Senior students from Carroll College and St Peter’s Anglican College at Broulee, and Batemans Bay High School were given time to address Council – including Mayor, Liz Innes and Deputy Mayor, Anthony Mayne.
One of the Shire’s Federal MP’s was also taking notes – Member for Gilmore, Anne Sudmalis.
Courtney Fryer from Carroll College used the opportunity to advocate for young people living with physical and mental disability.
Harrison O’Keefe from Batemans Bay High, made a great point around youth engagement –“show them what they are missing out on” and he has an idea to do just that.
While Pippi Sparrius from St Peter’s presented some surprising stats around teenage pregnancy in the Eurobodalla.
Keen to give the students a ‘real council meeting’ experience, Cr Innes was watching the clock, with Courtney, Harrison, and Pippi all given five minutes each.
The wheels of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, who will run this show, will continue to spin regradless – getting ready for the survey which is due to start just a week after the High Court decision.
While those in our community at the sharp end of this cheer on the High Court challenge, in the back of their mind they are also laying the ground work for the campaign ahead – mobilising as many people as possible to vote ‘yes’ in this non-compulsory process.
Bega Valley LGBTIQ advocate, Tas Fitzer says it took him a couple of days of reflection to work out the way ahead.
“I really understand the temptation for supporters of marriage equality to say ‘I am not voting, I am boycotting this process’, because it’s not a process we’d like to legitimise,” Tas says.
“We are giving a platform to debate that is going to be harmful to children of same sex couples, for young LGBTIQ people, and for people struggling with their identity.
“We don’t want to be here but we are here, this is something we have to deal with and the best way to deal with it is to take it head on,” he reasons.
Tas says he’ll be voting ‘yes’ and will be actively campaigning for others to do the same.
“Disagree with the process – absolutely, disagree with how it’s being done – absolutely, but let’s accept the fact we are here and make the most of it,” Tas says.
C and N are women who live on the Sapphire Coast and have been together for over two decades, they have a teenage son and are active members of a range of community and sporting organisations.
They have asked me not to use their names, mindful of the impact any publicity might have on their boy.
“For the first time in a very long time, I feel different and vulnerable, and that I have to somehow show evidence of how healthy, normal, and loving my relationship is with both my partner and son,” C says.
“How I live my life day to day and how I parent our child is under the microscope for those who don’t know us.
“And, I’m embarrassed for Australia – friends, colleagues, clients, people I know, across the age span, those with faith and those without, really don’t understand what the problem is, there is this sense of – really, we are still talking about marriage equality?,” C says.
Reflecting on the weeks ahead C and N believe there will be a relatively small but vocal group of people who will feel the postie poll gives them permission to voice their bigotry, to judge, attack, and say dreadful, hurtful, untrue and damaging things about the LGBTIQ community.
If it goes ahead, the result of the poll will be known on November 15but it will be parliamentarians that ultimately decide if the Mariage Act can include same sex couples.
Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull has said he’ll be encouraging a ‘yes’ vote and if ‘yes’ wins his Liberal MP’s will be free to vote according to their conscience.
The ABC said that Ms Sudmalis would stand up for what her electorate decides.
A survey on the issue conducted by Ms Sudmalis in October 2015 pointed to 62 percent approval for marriage equality in Gilmore, 36 percent were opposed, while the rest undecided – the ABC reported.
Labor’s Mike Kelly, the Federal Member for the neighbouring seat of Eden – Monaro told About Regional, “The fastest and cheapest way to deliver marriage equality is through a free vote in the Parliament, not a $122 million survey.”
“If we are going to be forced to take part in this farce then I think the best thing we can do is send the Turnbull Government a message they can’t ignore – vote yes for marriage equality,” Dr Kelly says.
The former Army colonel is hopeful the campaign ahead will be respectful and tolerant.
“I plead with everyone in our community to exercise the utmost civility and join with me in urging that we all refrain from engaging in misinformation or hurtful comments,” Dr Kelly says.
Twenty-one-year old Tas Fitzer is of a similar mindset.
“The mental health of some of our young LGBTIQ people is of real concern to me,” he says.
“That’s why I have decided to get out there and campaign for a ‘yes’ vote so that they can see there are people out there to support them.”
Click play to hear more from Tas…
Speaking with C and N in fading light this afternoon, both fear some in the community who would vote ‘yes’ are now unmotivated to take part given the level of discussion the issue has had over an extended period of time.
“Many people honestly don’t understand what the fuss is about and are exhausted by this debate,” N says.
“Because same sex marriage seems a no brainer to them, I’d implore people to realise that unfortunately for some Australians the idea is frightening and abhorrent.
“Giving free reign to people to say whatever they like, to judge us simply for not living our lives like them is scary, scary for us now and for the next generations,” N explains.
Both are hopeful people will push past the grubby, lengthy politics of the issue and find the energy and motivation to say ‘yes’.