Health CEO Expresses “Concerns”

Bob Yeates, Managing Editor of the Bairnsdale Advertiser

Bob Yeates, unrepentant Managing Editor of the Bairnsdale Advertiser

Therese Tierney, the Chief Executive Officer of the Bairnsdale Regional Health Service, one of the principal advertisers in the Bairnsdale Advertiser, says she has “voiced some concerns” with the paper over their homophobic editorials.

tierneyThis is only the latest of several, so far unsuccessful attempts to get the paper to cease and desist its divisive and inflammatory behaviour. Local businesswoman Jessee John tried to stop the editorials, by raising a local petition and writing a letter to the paper. State MP and former editor Tim Bull has also spoken strongly against these editorials.

Dr Andy Schmulow wrote to Bairnsdale Health, former employers of one half of the couple driven from the town by the climate created by the editorials, to ask what the health authority were doing to help change the situation.

I would be grateful if you could tell me what the position of your organisation is to advertising in the Bairnsdale Advertiser, in light of the overtly homophobic tenor of their editorials? (I can provide examples if you wish?) So divisive has this been that same sex couples in Bairnsdale have had to surround their dwelling with spikes on top of the walls around their property and install security cameras in order to protect themselves, and ultimately have had to leave the area, due to concerns for their safety.

I am willing to progress these enquiries through the human rights commission, if need be, and to enjoin your organisation to the complaint, as financial supporters of a newspaper that has not simply expressed a view on the debate, but have sought to demonise those who support equality for members of the LGBTI community.

Perhaps you have not been aware of this situation? If so I am willing to engage with you on this to explain to you how and where this demonisation has occurred. But it is of note that even local representatives who are members of the Legislative Assembly have called upon the the Advertiser to modify the tenor of their attacks on the LGBTI community.

You may also be aware of the human rights charter in Victoria, and I would think it essential that organs of the State Government uphold that charter, and not support organisations which seek to demonise members of the community; especially to the point where their safety is at risk.

Ms Tierney, CEO of Bairnsdale Health, in correspondence shown to the stirrer, replied that the Health Service has followed up on the nature and content of the editorials, voicing concerns over the message they send to the local community. But she has stopped short of making any public criticisms, or taking action such as withholding advertising, adding that, just because they advertised in the paper didn’t mean they supported the views published therein.

David Elliott, whose partner Dr YC was formerly employed by Bairnsdale Health, says this is on a par with the attitude during the doctor’s time with them. Fellow staff were very supportive. Management not so much. Dr Schmulow was equally unimpressed. He wrote back:

You are aware though that the editorials in question have created such a climate of fear for LGBTI people that one of your own doctors left the area and your employ?

Yet you seem to dismiss this issue as one of mere editorial policy? An editorial policy that has not once provided an alternative view in order to effect balance. In that situation is it appropriate for government funds to be spent advertising in this publication?

Dr Schmulow also wrote to darrenDarren Chester (R), federal MP for Gippsland & Minister for Infrastructure & Transport,

gary_gaffney_weband  Gary Gaffney (L), CEO of East Gippsland Shire Council.

To date there has been no response, and no further reply from Ms Tierney.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)