Lobby group says council should not fund initiative to connect queer elders

Lobby group the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance says Melbourne City Council should not be funding an event that aims to support LGBTIQA+ elders, and connect them with younger people in the community.

Gabe Buckley, the Chief Executive of the organisation appeared on Sky News on Monday evening and said the people who decided to fund an LGBTIQA+ focused virtual dance party in Melbourne should be nominated for the station’s ‘Woke Wallies of the Week’ segment.

Buckley said at a time when Melbourne businesses were struggling to stay afloat, the council should not be funding virtual events that only cater to one part of the community.

“You really do have to wonder what possible combination of brain cells these people at Melbourne City Council are smashing together such that they think that this is the problem that needs to be solved right now.” Buckley said. “The underpinning principle of democracy is that it’s meant to be representative.”

Melbourne based organisation All The Queen’s Men have attracted international acclaim for their LGBTI+ Elders Dance Club, a free ongoing social event for rainbow elders and their allies that aims to combat ageism, social isolation and discrimination through regular social connection with a drink, food, chats and dancing.

In 2017 they launched the Coming Back Out Ball, an event which celebrated LGBTI+ elders, and provided connections with younger members of the community. The event was captured in a documentary.

It has previously been reported that the group’s work and associated media campaigns have reached more than 10 million and included reviews in the New York Times and the Guardian, showcasing Melbourne city as a world leader in championing the social rights of ageing LGBTIQ+ people. All The Kings Men won the City of Melbourne’s 2021 LGBTIQ+ award.

The event was created after research showed that LGBTI+ elders often felt compelled to hide their sexuality when they entered aged care, or began to engage with support services.

In 2022 the council has given them a grant of $10,000 to provide a virtual connection for people, while Sky News described the event as a virtual dance party, that is just one element of the program that will be delivered.

The Coming Back Out Concert is described as a initiative that “addresses social isolation through a series of creative actions that celebrates LGBTIQ+ elders (65+) including the COVID safe “Digital Dance Club” presented online via ZOOM throughout 2022. The project is conceived to support the social needs and development of this growing community, addressing the complexity of ageing and social isolation for this often marginalised community.”

Sky News host Cory Bernardi said that there should be a scaling back of cultural and socially focused grants, and instead all levels of government should be working to make tax concessions for local businesses.

Gabe Buckley said that the majority of the council’s income is from rates paid by businesses, and the council should be supporting businesses instead of dance parties.

“It’s lovely to provide dances for people, but if you’re providing those dances for people at the expense of businesses that are proving those same people with their jobs in retail and hospitality, then it’s really going to come to an abrupt halt very soon.” Buckley said.

“Democracy needs to be representative, and it needs to be inclusive, if you’re having a dance party it should be one that anyone can go to if they feel like dancing. I don’t see the need to create these divisive and exclusionary parties for people who go to so they can, I don’t know, what the point is of that? If we’re all supposed to be coming together and helping one and other through this, why separate us and push us into separate corners, it really doesn’t make any sense.”

The funding grant for All The Queens Men is just one of close to 80 grants given out through the city of Melbourne’s funding scheme, in total $543,322 of funding has been approved. None of other grants were interrogated by Bernardi and Buckley.

Among the other grant recipients are disability groups, community groups, youth organisations, men’s associations and religious groups. While Buckley accused the online event as not being inclusive of all, it is described as being open to allies of LGBTIQA+ people, so anyone can attend.

OUTinPerth reached out to the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance to ask if they shared similar concerns about other events funded through the program, but we did not receive a response.

Concern about the grant program was raised earlier this week by right wing think tank The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).

Speaking to the Herald Sun, IPA director of communications Evan Mulholland said the council needed to focus on local businesses over community groups.

“Small and medium-sized businesses have been crushed by draconian lockdowns, and this is how they choose to spend ratepayer money,” he said. “Town Hall should focus on helping a devastated CBD get back on its feet.”

Graeme Watson, All The Queen’s Men were contacted for comment.

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