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Kingborough Mayor apologises for Councillor's Discrimination re Council's LGBTIQ+ Action Plan

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

In mid-2022, Kingborough Council, "in the interest of creating a community that is inclusive, safe and respectful for all", called for nominations for a LGBTIQ+ engagement working group to help RCT Inc. plan for, undertake and analyse the feedback from engagement to better inform Council about the issues, concerns and needs faced by members of our LGBTIQ+ communities. On behalf of RCT Inc. members in the municipality, Julian Punch applied to be and was accepted as a member of the working group, as RCT Inc. identified as an LGBTIQ+ advocacy body to the LGBTIQ+ communities.

There were about four meetings during 2022-23 in which the group reviewed the issues and needs in the municipality as well designing a survey and a resulting plan to Council. Julian noted at the start that RCT Inc. had an arrangement with over 20 Tasmanian councils (as approved by the Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT)) with the Coming Out Proud Program (COPP), which in Kingborough very successfully appointed a Liaison Councillor and developed and evaluated an anti-discrimination plan for the municipality which would together develop strategies that will enable gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in this region to live in their community with dignity as fully respected and participating members.

It was agreed that this project has been the first major engagement with the Kingborough LGBTIQ+ community since the establishment of the Kingborough/Huon Valley Coming Out Proud Program Liaison Committee and appointment of a Liaison Councillor. Council has committed to work with the community to ensure fulfilment of items on the action plan and to investigate the formation of a Diversity and Inclusion Reference Group to inform Council on matters to ensure inclusion and access, including the implementation of the LGBTIQ+ action plan.

At the Council meeting to endorse the plan as developed, Liberal-endorsed Councillor Antolli and his Liberal colleague opposed the plan and denigrated it in both planning and concept. Being the only LGBTIQA + member and person at the meeting, Julian complained and asked for a meeting with the Mayor, Paula Wriedt, and Councillor Aldo Antolli. At that meeting Julian explained that he was distressed at the Councillor's comments and requested that he apologised to Council and the community. As no apology by Councillor was forthcoming, the Mayor graciously apologised to the community but in the absence of a “voice”, RCT Inc. will not have much participation in the plan.

An excerpt from Council's meeting minutes:

"Cr Glade-Wright asked the following question without notice:

11.1 LGBTIQA+ Strategic Plan I understand that following the last Council meeting held on 5 December 2022, a representative from the LGBTIQA+ community, who was present at the meeting, was upset by some comments made during the debate of the LGBTIQA+ Strategic Plan. Would the Mayor like to comment on this?

Mayor responds: Thank you for the question. You are correct in saying that there has been some concern expressed directly to me about some comments that were made at the last Council meeting held on 5 December, 2022 and that took place during the debate that we had on the LGBTQIA+ Strategic Plan. In response to that, I have met with a resident last week to understand these concerns.

Tonight, on behalf of Council, I would sincerely like to apologise to members of the LGBTQIA+ community who were offended by some of these remarks during the course of the debate. The strategy that we were debating is a really valuable piece of work and I hope that it will ensure that, as a community and as a Council, we can foster a more inclusive, caring and understanding environment for everyone who lives here, who works here and who comes to visit our municipality.

So, on behalf of Council, I would offer my sincere apologies to members of the community for any distress caused and I do hope that we can move forward with implementing this strategy but I think really importantly, that we can work together now in a more inclusive and positive and caring way."

Julian also suggests that RCT Inc. needs to request local LGBTIQA+ representatives to also be involved in the cultural awareness training of councillors and staff by Working It Out, as this will ensure the training reflects the needs and aspirations of our local communities. The whole exercise indicated a strong lack of understanding about anti-discrimination legislation but there was strong resistance to engage the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner's Office in this regard.

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