise for the Lord Mayor and council, they delivered a different response to the staff of the city.

The co-chairs of the LGBTQIA+ Advisory Group expressed their dismay that the agenda for the council meeting included a proposal to allow the Chief Executive Officer to review and amend the LGBTQIA+ Advisory Group’s Terms of Reference in the future.

David Goncalves labeled the proposal a “poison pill” to the collaborative nature of the group, suggesting that the staff had a plan to take over many of the group’s key functions.

“What we see in the agenda is a blatant poison pill, tactically timed in the form of a second recommendation that attempts to shift power and oversight away from council, and allows for staff to restructure the advisory group without  genuine collaboration.” Goncalves said.

The co-chair of the advisory group said the proposal had been put forward with zero consultation and without any collaboration, and described it as a case of “evasive tactics” and “gross misrepresentation”. Goncalves said there was now a proposal for the city’s staff to take over the chair and secretariat functions within the advisory group.

“What is being proposed is that staff now control all three main roles, that of chairing, facilitating and the secretariat. This is dangerous, it is damaging, and it drowns out any community involvement, let alone the ability for partnership.”

Goncalves said the proposal was a “pathetic and miserable attempt to shut down community engagement”, before telling the council that the there had been many “process failures” over the course of running the advisory group, something he promised would be documented in a independent report he and Hunt were preparing.

Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas said some of the language Goncalves had directed towards the city’s administration in his deputation was “quite strong” and he didn’t appreciate it the tone of it.

“They are hard working, they are people of integrity” Zempilas said, supporting the city’s employees. The Lord Mayor said he was surprised to hear a series of concerns about staff members, saying he had only ever heard of them speak of the LGBTIQA+ Advisory group with pride and positivity.

During the subsequent discussion it was noted that the other advisory groups report to the city’s administration, while the LGBTIQA+ group had been structured differently, reporting directly to council. The other advisory groups including an Aboriginal Elders Advisory group, and Access and Inclusion group and an Arts and Culture group.

David Goncalves said rather than relegating the LGBTIQA+ group, the council could make a better strategic decision by elevating the other groups to the same structure as the LGBTIQA+ advisory body.

When the item came to being voted upon the council unanimously approved the plan, and retracted the proposal to change the terms of reference to the group.

OIP Staff

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