Inner East Review
Wednesday, 6 December 2023

Yarra council votes to fly six sexual identity flags

Updated July 13 2022 - 8:21am, first published July 9 2022 - 4:05pm
The intersex-inclusive pride flag which the council proposes to adopt.
The intersex-inclusive pride flag which the council proposes to adopt.

I'm a ratepayer and don't feel included. Can I have a flag symbolic of my place in Yarra ...

- - flag move critic

Yarra City Council voted on Tuesday to update its flag policy to include six new sexual identity flags, each of which will be flown over the city's town halls on a particular occasion.

The move, which was initiated by Yarra's Rainbow Advisory Committee, has drawn fire from council critics as out of touch with broader community priorities and a waste of resources.

The advisory committee, made up of 14 community members and two councillors, wanted to see the replacement of the rainbow pride flag - flown on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia - with a more progressive version, which is explicitly inclusive of intersex people and people of colour.

The new policy introduces another five flags to be flown on days intended to raise awareness of specific sexual identities.

These include the bisexual flag (on Bi Visibility Day), the intersex flag (on Intersex Awareness Day), the lesbian pride flag (on Lesbian Visibility Day), the pansexual pride flag (on Pansexual Pride Day), and the non-binary pride flag on International Non-Binary People's Day.

Residents critical of the policy pilloried it on social media as "nonsense", complaining about a lack of public engagement.

"I'm a ratepayer and don't feel included," one wrote. "Can I have a flag symbolic of my place in Yarra - a non-specific colour background with a plague cross in the sort of centre but not exactly on centre...".

Critics also queried the cost involved in adopting the new flags, while other social media contributors dismissed the furore around the issue as the result of "trashy tabloid" reporting.

The council officers' report stated that "the financial and resource impacts of the policy [were] limited to the cost of purchasing flags and the staff time involved in raising and lowering them".

"These costs have no material impact and are met within council's operational budget," it said.

In supporting the motion on Tuesday, Rainbow Advisory Committee member Cr Edward Crossland described the new intersex-inclusive flag as "the most progressive and inclusive", which was an "evolution of the Rainbow Flag, Philadelphia Pride Flag and the Pride Progressive Flag".

"With Yarra being one of the primary centres for queer business and community in Australia, Yarra has a proud history as one of the most progressive councils in this space, and it's for this reason that many in the LGBTQI+ community feel safe and seen and recognised in Yarra," he said.

"Representation is import, symbols have meaning and are important."

Committee co-chair Gabrielle de Vietri said that 10 per cent of Yarra's population identified as LGBTQI+ and that the flags were a signal that everyone was "valued and should feel safe in Yarra".

The updated policy also transfers responsibility for authorising the flying of particular flags to the office of Yarra council's CEO, enabling the set of flags the council uses to be added to or changed more easily.

The policy's accompanying community flag schedule lists the banners Yarra already flies, which include several recognising other sexual identities, as well as football teams and issues like the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Councillors present on Tuesday night voted unanimously to update the policy.


Jenny Denton


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