A push for safer workplaces for LGBTI


On Thursday February 2, the Fitzroy Town Hall was transformed into a discussion room for community members, business leaders and LGBTIQ activists to advocate for equality within workplaces across Victoria.

With many issues raised over the course of the night, the prospect that everybody should feel comfortable and empowered in their workplace was at the core.

The event, put on by The Yarra City Council and Polykala, was part of the launch for a new collaborative project, Working With Pride – a leadership program designed to encourage managers and emerging leaders to create a fair and inclusive workplace environment.

The launch presented a panel of LGBTIQ activists and spokespeople answering questions from Budi Sudarto, as well as an improvised interpretive dance by Melbourne Playback, encapsulating the stories of individuals in the room.

Melbourne Playback provided entertainment for the launch night.

On the panel, co-founder of Streat Cafe, Bec Scott said, “it’s critical for everyone to feel inclusive, but not just for queer young people, for everyone. All of us want to work somewhere where we are recognised for who we are, we’re celebrated for who we are, and we do our best work under those conditions.”

Scott’s organisation Streat runs a series of cafes employing young people in the LGBTI community who are disadvantaged or homeless, some due to abandonment after coming out to their families.

Brenda Appleton, assigned male at birth and transitioned 16 years ago, said, “I’m happy to now be talking about what it is like to be your real self in the workplace, it’s so important.”

Appleton has also made history as the first trans co-chair of an advisory group to any government in Australia.

Additional panelists included Rowena (Ro) Allen – the Victorian Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality, and Jason Ball – The 2017 Victorian Young Australian of the Year for his work with the LGTBIQ community in sport.

Despite some organisations doing their part to be inclusive, Appleton discussed studies suggesting that up to 60% of LGBTI people are still not comfortable to be open about their sexuality or gender identity in the workplace.

“In the trans-gender community, 42% of us attempt suicide at some stage in our lives. It’s not easy being yourself when yourself doesn’t meet societies expectations,” Appleton said.

Ball, who is also an ambassador for Beyond Blue said this negative attitude very much translates into sporting clubs.

“The LGBTI community [is] very much over-represented when it comes to negative outcomes and sport, in particular, is an environment where the LGBTI community doesn’t feel safe, welcome and included,” he said.

Working with grassroots football leagues and the AFL, Ball has seen more LGBTI inclusion and acceptance from when he was younger.

Growing up in a small town, he always thought his local football club of Yarra Glenn would be the one place that he wouldn’t be able to come out.

“As a result of homophobic language not only used but seen as acceptable, seen as part of the game,” he said.

“It’s a small community, everyone knows everyone’s business, so the fear that if there’s a negative reaction to who you are, can really cost you everything.”

After coming out, Ball realised, “a lot of the homophobic language from my teammates was coming from a place of ignorance as opposed to a place of hatred and callus towards people who are gay.”

The Yarra Glenn Football Club has since founded the Pride Cup. Initiated in 2014, the cup celebrates diversity and inclusion with the 50-metre line painted a rainbow and incorporates education for footballers about LGBTI inclusion.

Inspired by the Pride Cup, the St Kilda Football Club and the Sydney Football Club hosted the Pride Game last year, played at Etihad Stadium.

Panellist Ro Allen has seen the negative impact of workplace inequality in rural communities and is fighting for education on LGBTI inclusion to disseminate past city boundaries.

“We need to make sure, not just the Melbourne bubble, but all of Victoria is a safe place,” Allen said.

Allen has met with CEO’s of many major companies and believes there are some champions out there willing to get the ball rolling.

“It’s easy to be the second or third company, but it’s hard to be the first one to set up a pride network.”

When it comes to the government, Allen has already brought about massive change.

“I’m very proud to say all of the eight departments within the Victorian government signed up to Pride in Diversity; every single department has a pride network,” she said.

Pride in Diversity is a national not-for-profit employer support program for LGBTI workplace inclusion, that has published the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI), setting national standards for workplace policies and procedures surrounding LGBTI inclusion.

Whilst this may be a great stepping stone in the right direction, all panelists believe there is more to be done, and education is vital.


Panelists on the night were (from left) Bec Scott, Ro Allen, Brenda Appleton and Jason Ball.

“A lot of what we encounter is fear of the unknown rather than rejection of trans and gender diverse and LGBTI people,” Appleton said.

“If we can remove that fear, if we can provide knowledge and understanding then I think we [can] open the conversation.”

The panelists ended the night on a positive note, agreeing that the power of allies, personal stories and empathy can go a long way.

