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‘Go back to Newtown’: Protesters clash

Written by on May 16, 2024

Two large protest groups clashed outside a council meeting in Sydney as councillors decided whether to rescind a ban on same-sex parenting books.

After four hours of debate on Wednesday night, Cumberland City Council overturned its ban on books representing LGBTQIA+ parenting in its public libraries following an overwhelming vote of 12-2.

Outside the council chambers, six police officers and two security guards watched on as two crowds gathered, one representing the local queer community and the other largely demanding the protection of children.

“Go back to Newtown,” one protester yelled from camp supporting the ban.

“Leave our kids alone,” another said.

“Bigots are not welcome here,” a protester from the LGBTQIA+ camp yelled back.

Local grandmother Caroline Staples tabled a petition with more than 42,000 signatures supporting the overturn of the ban.

“The destruction and censoring of libraries is a weapon of war,” Ms Staples told the council.

Ms Staples is a long-time resident of the Cumberland area and mother of four adult children as well as a proud grandmother to “a rainbow family”.

Equality Australia legal director Ghassan Kassisieh said councils should offer services to everyone in their local community without discrimination.

“Children in rainbow families are cherished and loved. Councillors who say otherwise fuel bigotry that makes their lives harder, not easier,” he said.

“The council seems to be clinging to some kind of backward stereotype that people in western Sydney are bigoted and can’t decide for themselves what to borrow from the local library. The local community and its rainbow families deserve better than this.

“This book is part of an age-appropriate series about different types of families, some of which may have two mums or two dads. The attempt to erase these families from library shelves is disgraceful, as is any suggestion they are anything other than loving and nurturing environments for kids.

“If you don’t want to borrow the book, you don’t have to, but don’t deny others the chance to access books that reflect modern family life in Australia in 2024.”

It’s not the first time Cumberland Council has been at the centre of protest surrounding the queer community.

In February this year, the council passed a motion to ban drag queen “story time” events in which drag queens read books to children.

The ban was moved by councillor Paul Garrard and seconded by the council’s former mayor Steve Christou.

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