Ballarat City Council: rainbow flag goes missing

Complaints about the rainbow flag at the Sturt Street median strip flag pole have resulted in a ban on all standards flying at the location.

Six councillors voted at Ballarat City Council’s ordinary general meeting on September 13 to order a report into the flag pole’s policy.

The pole, which is at Queen Victoria Square, has regularly been used to fly a variety of flags.

LGBTQI advocate Gary Fitzgerald said he would organise a protest if the flag was not returned before the next council meeting.

“The idea of a community flag pole was for groups to show their colours,” he said.

“We have had all sorts of flags there, we have had the harmony flag, we have had the rainbow flag in the past and there was no issue.

“People who support the ‘yes’ campaign in the same-sex marriage survey are really upset.”

Council staff have now decided not to fly any flags until the requested report has been finalised.

Chief executive Justine Linley said it was not appropriate to use the pole while the policy was being considered.

“Due to the request to develop this policy, we are not flying flags on the flag pole,” she said.

“Council requested officers prepare a report for a council briefing to consider the development of a community flag policy, to provide guidance to officers and information to the community for the future use of the community flag pole.

“The City of Ballarat is committed to supporting marriage equality.”

Deputy mayor Mark Harris told gallery members on September 13 the rainbow flag was flying due to a council resolution in July to support same-sex marriage.

Three councillors were absent from when the motion for a report was passed.

Cr Belinda Coates said she would be talking with her fellow councillors about the issue.

“We have a resolution of council to publicly support and advocate for marriage equality, so I will be looking for ways we can continue to show public and visible support,” she said.

“We need to sort something out quite quickly because there is not a great deal of time left, but the main thing is to encourage people to vote, and people would be publicly aware the City of Ballarat supports marriage equality.”

However Cr Coates said there was ambiguity in the policy that had to be worked out.

The rainbow flag was first removed on Sunday because the federal government asked council to fly the Australian flag to celebrate Citizenship Day.

However when the Australia flag was taken down the rainbow flag was not returned to the pole.