Councillors try to remove anti-racism signs from affluent Sydney LGA

·Associate News Editor
·2-min read

Councillors in the affluent Sydney council of Woollahra have failed in their bid to scrap anti-racism signs in the community.

The 12 signs were introduced as part of the #racismNOTwelcome campaign, which has expanded to multiple councils after it was introduced in the Inner West local government area in 2020.

But the councillors said the signs, which appear on lamp posts alongside street names, unfairly suggested residents in the area, which incorporates the eastern suburbs of Paddington, Double Bay and Rose Bay, were racist.

The signs have caused a stir among councillors. Source: Michael Dahlstrom/ Yahoo News Australia
The signs have caused a stir among councillors. Source: Michael Dahlstrom/ Yahoo News Australia

"The installation of these signs was not in response to any reported incidence of racism in our LGA," a notice of motion submitted by Councillors Toni Zeltzer, Peter Cavanagh and Mary-Lou Jarvis at Monday's council meeting read.

"Locals say the signs give a false impression that Woollahra locals are racist, while there has been no evidence presented to that effect."

Cr Zeltzer said the direction in which some of the signs were pointing had caused "distress" to some residents who felt they were being wrongly targeted as racists.

The motion prompted heated debate among councillors who argued about the signs' suitability, in what was quickly descending into a chaotic meeting.

Councillor Luise Elsing strongly opposed Cr Zeltzer's claim there was no racism in the community.

There are 12 signs around the Woollahra LGA. Source: Michael Dahlstrom/ Yahoo News Australia
There are 12 signs around the Woollahra LGA. Source: Michael Dahlstrom/ Yahoo News Australia

Greens councillor Nicola Grieve said she "could not believe" the motion had been submitted and that anti-racism advocates she'd spoken with were "appalled".

Yet Cr Jarvis said the signs were merely the product of "wokeism" and there was a lack of evidence to suggest they'd have the desired effect.

She said the family of a Holocaust survivor who had lived in the area for decades had contacted her expressing their anger over the signs.

The proposal to remove the signs from the local government area, which cost $2000, was rejected in a close vote 8 to 7.

Dismissing racism's presence 'dangerous', Craig Foster says

Greens MP David Shoebridge welcomed the decision, calling the signs a "useful start" in tackling racism.

"If you have a problem with signs calling out racism, then you have a problem," he said.

Human rights advocate and former Socceroo Craig Foster, who spearheaded the campaign in its infancy, said "pretending racism doesn't exist 'in our area' or at all is dangerous and puts many Australians at risk every day".

"We need to acknowledge it and normalise discussion about how to overcome it," he said.

"Ignorance fuels bigotry."

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