Walking the debate divide

SUPPORTERS on either side of Australia’s marriage equality debate took to Ballarat streets on Sunday in what they say was a peaceful stance in encouraging people to vote – yes or no.

Postal surveys for the Australian marriage law plebiscite started arriving in letterboxes across the nation early last week.

Ballarat For Yes campaigners made letterbox drops about central Ballarat with How To Vote cards in what organiser Zachary Relouw said was more a friendly reminder for eligible voters to make their view count.

Family Value Alliance Ballarat organised a short walk by Lake Wendouree in fluro vests and with placards stating “you can say no”. There was no chanting with Family Value Alliance Ballarat coordinator Dianne Colbert saying they were quite happy to walk in quiet solidarity to put their voice forward.

Ms Colbert said the group was not homophobic and in some ways had felt misrepresented in media through the debate. Ms Colbert said this was about preserving the act of marriage.

NO: Family Value Alliance Ballarat coordinator Dianne Colbert leads about 100 people in a short, quiet lakeside protest on Sunday afternoon. Pictures: Luka Kauzlaric

NO: Family Value Alliance Ballarat coordinator Dianne Colbert leads about 100 people in a short, quiet lakeside protest on Sunday afternoon. Pictures: Luka Kauzlaric

“We want people to know there is no shame in having an opinion,” Ms Colbert said. “This (march) is about the act of marriage and protecting children in schools from radicalised sex education.”

Ms Colbert said the group also felt every child deserved a biological mother and father and that the government should not legislate against children having a mum and dad.

The group had experienced verbal abuse when offering leaflets to supermarket shoppers this week, which Ms Colbert said had been hard to take.

Ballarat For Yes campaigners found they had generally been received respectfully, from people on either side of the debate.

Mr Relouw said talk and awareness for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer community had changed so much since he left school in Horsham which, as part of the Lowan-Mallee region, was deemed the least supportive of homosexuals in 2010.

“The City of Ballarat’s been flying the rainbow flag and plenty of people have been really kind, saying ‘hey, you’re welcome here and we value you’,” Mr Relouw said.

“The difference with LGBTI advocates as opposed to other human rights, like racism for example, is that we pop up everywhere: we’re different races, cultures, age groups and genders...It’s about saying this matters to me and having gentle conversations.”

Mr Relouw said most people had already made up their mind how they would vote, so, rather than trying to convince people otherwise, their walk was more to help people vote. This included a map of postbox locations, advice to ensure you receive a vote and help, if needed, to mail it back.

YES: Ballarat For Yes' Zachary Relouw and volunteers meet at Tin Roof to distribute How to Vote cards. Labor Party members also doorknocked on Saturday.

YES: Ballarat For Yes' Zachary Relouw and volunteers meet at Tin Roof to distribute How to Vote cards. Labor Party members also doorknocked on Saturday.