Ballarat offers support as the Same-sex marriage survey results loom

HOPEFUL: President of the Ballarat Pride Hub Kirsten Holden. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric.
HOPEFUL: President of the Ballarat Pride Hub Kirsten Holden. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric.

Results released tomorrow

On the eve of the announcement of the results of Australia’s same-sex marriage survey, LGBTIQ communities in Ballarat are gearing up for a positive result.  

The Ballarat Arts Academy will be travelling to Melbourne tomorrow to officially open the Yes Campaign’s Street Party in Lygon Street. 

Head of the academy, Bryce Ives, said being able to perform the song written for their own ‘Yes’ video earlier in the year was a great honour. 

“Lygon Street will be closed on Wednesday night and we are expecting thousands of people to come along,” he said.

“We will be performing with a 150 voice choir and full orchestra for the first time live and given the size it's impossible to rehearse so it'll be a big moment. 

“It speaks to the passion of our students and staff and the community around the arts academy who have rallied to support the LGBTIQ students and staff.”

Koby Bunney, Kirsten Holden, Garth Horsfield from the Ballarat Pride Hub inc at the Pride March in Ballarat earlier this year. Picture: Lachlan Bence.

Koby Bunney, Kirsten Holden, Garth Horsfield from the Ballarat Pride Hub inc at the Pride March in Ballarat earlier this year. Picture: Lachlan Bence.

Mr Ives said he is hopeful for a ‘yes’ result tomorrow that leads to larger shift in our society towards LGBTIQ rights and inclusivity. 

“Tomorrow, if it is yes, what that means to us is we can go on to create the kind of Australia we want to see,” he said. 

“The yes vote in a way is emblematic of the values of freedom and openness that we want to see in the community.”

The Ballarat Pride Hub will be hosting a get-together at Trades Hall in Ballarat with a live stream of the survey results. 

President of Pride Hub Kirsten Holden said the event is open to the community and is hoping all of Ballarat come out to support the LGBTIQ members of the community. 

“We want for anyone who is LGBTIQ or loves someone affected by the results to come and join us and just be together as a community and lean on each for support when it’s most needed,” she said. 

The Ballarat Arts Academy video that went viral earlier in the year

A difficult road so far 

Members of the Ballarat LGBTIQ community say they have been heavily impacted by the tone of argument put forward during the survey. 

Ms Holden said many people connected to the Pride Hub had experienced heightened levels of discrimination in the last few months.

“It's been a traumatic two months; even with a positive result people will need to debrief and talk to someone,” she said. 

She said the gathering at Trades Hall tomorrow will have counselors and mental health professionals available for those that need someone to speak to. 

“We are vulnerable community right now so we need to have this space so people know they are safe and loved.”  

Effectively the whole country has been asked to vote on our lives, for or against, including people who have openly said we should be charged as criminals or shot on sight.

Kirsten Holden, Ballarat Pride Hub Inc.

At the arts academy, Mr Ives said the atmosphere among staff and students has been tense in the lead up to the survey results. 

“A number of students are feeling anxiety about the announcement and in a way the leadership and the collaboration we have tried to show as a community has been a response to that,” he said.

“What we have seen and experienced includes homophobic graffiti in Camp Street and there has been some pretty nasty stuff on social media and students are feeling exposed.”

Mr Ives said he has worked hard to create a space at the arts academy that is inclusive and accepting off all students and staff.  

“Students have talked about how coming to school has been like a safe place and that we have felt unified,” he said. 

“What I have seen as a result is increased student activities, collectively organising themselves to form the queer choir and organising social events and just being together and supporting one another.”

Polly Chalke and Alex Clements-Tyler at the 2017 Ballarat Gay Pride Rally. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric.

Polly Chalke and Alex Clements-Tyler at the 2017 Ballarat Gay Pride Rally. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric.

More work to be done

While tomorrow’s announcement of the survey results mark an end of the survey procedure, both Ms Holden and Mr Ives said it is just one more step in the fight for LGBTIQ equality. 

Mr Ives said he will continue to work to make the arts academy fully inclusive and focused on telling the stories of those who feel voiceless. 

“We will get on with the job of being creative and telling stories and being proud and passionate people,” he said.

“What I know is that through this the arts academy has produced more kinship, inclusivity, and diversity, and we will set out to become the leading creative arts institution in Australia for inclusivity.

“LGBTIQ+ people will be at the forefront but it also makes me think about our role working with Aboriginal artists and artists with a disability, and new and emerging communities.”

Ms Holden said The Ballarat Pride Hub will continue to fight for the rights of LGBTIQ people long after the results of the survey are announced. 

“This is definitely not the end of it; we still have a lot to do after the result that is going to be equally as hard, she said. 

“Now it's a mater of getting the government to do the right thing and pass legislation that doesn’t discriminate and shows us as equals.” 

For Ms Holden, and LGBTIQ people in Ballarat and around the country, a ‘yes’ victory in the postal survey is about so much more than being able to get married. 

“We weren't just fighting to getting married, we are fighting to be equal and we won’t stop until there is full equality for our community,” she said. 

“We deserve that and we have waited so long so we won't stop trying to achieve that.”

Ms Holden said once the survey results are announced and into the future, it is important that LGBTIQ people know they are loved and supported. 

“We want to let people know to stay positive and stay strong; despite what happens tomorrow, Pride Hub will be by their side and they will have a community by their side that loves them.”