For the last two weeks, the Cumberland Council found itself embroiled in a contentious debate surrounding a ban on books depicting same-sex parents in its libraries. However, last night, the council voted 12:2 to reverse the ban following a vigorous late-night meeting. I mentioned in my last newsletter/post that “three councillors were absent; which makes one wonder if all had been present, would we be still facing this controversy?” Seems I was right.

This reversal marked a significant victory for advocates of LGBTQ rights and was a direct response to widespread public outcry, including petitions.

The ban, which had been introduced earlier by former mayor Steve Christou, had ignited passionate discussions both within the council chambers and in the broader community. Supporters of the ban cited concerns about the appropriateness of such material for children, while opponents argued vehemently against censorship and for the representation of diverse family structures in literature.

Outside the council chambers,  protesters clashed over the issue. On one side, supporters of the ban expressed their views, while on the other, advocates for LGBTQ rights and inclusivity rallied against what they saw as discrimination. The scene was marked by heated exchanges, with slogans and chants echoing the deeply entrenched divisions surrounding the issue. Not only were slogans exchanged but some threw eggs. Security and police kept the opposing protestors under relative control. During the debate in the council chambers, some observers were removed because of their interjections.

Councillor Mohamad Hussein, who initially supported the ban on religious grounds,  reversed his stance in response to the impassioned pleas of their constituents and the broader community. Cr Hussein said he worked with many LGBTQ healthcare professionals and that he and his colleagues respected each other’s beliefs.

Auburn ward councillor Sabrin Farooqui spoke in favour of rescinding the ban. “As a follower of Islam, I can say that no-one is stopping me from following my religion in Australia,” she said. “Similarly, I can’t enforce my belief on someone else. Australia is a secular country.” Cr Farooqui said she wanted her son to read the book. “If it is classified as a children’s book, why shouldn’t it be in the children’s book section?”

The decision to reverse the ban not only signified a victory for advocates of LGBTQ rights but also underscored the importance of public engagement and activism in shaping local governance. It served as a reminder of the power of collective action in challenging discriminatory policies and upholding principles of equality and inclusion.

However, the episode also highlighted the ongoing challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies in the fight for acceptance and representation. Despite this victory, the debate surrounding the ban exposed deep-seated divisions within the community and underscored the need for ongoing dialogue and education to foster greater understanding and acceptance.

Ultimately, the reversal of the ban by the Cumberland Council represented a significant step forward in the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ rights and affirmed the council’s commitment to upholding principles of equality and diversity within its jurisdiction.

As always, there is still much to do. Please consider supporting ABBI’s work, which is often behind the scenes but making a difference. Options and information here.

Thanks for your consideration.