Beech­worth rain­bow brings di­ver­sity

Ovens & Murray Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - BY CORAL COOKSLEY

RAIN­BOWS ap­peared in Beech­worth on Sunday morn­ing when an es­ti­mated 300 peo­ple walked Ford Street to cel­e­brate di­ver­sity de­spite in­ter­mit­tent rain and heavy cloud cover.

About 150 were ex­pected so or­gan­is­ers Ta­nia Sutton, an artist, and Indigo Shire youth of­fi­cer Sal Kim­ber were de­lighted by the turnout in sup­port of di­ver­sity and Indigo’s les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, trans­sex­ual and in­ter­sex com­mu­ni­ties.

Ms Sutton said the walk had been brought for­ward this year to show sup­port for LGBTI peo­ple fac­ing pres­sure as a re­sult of the de­bate sur­round­ing Aus­tralia’s mar­riage law postal sur­vey – which is be­ing used by the fed­eral govern­ment as a guide to pos­si­ble changes to the Mar­riage Act.

In her speech to walk­ers at Town Hall Gar­dens, Ms Sutton said di­ver­sity was im­por­tant for growth and learn­ing as a com­mu­nity.

“It al­lows us to un­der­stand other points of view and have em­pa­thy to­wards oth­ers,” she said.

“It is up to us to lead the way in di­ver­sity for our chil­dren and their chil­dren, too.

“We need to break down the idea of plac­ing la­bels on each other, (which can be) used neg­a­tively, and in­stead cel­e­brate each other and all that we are.”

Ms Sutton said peo­ple could be dam­aged when sin­gled out, la­belled and “put in a box” when it was en­demic in hu­man na­ture to be­long and seek to be val­ued.

“The sim­ple fact we are hu­man should be enough to know that we mat­ter, we are val­ued, and we be­long,” she said.

“Dif­fer­ences that make the world colour­ful need to em­braced and cel­e­brated.”

Ms Sutton also ac­knowl­edged re­cent dif­fi­cul­ties faced by the LGBTI com­mu­nity in­clud­ing young peo­ple not old enough to re­spond to the mar­riage law postal sur­vey and said each of them was loved and sup­ported.

Quot­ing the 26th United States’ pres­i­dent Theodore Roo­sevelt she said “wide dif­fer­ences of opin­ions in mat­ters of re­li­gious, po­lit­i­cal and so­cial be­lief must ex­ist if con­science and in­tel­lect alike are not to be stunted, if there is to be room for healthy growth”.

She also quoted for­mer South African pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela, who once said: “No-one is born hat­ing another per­son be­cause of the colour of his skin, or his back­ground, or his re­li­gion. Peo­ple must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more nat­u­rally to the hu­man heart than its op­po­site.”

Indigo mayor Jenny O’Con­nor said the day was a cel­e­bra­tion of all the dif­fer­ences that made the shire’s com­mu­ni­ties rich and vi­brant.

“Whether you are able-bod­ied or liv­ing with a dis­abil­ity, born in this country or in far­away lands, em­ployed, re­tired or seek­ing work, a young per­son or an elder, a be­liever or a non-be­liever, straight or gay, gen­dered or non-gen­dered – you be­long to this com­mu­nity,” she said.

“To­day is also about those who are not feel­ing in­cluded – par­tic­u­larly those young peo­ple who may be same-sex at­tracted and who feel isolated, afraid of re­jec­tion, or of be­ing bul­lied or os­tracised.

“We are stand­ing here to­gether to­day send­ing a mes­sage that you mat­ter to us and are part of our com­mu­nity.”

Mayor O’Con­nor said the com­mu­nity would not tol­er­ate big­otry or bul­ly­ing.

“We are a proud, in­clu­sive, kind and car­ing com­mu­nity to which everyone be­longs and we say ‘Yes’ to equal­ity for everyone.”

Beech­worth’s Joanna Sh­w­erd­feger, who is trans­gen­der, said she found peo­ple in Beech­worth “su­per ac­cept­ing”.

“To­day it’s about ac­cept­ing those who are out­side the norm in be­ing dif­fer­ent and ex­tends beyond LGBTI,” she said.

Al­bury’s Joel Krautz said it was good that such a small town sup­ported so many peo­ple.

“(Part­ner) Mark (Green) and I have been to­gether for six years and it’s good to see the com­mu­nity sup­port our re­la­tion­ship,” he said.

Ms Sutton last year worked with Peggy Le­ung David­son to co-or­di­nate a walk in re­sponse to al­le­ga­tions of ho­mo­pho­bia in the com­mu­nity.

“We hope the walk will con­tinue to be an an­nual event,” she said.

Young mu­si­cians from around the shire – some as young as six – en­ter­tained the crowd.

AF­FIR­MA­TION: Stan­ley’s Terri Stand­field and Beech­worth’s Kim Davis showed their sup­port for di­ver­sity.

PHO­TOS: Coral Cooksley

‘BEYOND LGBTI’: Beech­worth’s Joanna Sch­w­erd­feger and Sue Mi­neo took part in Sunday’s di­ver­sity walk from Quer­cus Beech­worth to Town Hall Gar­dens.

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