“I grew up in the most homophobic environment with a dad who, in the 80’s [would scream] at the TV ‘that’s death for all faggots thank goodness’,” Scott said.

“But my dad would be one of the greatest allies we’ve got now for queers.”

“Yes we can change the big policy settings and there’s a lot of things that are broken and need to be fixed, but for me, it’s all of those moments of kindness that matter most.”

Written By Caitlyn Leggett


Schools out, rock out. Shimmerlands festival to take over Melbourne Uni campus

The University of Melbourne has decided to use up vacant space over summer in a way that will have the students running back to school when they would usually run away.

Shimmerlands is a new two-month long festival run by event producing group Shadow Electric, aiming to enliven the University of Melbourne in Parkville over the summer break.

Kicking off January 1 and running until February 26, the festival will include film, music, art and hospitality both during the day and during the balmy summer nights.

The indoor concert hall and outdoor music amphitheatre will host a plethora of local and international acts, and Shadow Electric’s Creative Director Jay Rayner says there will be no limitations on genre.

There will be six major outdoor music shows across the two months, one being Brooklyn-based Parquet Courts with further big announcements to follow.

“The advantage of Shimmerlands running over two months is that we can be more curatorial about our selection of artists and lineup, and can even be confirming acts during January and February,” Jay said.

Courtney Barnett performing at a previous Shadow Electric event.
Courtney Barnett performing at a previous Shadow Electric event. Photo: Shadow Electric

Shimmerlands hopes to showcase all of Melbourne’s thriving music scene, with local promoters and tastemakers crafting the music program.

The event will also host an outdoor cinema to rival the Outdoor Cinema at Abbotsford Convent: the project that originally brought Shadow Electric into the public eye.

The film program will host over 45 major new releases including the new Ghostbusters and La La Land, alongside contemporary independent films, music documentaries and favourite cult classics.

Shadow Electric Outdoor Cinema event
Shadow Electric Outdoor Cinema event. Photo: Shadow Electric

The Cinema will be one of four main precincts at Shimmerlands hosting a range of both ticketed and public proceedings, together with The Pavilion, Live Music arena and The Food Quarter.

The Pavilion will be the heart of the event, with the structure having been designed by Ha Architects and University of Melbourne graduates. And housing a bar and areas for relaxing, the multiple drinking and dining options in the Food Quarter will get the attention of local foodies.

Melbourne foodie Jess Ho has fetched over 20 of Melbourne’s best restaurants to present outdoor kitchen installations for the event. This includes St Ali, Pho Nom, Pidapip Gelateria, Chadong Mumma, Trattoria Emilia and many more.

“The idea behind Shimmerlands was to create something new, internationally appealing and culturally relevant to Melbourne, and all within the urban gem of the University of Melbourne,” Rayner said.

Afternoons at Shimmerlands. Photo: Shadow Electric

Shadow Electric was founded in 2011 and the founders Jay Rayner and David Chetwig were quick to grow a name for themselves after multiple successful music and cinematic events.

Now taking on their most elusive event yet, the boys are excited to see it all come together.

Be sure to check out their website for updates in the lead up to January 1. Shimmerlands will be adding performances, acts and screenings daily as well as massive announcements.

Written by Caitlyn Leggett

Parking sensors in Richmond – will they help or hinder locals and businesses?

Parking anywhere within a few kilometres of Melbourne’s CBD has never been much fun, but now the Yarra City Council is taking measures to encourage drivers to get a move on and not overstay their welcome.

After the success of automatic in-ground parking sensors in Melbourne’s CBD, the Yarra City Council has decided to install 4,000 of the sensors in the council’s busiest parking areas.

This especially includes parking bays in Richmond’s busy sporting precinct and around Cremorne.

The sensors record the time that a vehicle enters the space, and automatically alert parking officers when the vehicle has outstayed the maximum time allowed for the spot.

Sensors will be installed in bays that already have time restrictions and not those already covered by phone or coin payment, but sporting fans, diners and shoppers in the area are likely to be the hardest hit by the change.

With the area being known to local drivers as a difficult spot to find a park, a Yarra City spokesperson said the council is hoping the new system will improve the turnover of parking bays to free up parks for more local residents.

bridge rd
Busy Bridge Road will be the main target for drivers. Photo: Caitlyn Leggett

“There is a growing demand for on-street parking in Yarra which far outstrips supply,” they said.

“This is a reality for most inner-city municipalities experiencing increases in residential development and population growth.”

