Posted by: Nick Ward | 11 May, 2013

Rainbows Live Forever

A month ago I was stopped in my tracks during my walk to work. The rainbow crossing which had lit up Taylor Square since mid March was gone, removed in the dead of night while the city’s residents were asleep.

I was, frankly, shocked.  But let me take you back a back a few weeks to give you some background.

The Original Rainbow Crossing

The Original Rainbow Crossing

Earlier this year a political wrangle started between the Sydney City Council (along with its supporters) and the Liberal State Government when the council wanted to put two brightly coloured rainbows across the pedestrian crossings at Taylor Square, arguably the heart of gay Sydney, in time for this year’s Mardi Gras.  The road, however, was ‘owned’ by the State, not the Council.

A compromise was reached, not two but one rainbow crossing was agreed to, but on a ‘trial basis’.  Funds needed to be set aside not only to paint the rainbow, they needed to be provided for its removal as well, if the State Government so decided that should happen. And so the rainbow crossing was born.  What would decide the success or failure of the ‘trial’, however, appears to have been a little unclear.

So let me return to my shock.

I was of course aware of the political wrestling match that had been taking place between Clover Moore, with her protege Alex Greenwich, and the state government – this was less about rainbows and more about a government who deeply resented the failure of their attempt to remove Moore’s influence from parliament when ‘pseudo-Moore’ Greenwich was elected to succeed her. I imagine that hurt those happy-go-lucky Libs a hell of a lot.  What shocked me was that they were so tactically stupid as to shoot the family dog, and at a significant cost to the taxpayer, to do it.

You see, not only was that little piece of sunshine growing in popularity with Sydneysiders at a significant pace, but it was also rapidly becoming a tourist attraction in its own right. Inbound tourism is a huge money earner for any economy, in fact, when it comes to services in Australia tourism is second only to education in the export dollars it brings in. It’s big bikkies. You don’t rip up tourist attractions, that’s just dumb.  And to do it in the middle of the night brings back nasty memories of the dark days of Joh Bjelke Petersen and National Party Queensland.

As it turns out, spite, and a healthy dash or small-minded bureaucracy, ended up ruling the day.

This, however, is not just another sad and depressing tale.  You see, over the days that followed, something wonderful happened.

Emotion can easily lead us down a path we wish it hadn’t, but sometimes it leads us to great things.  That night I was having dinner with friends and we all admitted we had had the immediate desire to sneak out in the dead of night with some spray cans and paint the damned thing back. It appears we weren’t alone.

A couple of days later rainbows on roads (for the most part, chalked – a sensible compromise to stay the right side of the law) started appearing on Facebook. The first was a few blocks from Taylor Square in Surry Hills, and as the DIY Rainbow Crossings ‘movement’ grew, they started appearing all over the place. First it was the suburbs, then other cities around Australia, then all around the world.Wett Ones DIY Rainbow

At last count there were 1065 rainbow crossings with their photos posted on the DIY Rainbow Crossings homepage, with over 21,000 people following it. From Marrickville to Melbourne, Wollongong to Wauchope, Dublin to Delaware, the photos are quite inspiring. Posts of new rainbow crossings are interspersed with the news of this-or-that art supply store having recently received stocks of chalk – yes, the movement has resulted in widespread chalk shortages across Sydney and several other cities.  Even my swim club got in on the act, scrawling a chalk rainbow across the road outside our training pool. Move over Arab Spring, people power is back and it’s colourful as all getup.

What’s interesting is that unlike the original rainbow, the movements seems to be less about politics and more about community.  Don’t get me wrong, there are clear messages of GLBT rights and Marriage Equality underpinning the movement (although in a few countries I suspect a few followers are motivated less about GLBT rights and more about simply liking colourful rainbows), but there is very little mainstream party-political comment. And that, I suspect, is part of its attraction. The movement is clean and simple, just like the concept of equality is clean and simple.

So let’s see where this all goes.  This week it was announced that The Greens are once again introducing a marriage equality bill into parliament, and will seek to have it put to a vote on 6 June, declaring the position of each party and each politician before September’s federal election.  We can be rest-assured that personal beliefs will play second fiddle to political tactics, and that makes this a dangerous time for both Labor and Liberal Parties.

Perhaps we will see them over the next three weeks cruising the marginal electorates counting rainbows chalked across roads.


  1. Reblogged this on Miles Heffernan and commented:
    Nicely said Nick

  2. Reblogged this on scampbell857.

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