PARRAMATTA lord mayor John Chedid has apologised to gay and lesbian group Twenty10 amid a social media backlash against the council's actions at a local festival.
The letter comes after a campaign demanding Cr Chedid apologise for the actions of a council adviser who instructed Twenty10 to remove its promotional banner at the Rediscover the River festival as it contained "offensive language".
Twenty10 acting manager Terence Humphreys said he had accepted the apology. The organisation's focus now is on repairing the impact of the last week to those under its care.
"Our young clients have been deeply affected and we've had countless conversations in the last few days with them about how to build resilience in the face of discrimination — whether it is direct or indirect, personal or institutional," Mr Humphreys said.
Twenty10 packed up its stall after the request and the incident sparked a social media furore with thousands of comments posted to Twitter, Facebook and on change.org, where a petition for an apology gained more than 12,000 signatures.
A council statement released on Monday said a request was made to remove the banner after "numerous complaints" from the public.
It said the council "regrets any inconvenience or offence taken by its actions".
Another statement commenting on the letter of apology had not been released by the Sun’s publication deadline.
But a further statement released yesterday afternoon confirmed Cr Chedid had apologised.
It said: In his letter provided to Twenty10 yesterday (Tuesday), Cr Chedid said that there was never any intent to offend or infer any prejudice towards the organisation.
“It is regretful that these actions were taken and it is right to apologise for the angst it has caused,” Cr Chedid said.
There has been no clarification about what parts of the sign were deemed offensive.
The incident frustrated many councillors, who said Parramatta's reputation had been badly damaged.
"I'm very upset about it and the message I want to get across is that Parramatta is a place of diversity and a place where everyone is welcome," Cr Lorraine Wearne, a former lord mayor, said.
Judy Brown, president of PFLAG [Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays] NSW and a member of the Parramatta Queer Forum, said Twenty10's service was a necessary part of the community.
‘‘These days we’re getting a lot more calls and emails from parents of young children and Twenty10 is the only organisation, that I know of, that these young people can get help from,’’ Mrs Brown said.
She said the request to remove the banners sent the message that gay and lesbian people were ‘‘not normal or welcome’’ in the community.
POSTS ON THE Sun’s FACEBOOK PAGE
■Gemma Klamer: ‘‘Everyone deserves the right to be themselves and get support when they struggle with the ‘personal affronts and discomfort’ others display when they are just being them.’’
■Bill Cashman: Young people with confusion about their sexuality are among the most vulnerable in society — they need groups like Twenty10 to give them hope and self-esteem.’’
■Michael Wright: ‘‘The need to be accepted and supported is important to everyone and should not be controlled by petty bureaucrats.’’
■Lee Alexander: ‘‘I am failing to see the offence in the poster. Looks quite helpful and inclusive to me.’’
■Gary Cachia: Parramatta City Council should support a float at the Mardi Gras and the civil servant/adviser should drive it. There nothing offensive in the sign.’’
■@Cleo High said: @parracity really disappointed by the homophobia shown by #Parramatta Council. I think @Twenty10 deserves a proper apology.
■@Peter Hinton said: Twenty10 was told that the sign was ‘‘offensive’’. One complaint or onemillion complaints. It doesn’t matter. It was discrimination.
WHAT PARRAMATTA COUNCILLORS SAY:
■Lorraine Wearne: ‘‘My personal view is that, for the sake of the city, the lord mayor should apologise.’’
■Julia Finn: It’s not remotely offensive. Why single them out? Council’s Code of Conduct clearly states not to discriminate against people on the basis of homosexuality, so to do so is in breach of the Code of Conduct.
I understand it was done in response to complaints - would Council cancel Chinese New Year or the Lebanese flag raising ceremony if racist people complained about them (and over the years racist people have complained to me about this stuff from time to time)?
Why is a powerful person like the lord mayor picking on marginalised teenagers and sending a message that it’s not okay to be who they are? Gay people are part of families — parents, kids, brothers and sisters