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Cumberland councillor doubles down on same-sex parent book ban

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same-sex parenting - the catholic weekly
Councillor Steve Christou speaks at the Cumberland City Council meeting on 1 May. Image: Cumberland City Council webcast

Cumberland councillor Steve Christou has stood by his successful motion to remove children’s books depicting same-sex parenting from the council’s libraries despite a NSW Government threat to remove funding over the decision.

Minister for Arts John Graham likened the council’s amendment to its library strategy to censorship, saying, “it is up to readers to choose which book to take off the shelf,” the ABC and The Guardian reported.

“We are examining the consequences this decision may have for the council continuing to receive library funding from the NSW Government,” he added.

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But Christou reinforced his position telling Today Show host Karl Stefanovic on 8 May, “If the government wants to take away funding from one of the most socially disadvantaged communities in NSW because their democratically elected council stood up for the values which they believe represents their local community—well shame on them, and I would urge them not to do that.”

During the Cumberland City Council meeting on 1 May, Christou held up an image of a book he said he had received complaints about from local parents, titled Same-Sex Parents by Holly Duhig which features two men and a child on the front cover.

He argued that sexualised material didn’t belong in a community holding religious and family-oriented values.

Councillor Christou said he had received complaints from parents about the children’s book Same-Sex Parents by Holly Duhig.

“Our kids shouldn’t be sexualised, it’s that simple,” he said.

“Regardless of their religion, whether they are Catholic, Orthodox, Islamic, Hindu. Whatever their background, they all have the same beliefs—family, religious values and conservative,” he said.

“They don’t want such controversial issues going against their beliefs, indoctrinated into their libraries. It is imperative that we take a stand. Our community don’t want this.

“Hands off our kids.”

Councillor Diane Colman vehemently rejected the motion as proceedings heated up, saying the ban would be a threat to “our freedoms as Australians.”

“We don’t want some old-fashioned book burning here in Cumberland. Governments at all levels have a responsibility to consider our residents interests in contemporary issues without promoting or suppressing particular beliefs and ideas,” she said.

“I’m totally against this attempt at censorship. Our freedoms are just as important in Cumberland as they are in the rest of Australia.”

The motion was won by a slim margin of six votes to five with councillors Christou, Greg Cummings, Paul Garrard, Helen Hughes, Mohamad Hussein and Michael Zaitar all in favour.

The decision has also been criticised by LGBT advocates and several politicians including Independent Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich who took to X, formerly Twitter.

“Library books don’t cause harm, but bigots do,” Greenwich wrote.

NSW Labor MP Rose Jackson condemned Councillor Hussein in particular, noting he was the only Labor councillor in favour of the strategy amendment.

“Gay [and] lesbian families exist everywhere in NSW. Book bans should exist nowhere,” she said.

“Don’t like books? Don’t read them.”

The controversy comes only months after the same council rejected drag-queen story time events for children following community backlash, a decision also headed by Christou.

A petition to overturn the decision will be presented at the next local council meeting on 15 May.

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