Flying the rainbow flag

 Vincent Street flag pole, 2017

Vincent Street flag pole, 2017


The rainbow flag, a symbol of LGBTI pride, is a common sight in Daylesford today, with shop owners and many locals proudly displaying their support of the LGBTI community. However, this was not always the case.

The rainbow flag flying proudly in the centre of Vincent Street today is a relatively new addition to the Daylesford streetscape.

One former ChillOut committee member recalls that ‘the council came fairly reluctantly to support ChillOut’.[1] While they were happy to allow the festival to use Victoria Park and cover it under the existing insurance in the early years, Hepburn Shire Council had very little do to with the festival. Danny Moynihan ran the post office in Daylesford and later joined ChillOut as a volunteer. He had a good sense of the community’s reaction to the festival and feelings towards the LGBTI community in Daylesford. He recalls that early on, ‘there was a lot of stigma, even from the shire, the shire took quite a long time to come on board’.[2]

Early festival organisers approached the local council about flying the rainbow flag from the Town Hall. It was a precedent that had already been set. During the Swiss Italian Festa, the Swiss and Italian flags flapped freely from the Town Hall and ChillOut’s organisers had the same vision for the rainbow flag. Sadly, permission was not granted.

Not all councillors were opposed to flying the flag or supporting the festival. Former ChillOut chair Renee Ludekens remembers one year when the mayor at the time, Warren Maloney, invited some ChillOut organisers onto the Town Hall balcony to watch the street parade.

There were a couple of the committee members out there waving big flags, and the mayor was behind it. That stopped the next year when he left, and then it went into policies on who could go out [on the balcony].[3]

The issue remained contentious and the festival organisers were continually denied in their request to fly the flag during the Labour Day weekend. Renee recalls the excuses she heard, including ‘we’ve lost the flag’.[4] The issue finally came to a head in May 2006, when councillors voted in a policy banning the flying of all flags – except the Australian flag – from the Town Hall.[5] This policy was in direct opposition to recommendations from council staff and encouraged the five other major festivals in the Hepburn Shire region to rally around ChillOut in a campaign to reverse the policy. Jim Culbertson ChillOut committee member at the time, told The Age newspaper that the Town Hall, ‘as a community space, should be a place to celebrate the community’.[6] But while many rallied around ChillOut, there were some residents who were happy with the decision. In one letter to the editor in the local paper, a resident wrote:

The area is known for the gay and lesbian people, for goodness sake. Why do you have to pollute our vision with their flags or can we have some flags for the normal, decent families to let the rest of the country know that some decency does still exist?[7]

Despite the success of the festival, generating an estimated $8 million in economic benefit to the region, the council’s decision to institute a no flag policy, did not fill the ChillOut organisers and the wider LGBTI community with confidence that the council fully supported them. ChillOut organisers and supporters, along with other festival organisers, marched in protest to the Town Hall in 2006, but the decision remained. Mayor at the time Heather Mutimer said that the policy was ‘fair and equitable’ and did not legitimise homophobic attitudes, but the local paper printed hateful letters and heated exchanges were witnessed within the community.[8]

 Flag protest - Natalie Noynihan and other ChillOut supporters

Flag protest - Natalie Noynihan and other ChillOut supporters

As a compromise, the council erected a flag pole in Vincent Street, and from there the rainbow flag flies proudly during ChillOut weekend. Paul Kidd saw this move as one way for the council to just avoid the issue entirely. While he acknowledges that the council are ‘vocal, full-throated supporters of ChillOut now’, the problems with the flag highlight ‘an underlying kind of issue about the degree to which council supported ChillOut’.[9]

In 2017, Hepburn Shire Council raised the rainbow flag on the flagpole in Vincent Street as a show of support and solidarity to the LGBTI community in the lead-up to the marriage equality postal vote. ChillOut festival director Merryn Tinkler commented that it meant a lot to the community ‘to really know that the shire is behind us’.[10]



[1] Interview with Paul Kidd, 18 December 2017.

[2] Interview with Danny Moynihan, 18 December 2017.

[3] Interview with Renee Ludekens, 18 December 2017.

[4] Interview with Renee Ludekens, 18 December 2017.

[5] ‘No gay flags for Daylesford’, Star Observer, 20 April 2008.

[6] ‘Against all flags, Daylesford sparks a flap somewhere over the rainbow’, The Age, 26 July 2006.

[7] G. Waitt and A. Gorman-Murray, ‘ChillOut: A Festival ‘Out’ in the Country’, in Festival Places: Revitalising Rural Australia, Chris Gibson and John Connell (eds), 2011, p. 223.

[8] ‘Against all flags, Daylesford sparks a flap somewhere over the rainbow’, The Age, 26 July 2006.

[9] Interview with Paul Kidd, 18 December 2017.

[10] ‘Flying flag to support community’, The Advocate-Hepburn, 24 August 2017.