Mildura Weekly : Friday February 5 Vol 10 No 13
10 OPINION MILDURA WEEKLY FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2016 I COULDN’T say it was ever a conscious decision to accept people who were gay, I just did. The same way I couldn’t say it was ever a conscious de- cision to choose my friends who identified themselves as being something other than straight. They’re just my friends. And I couldn’t say that faith, politics, social trends, education, art, music or fash- ion was a driving influence for me to support the gay community as an adult. I just support them. For others, the decision whether or not to support the gay community is a con- scious one, and a hard one at that. A harder choice though, I believe, is for people who identify as gay, bisexual or transgender to choose to live in a regional area like ours – knowing the social and men- tal challenges that come with being queer in the country. Last Thursday, as I watched Mildura Rural City Council vote to commit to the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Intersex Queer (GLBTIQ) Inclusion Plan, I couldn’t help but think that while this is much-needed progress, it’s well overdue. We find ourselves in 2016, and only now witnessing for- mal support of the GLBTIQ community by Local Gov- ernment in our city. And while I commend this commitment, we, as a community, are still a far cry away from Council’s vision of being “the most liveable, people-friendly community in Australia.” As Councillor Ali Cupper described it last week: “We have the chance to reset the dial.” It doesn’t make sense that metropolitan areas are miles ahead of rural Australia in terms of the social inclusion for GLBTIQ people. It also doesn’t make sense to me why it’s harder for gay people to live in the country. If there was any part of this land that epitomises the sense of community the most wouldn’t it be country towns? After all, that’s what we pride ourselves on – community. Belonging. Inclusion. Speaking from my expe- rience as a 23-year-old, born and raised in Sunraysia, I have seen that the majority of my generation tend to be open-minded and accepting of the queer community. Whilst I have never wit- nessed someone physically abused for their sexual orien- tation, I have seen, on a regu- lar basis, a more common and culturally accepted type of discrimination – passive homophobia. I have watched gay friends recoil when someone refers to something negative as ‘gay.’ I have been in social situ- ations where ‘faggot’ is an acceptable term to use, and have seen straight friends ridiculed for something as simple as wearing shoes that look like something ‘poof- ters’ would wear. I feel this is such an ex- pired use of language, some- thing that our community should have moved past de- cades ago. Of course, this is not ex- clusive to Mildura, but the prevalence of this type of discrimination in our area leaves a stigma of being a non-progressive country town. I love my hometown, but I also strongly believe that people who want to celebrate their true identities in a safe and accepting environment without fear of prejudice, judgment, or abuse shouldn’t depend on where they are geographically situated. But as much as our com- munity needs to evolve on this issue, it’s moments like last Thursday’s Council meet- ing that have restored my faith in our community lead- ers and that change is pos- sible in our town. It was remarkable to wit- ness Councillor John Arnold, a man from a time when con- versations like these would never have occurred, speak in favour of the motion to “en- sure everyone feels respected” and tell a public forum that there’s “no place for judg- ment.” It proves, along with Councillors Eckel, Joslyn, Harris and Cupper, who also spoke in favour, that through education, experience, and an open mind, one can ac- cept anything. You don’t have to be left- wing, call yourself a ‘social progressive’ or label yourself with any other term to be respectful and supportive of GLBTIQ people. Show your support by not using ‘gay’ as a deroga- tive term. Socialise with people based on their character, and not by their choice of part- ner. Put a rainbow sticker on your shop window. Be an example of that community spirit we love to boast binds our town to- gether. So we can ‘reset the dial,’ and from here on work to educate our community on what it means to really so- cially include everyone, re- gardless of their sexual orien- tation. For myself, my pro-gay friends and other GLBTIQ ac- tivists sitting in the gallery at Council last Thursday, it was good to feel part of change, a small change, but a welcome one nonetheless. OPINION by ALEXANDRA TRELOAR Queer country still has a long way to go Sir, The GST debate continues to rage, and one thing you can be sure of: there WILL be an increase in the GST. Our fearful politicians seem to have no other vision then to raise taxes to cover their crazed spending habits. We all know that the GST is a regressive tax which disad- vantages the poor and lower middle classes. A much better option would be to ring in the multi national corporations and make sure they pay their fair share of tax and not allow them the freedom of creative accounting and offshore tax free havens. Another sacred cow that needs to be hobbled is the welfare system wherein we know there are hordes get- ting pensions they should not be getting. The disability support pension is one area in particular that needs a serious overhaul. More Cen- trelink staff need to be em- ployed to oversee the massive welfare spending and police the ways in which it’s being rorted. Refugee numbers need reducing as many of them stay on welfare because of language and skill deficiency. If our present crop of politi- cians can’t fix the problem then they need replacing by those who will. Jay Nauss Glen Aplin LETTER TO THE EDITOR The GST is set to rise! 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Friday January 29 Vol 10 No 12
Friday February 12 Vol 10 No 14