At least 12 members of the Inner West Council’s 14-member Multicultural Advisory Committee have resigned after a Greens motion calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was rejected at a recent Council meeting on Tuesday, November 21.
The motion, which was put forward by Greens Councillor Dylan Griffiths, called on the Federal Government to “urge for a ceasefire and peace negotiations” and to help “end the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Gaza.”
About 11 people had registered to speak on the night in support of the motion, including Multicultural Advisory Committee member and Palestinian Australian Wa’el Sabri.
Other Committee members – who range in ethnicity from Greek to Italian, Indian and other multicultural backgrounds – were also present and witnessed as Wa’el called on the Council to support a ceasefire that she believed could help save the lives of the nearly 2 million Palestinian men, women and children currently living in Gaza.
After arguments “for” and “against” were heard, the motion was rejected by a majority of eight Labor Councillors. Instead, Council voted in favour of a resolution put forward by Councillor Mark Drury.
According to a press release by the Inner West Council, this resolution condemned the killing of civilians on all sides, as well as recognised that foreign policy is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. The resolution also acknowledged a recent statement by Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong which “called for steps towards a ceasefire.”
‘Box ticking measure’:
Following the Council meeting, local Inner West residents and members of the Multicultural Advisory Committee raised concerns with The Greek Herald, saying the resolution did not go far enough in supporting a full ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
For Italian Australian Rosanna Barbero, the Inner West Council’s position saw her resign from the Multicultural Advisory Committee.
“They [Council] rejected what we feel was a very basic, humane and human rights-based motion to stop the mass slaughter of children and civilians in Gaza. Because our communities are also affected by that – whether you come from an Aboriginal background or a Tamil background or any background that has had trauma or state conflict, people are affected by a televised genocide,” Ms Barbero said.
“I cannot support something tokenistic. This Council will never really put in place anything that will support anti-racism.”
Greek Australian Yiana Roumeliotis agreed with Ms Barbero and also tendered her resignation from the Multicultural Advisory Committee. She said that whilst the Committee was working on an anti-racism strategy with the Inner West Council, its recent stance on the Hamas-Israel conflict was the final straw that led to the mass resignations.
“I think we all were just already feeling a loss of trust with Council and that we were just becoming a bit of a box-ticking measure,” Ms Roumeliotis said.
“So yes, you have this Multicultural Advisory Committee but what’s the point of us coming if you’re not valuing who we are and our experiences and our expertise? And then once the vote happened, it just felt all too much.
“We had been fighting tooth and nail to really make sure the work Council was doing was meaningful and impactful to multicultural communities and then the cherry on top was that they voted no to a ceasefire and essentially were saying that there was nothing they could do or wanted to do for communities that were really suffering.”
‘We are the birthplace of multiculturalism’:
In response to questions from The Greek Herald about its stance on anti-racism, an Inner West Council spokesperson said they are very proud of the region’s multiculturalism.
They added that the Council is the only one in NSW to have initiated an anti-racism strategy which it “will implement in full.”
“The Inner West is the birthplace of multiculturalism in Australia, a heritage we are proud of and continue to build upon. The official renaming of the Little Greece and Little Vietnam precincts in Marrickville as well as Little Portugal and Little Italy in Petersham and Leichhardt are examples of how we are continuing to promote multiculturalism,” the spokesperson said.
When asked about the Council’s resolution on the ceasefire, the spokesperson said “Council has resolved to support the ceasefire in Gaza and issued a statement welcoming it.”
“We also acknowledge that foreign policy is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government and that many local citizens want Council to focus on local affairs not foreign affairs,” they said.
“Council will consider the concerns of some members of the multicultural advisory committee at the next Council meeting.”