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Castlemaine Council In Chaos After Voting 'no' To Hoisting The Rainbow Flag

Oct 10, 2017

The mayor and a councillor of a country Victorian municipality have suddenly resigned within weeks of a controversial decision to not fly a rainbow flag during the postal survey on same-sex marriage.

Both councillors were the target of criticism after they each voted not fly the rainbow flag in support of the yes vote on same-sex marriage in a Mount Alexander Shire meeting on September 19.

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There has been no confirmation the negative attention led to the resignation of either Mayor Sharon Telford, who was one year into a four-year term, or Tony Bell, representative in the Castlemaine Ward. 

When votes were cast four to three against there were calls of "shame" and "bigots" from a packed public gallery, a sentiment the mayor has faced from some people within council and the public since the decision.

"I believe it is not the role of local government to tell people how to vote," Ms Telford said on the night.

"I did my own extensive consultation. I spoke to about 80 people and only five said we should fly the flag."

She said other Victorian councils deciding to fly the flag was based on party politics.

On Monday, Mr Bell also resigned and has not provided an explanation as to why. 

The resignations follow recent comments from Coliban Ward councillor Christine Henderson, who spoke of the pressure placed on local government during the same-sex marriage postal survey.

"Personally I feel very angry at the federal government for failing to take a stand and do what they're meant to do and debate a matter of national interest which has to be decided at a federal level," she said on Monday.

"Instead they've thrown this woolly, inconclusive survey exercise into the community that has generated a huge amount of emotion."

Cr Henderson did not wish to speak on behalf of her former colleague's reasons for departure, but said Ms Telford had been under pressure with "council business", and her decision to walk away from council was a shock.