Mayor reinforces council advocacy role
INDIGO mayor Jenny O’Connor has offered the shire’s vulnerable lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people her full support after comments by some in the community that the council should not take any position in the current national debate on marriage equality.
Indigo Valley councillor Dianne Shepheard drew criticism after the August regular council meeting when she flagged the prospect of a discussion among councillors later this month about the stance the council might adopt during the federal government’s marriage equality postal survey.
The non-compulsory and non-binding survey – to gauge enrolled voters’ opinions about whether people of the same sex should be allowed to marry – is underway after the High Court last week ruled that it could go ahead.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics is conducting the survey and forms are being mailed to voters from this week.
Cr O’Connor said she was making her position on marriage equality quite clear because she was concerned about the backlash against some councillors given their views put at the August meeting and previously.
She said the council last November voted 5-2 in favour of asking Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to allow federal parliamentarians a conscience vote to determine whether the Marriage Act should be amended to enable people of the same sex to marry.
“That decision by the council on that motion, as represented in the result, was a good democratic process,” she said.
“Those who opposed the motion put their views and a vote was taken.
“The government subsequently did not support a free vote in parliament and has gone down another path to test this question.
“I don’t know what proposal Cr Shepheard might or might not bring to the next council meeting, but I know there are a number of councillors who will most likely sup- port (marriage equality).
“I really want to get across to all Indigo shire residents and ratepayers that I’m sick of the constant challenge that we, as councillors, are acting outside our role when we comment on social issues or when we support vulnerable people in our community.
“It actually is our role and it’s really important that people understand that local government is not just about roads, rates and rubbish.
“As community leaders, we have a responsibility around social and cultural issues and that’s spelled out in the Local Government Act 1989 section 3C(2)(a) – to promote social, economic, and environmental viability and sustainability of our municipal district.
“So the current accusation that we are not doing our job is actually wrong and I encourage people to better understand that.”
Cr O’Connor said young lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people in rural areas were the most vulnerable in the wider community.
“We are expected by our community to support our community however we can, whether it’s disability access, family violence, improving conditions for the elderly, or ensuring that young children and young people get the services they need,” she said.
“So I’m surprised and disappointed that there appears to be so much concern about the council supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
“Mental health among these vulnerable young rural people, particularly, is a real concern and yes, of course we need to pay attention to the nuts and bolts of local government and providing services, but that doesn’t stop us from also being able to support our community in whatever way they need.”
Cr O’Connor called on everyone across Indigo to show support for the LGBT community.
“There will be a lot of negative campaign messages and commentary during this survey,” she said.
“I believe our LGBT community should also hear a strong voice of support letting them know that we care about them,” she said.
FORTHRIGHT: Indigo mayor Jenny O’Connor believes the council has a duty to advocate for all groups in the shire’s communities, including those seeking marriage equality.