Sun. May 19th, 2024

Library funding under threat over ‘culture war’ same-sex book ban

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell May4,2024
Key Points
  • Cumberland City Council in Sydney passed a motion to “rid” libraries of books featuring same-sex parents.
  • The motion was put forward by a councillor who said he had been approached by distressed parents.
  • The book ban has been criticised by advocates along with Inner West mayor Darcy Byrne.
Advocates are fighting to reverse a council’s decision to ban books featuring same-sex parents, saying the motion crosses a “dangerous line”.
It comes after Cumberland City Council in Sydney voted on 1 May to “rid” publicly-funded libraries of any books that show same-sex parents.
NSW Attorney-General Michael Daley has now referred the motion to the Anti-Discrimination Board for urgent advice, while Labor councillors who voted against the ban have reportedly moved to have it overturned.

The state government has warned the ban could lead to funding cuts for the libraries, with NSW Arts Minister John Graham saying that, if the ban goes ahead, it will breach public library guidelines.

“They say that public libraries should be an unbiased source of information and ideas, and they make it clear libraries should not have local councils excluding certain material on moral, political, racial, religious, sexist language or other grounds and that’s a condition of funding as it’s supplied to local councils,” he told the ABC’s RN Breakfast program.
Graham compared the council’s decision to book burning and censorship, describing it as a “US culture war”.
“It’s a terrible message to send, to have this councillor importing this US culture war into our country and playing it out on the shelves of the local library,” he said.

“I think the community expectations are clear — the local councillor should be coming around to pick up their bin, not telling them what to read.”

Grandmother launches petition against book ban

Caroline Staples, a long-term resident of the Cumberland area and grandmother to what she describes as a “rainbow family”, has launched a petition to rescind the motion.
She will present her petition to the council on 15 May.
“Here in Western Sydney, we welcome people of different backgrounds, beliefs and cultures. We don’t ban people or families,” she said.
“Our diversity is part of what makes living in our area so special. We are better than this motion,” she said.
“The council motion has made me fear for the safety of the rainbow families in our community and the future cohesion of our community,” she said.

“It crosses a dangerous line.”

It crosses a dangerous line.

Cumberland resident Caroline Staples

The motion was brought forward by former mayor and councillor Steve Christou during a discussion on the council’s library strategy for 2024 to 2027.
Christou said he had been approached by parents who were upset about a book in the toddler section of their local library.
The book they found was Same-Sex Parents by Holly Duhig.
In the council meeting, Christou described the Cumberland community as religious and conservative.

“This community is a very religious community, it is a very family-orientated community,” he said.

“Regardless of what their religion, whether they are Catholic, Orthodox, Islamic, Hindu, whatever their background, they all have the same beliefs: family, religious values and conservative.
“They don’t want such controversial issues going against their beliefs indoctrinated into their libraries.”
He said Cumberland was “not Marrickville or Newtown” — inner-west suburbs of Sydney — and claimed the Cumberland City Council should “respect the wishes” of residents.

The motion was supported by councillors Christou, Greg Cummings, Paul Garrard, Helen Hughes, Mohamad Hussein and Michael Zaiter.

Mayor of the Inner West Darcy Byrne described the vote and book banning as “pathetic”.
“The accusation from a Cumberland City Councillor that the Inner West community is wrong to have books for rainbow families in our libraries is pathetic.
“Inner West Council will continue to provide books and resources for all families, from all backgrounds, and will continue hosting drag story time events too.

“If someone as deliberately divisive as councillor Steve Christou thinks the Inner West is too inclusive and respectful, we wear that as a badge of honour.”

Equality Australia legal director Ghassan Kassisieh said the potential book ban could make life harder for children in LGBTIQ+ families.
“Children in rainbow families are cherished and loved. Councillors who say otherwise fuel bigotry that makes their lives harder, not easier,” he said.
“The council seems to be clinging to some kind of backward stereotype that people in Western Sydney are bigoted and can’t decide for themselves what to borrow from the local library.
“The local community and its rainbow families deserve better than this.”
Kassisieh said banning books about LGBTIQ+ people should be unlawful under the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act.

– With additional reporting by the Australian Associated Press

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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One thought on “Library funding under threat over ‘culture war’ same-sex book ban”
  1. It’s disheartening to see library funding being threatened over a narrow-minded book ban. We should be promoting diversity and inclusion, not censorship and discrimination. This motion sets a dangerous precedent that goes against the principles of a free society.

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