“Richmond and Cremorne are also on the edge of a major sporting precinct which attracts millions of people a year, many who overstay their parking which impacts the liveability of [sic] our local residents and businesses,” the council member said.

But some residents disagree. Former Bridge Road Traders Association President, Herschel Landes, told 3AW radio that business had already been impacted by $4 per hour parking that has driven customers away.

“People are simply not coming to Bridge Road, they are going to other places,” he told Neil Mitchell.

“At the moment you come to Bridge Road and you’ve got to start fumbling for $2 coins and putting in dollars and everybody just gives up and they say no we’ll go somewhere [else],” Landes told 3AW.

Mitchell questioned the council’s motives. “Yarra Council’s made 50 million for parking for two years and they’re putting in more,” he commented on his morning radio broadcast, referring to the measures.

While that might have been a bit of a stretch from the $12.3 million the Yarra City Council website claims they received from infringement notices in 2015/16, the concern is warranted.

The Yarra City Council estimates that the total revenue from infringement notices may increase as a result of the parking sensors, but insists all funds raised by the fines will go back into the community.

“This is absolutely not about raising funds,” Yarra City’s spokesperson said.

“All parking revenue is invested back into community services such as libraries, maternal child health and home help for vulnerable members of the community.”

The new arrangement is not just about freeing up spaces to promote more customer flow, but collecting data as well.

The council says the new technology will also generate data on usage trends which will ultimately work in residents’ favour. As the sensors pick up on patterns, the council will be able to review and update parking restrictions if they don’t match the demand of drivers as to better meet the needs of the community.

There is no word yet on the official date when the parking sensors will begin to be installed across the area, but residents best get ready to set their alarms when shopping or dining.  Because soon, ‘just 5 minutes over’ won’t be a justifiable excuse to stay for one more coffee.

By Caitlyn Leggett

Little green lady – historic figure honoured in pedestrian cross-walk signal

This year, the Yarra City Council paid homage to Victoria’s first female politician by introducing a new pedestrian light silhouette in the shape of a woman.

The figure – although often mistaken for Mary Poppins – is of Mary Rogers, dressed in the classic 1920s fashion and is the first of its kind in Australia.

The Yarra City Council and VicRoads teamed up to introduce the new set of pedestrian lights on the corner of Bosisto Street and Bridge Road in Richmond.


The planning was in the pipeline for several years and was thought up as a way to not only celebrate an iconic figure but as a way to promote gender equality.

Mayor of the Yarra City Council, Roberto Colanzi, says Mary Rogers is the perfect role model for gender equality.

“She was elected in 1920 as a Labor councillor when politics, particularly in Richmond, was hard and tough and pretty unforgiving,” he says.

The light will remain for a 12-month commemorative period, with no plans for any duplicates in the area just yet.

“There are issues that VicRoads need to assess because essentially it’s a new piece of equipment,” Colanzi says.

“But throughout the trial we’ll find how people connect with it and how they relate to it and function to it, and so there may well be other opportunities that arise.”

A poll conducted on the Herald Sun website had negative views on the issue with 96% of voters claiming it was ‘political correctness gone mad’.


Online, some residents are calling it a “waste of taxpayer’s money” and the whole issue as “sexist, simply because the original figure isn’t wearing a dress, the assumption is made that it is a man”.

But Colanzi says the poll is “ridiculous” and was hijacked by particular views and opinions.

“I’ve genuinely had people, both men and woman, email, phone call, people walking down the street saying it’s just either long overdue or it’s just a simple lovely idea,” he says.

In addressing the financial complaints from critics, he explains “It’s not a piece of necessarily expensive kit or equipment.”

“It fits over the top of the existing or new standard lighting system so it’s just the screen that we’re dealing with,” Colanzi says.

The idea came from New Zealand where councillors were acknowledging and celebrating their first woman to parliament, Mary Shephard, and parliamentarians here wanted to do something similar.


Mary Rogers was most famous for her work with people living in poverty in Richmond, improving their sanitary and living conditions.

The widowed mother of four also initiated the first community maternal and child health services in The City of Yarra and lead progress in the areas of education and welfare. She was appointed to the board of enquiry into neglected children and worked heavily with family issues.

The pedestrian light is not the first initiative to commemorate Rogers. In 2008, an upgraded square on the corner of Bridge Road and Church Street was renamed Mary Rogers Square.

So while there is ambivalence about the light in its contribution to gender equality, the main focus for the Yarra City Council was to honour a person that did so much for her local community.

Even if her identity is occasionally mistaken for the lady who sings about sugar helping the medicine go down.