Village of Yackandandah celebrates as regional China votes ‘yes’

The bubbles were spraying in the little village of Yackandandah when the news came in that had voted “yes” to same-sex marriage.

Gary Hayward, proprietor of the Buddha Shop, declared himself over the moon. Would he be marrying his partner of 16 years – and friend for 14 years before that – Andy Stevens?

“Hell yes,” he said, lifting the top of a bottle of fizz.

Celebrating with him were two friends, Yackandandah Star Hotel public Matt Fraunfelder and a local calling herself Fanny Peppler Flux. Both said they were “straight’, but wanted to celebrate on behalf of their friends in the gay community.

Yackandandah, an old village in the hills of North-East Victoria, has a population of less than 1000.

There would have been a lot more around for a drink, said Gary, but “we all work, and it’s the middle of the day”.

Yackandandah is one of ‘s centres of gay pride.

Gary is the organiser of an annual spring festival called the Spring Migration Festival, which has been attracting thousands of participants from the gay and straight communities to Yackandandah for many years.

“We didn’t hold the festival this year,” Gary said. “It’s held in September, and that was right in the middle of hateful ‘no’ campaign, and we felt we had nothing to celebrate.

“It would have been our 14th festival. We’ve got plenty to celebrate now, though.”

The festival grew out of the publicity surrounding the 2004 movie Strange Bedfellows, which was filmed in and around Yackandandah. It starred Paul Hogan and Michael Caton, who pretended to be a gay couple for taxation purposes, eventually gaining a new understanding of homosexuality and drawing the town together in support of their friendship, whatever it was.

Many Yackandandah locals played roles in the movie. And when the bubbles started flying in the main street on Wednesday, no one showed any surprise at all.

Yackandandah is found in independent Cathy McGowan’s seat of Indi, which returned a healthy “yes” vote of 63.1 per cent off a participation rate of 82.1 per cent.

Nationals MP and “yes” supporter, Darren Chester, holds the neighbouring Victorian seat of Gippsland, which also returned a “yes” vote with 60.2 per cent.

“Interestingly, across , the overwhelming majority of regional seats voted ‘yes’ which is a positive reflection on how our communities are much more inclusive than political commentators often suggest,” the Infrastructure Minister said after the result.

While support for same-sex marriage is traditionally seen as a preoccupation of inner-city voters, all 15 Nationals electorates minus one – Queensland’s Maranoa – voted in favour of same-sex marriage. This includes the electorate of prominent “no” advocate, George Christensen. His Queensland seat of Dawson had a “yes” vote of 55.1 per cent.

Barnaby Joyce’s former seat of New England also returned a “yes” vote.

Only three of the 17 seats that voted “no” across were in regional areas: Maranoa, Kennedy and Groom – all in Queensland.

– with Judith Ireland

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