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The Sydney City Council unanimously endorsed the following statement and recommendations on 12.09.10
To Council: 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BEGINNINGS OF GAY AND LESBIAN ACTIVISM IN AUSTRALIA MINUTE BY THE LORD MAYOR
This week marks the 40th anniversary of the birth of the Australian gay and lesbian movement.
Its beginnings were modest. In July, 1970 John Ware, a psychology student, and Christabell Poll, a public servant, neighbours in a North Sydney apartment block, discussed forming a small society to publicly counter the negative stereotyping of homosexuals in society at large. They were partly encouraged by media reports about the world‚s first gay pride march in New York, which had attracted thousands of participants. That march marked the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots, now regarded as the symbolic beginning of the gay liberation movement.
On 10 September 1970, The Australian newspaper published a small article announcing the formation of the new group, Campaign Against Moral Persecution, or CAMP. Nine days later, the same newspaper published a much larger feature, "Couples" by Janet Hawley, about John, Christabel, their partners and their reasons for forming CAMP, complete with photographs.
This was the first time homosexuals had voluntarily and publicly identified themselves in Australia. It was a brave act, at a time when attitudes to homosexuality were extremely hostile and discrimination, harassment and violence against people suspected of being homosexual was common. Consensual adult homosexual activity was illegal, attracting long gaol sentences. Homosexuality was classified as a mental illness, with some medical practitioners offering electric shock therapy and lobotomies as "cures".
The Australian article and other media coverage attracted a strong response, with many people inquiring how they could help or become involved. In February 1971, a gathering of around 50 gay men and lesbians gathered in a Balmain church hall to formally ratify the establishment of CAMP. It was the first open public meeting of homosexuals in Australia. Within 12 months, similar groups were established in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide and on several University campuses.
Many of the people who became involved in CAMP were willing to publicly identify themselves as gay or lesbian "particularly in the media" in order to break down inaccurate stereotypes of homosexuals. They included Ian Black, who chaired the first public meeting and was interviewed on 2GB; Peter Bonsall-Boone and Peter de Waal who appeared in ABC-TV's groundbreaking documentary series, Chequerboard; and Lex Watson who was guest on ABC-TV's Monday Conference filmed in Mount Isa.
CAMP's activities expanded to include public activism, publishing a magazine, CAMP INK, and operating club rooms at 33A Glebe Point Road. In October 1971, its first demonstration was held outside Liberal Party Headquarters in Ash Street Sydney to support then Federal Attorney-General, Tom Hughes, who was facing a challenge to his pre-selection because he had spoken in favour of homosexual law reform. In 1973, some CAMP members of began "Phone a Friend" a gay-friendly telephone helpline, which still continues as the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service.
CAMP's early advocacy encouraged vital community discussion that was the necessary precursor to important legal and social reforms. CAMP's work, later taken up by other activists and community groups, ultimately led to anti-discrimination and anti-vilification legislation, homosexual law reform and the legal recognition of same sex relationships. Parliament's vote this week, to allow same sex couples to adopt children, is another example of CAMP's legacy.
CAMP's formation also paved the way for other openly gay and lesbian community media, sporting and cultural organisations to be established. Significantly, the idea of holding a gay Mardi Gras was first suggested by CAMP member, Ron Austin, during an informal conversation one evening after a meeting at CAMP. The event that resulted, on 24 June 1978, has grown into the largest night time GLBT parade in the world.
The example set by the early CAMP activists has made it possible for lesbians and gay men in all walks of life to live open and honest lives in a society that is less hostile and more accepting than it was 40 years ago.
To mark this significant anniversary, the City commissioned artist Annie Kennedy to create CAMP Stonewall, as our third temporary public art project in Taylor Square, now being installed. CAMP Stonewall uses local stories and history to celebrate the gay rights movement and the courageous people who campaigned for change.
Later this month, also marking this anniversary, the Pride History Group, in conjunction with Cosmopolitan Civil Societies at the University of Technology Sydney and the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives, will hold the 10th annual Australian Homosexual Histories Conference, Into the Streets, with the support of a City of Sydney Cultural Grant. The conference, on 24 and 25 September, will explore the social, political and cultural background that led to the formation of CAMP. I will hold a reception to welcome attendees to this Conference and celebrate the 40th anniversary of the birth of lesbian and gay activism in Australia.
It is resolved that Council:
(A) note the importance of the formation of the Campaign Against Moral Persecution in September 1970 as the symbolic birth of the Australian gay and lesbian movement;
(B) celebrate the significance of this event to Sydney‚s and Australia‚s gay and lesbian communities and its vital contribution to Australia becoming a tolerant and accepting society; and
(C) commend the commitment and courage of the early gay and lesbian activists who carried out the lesbian and gay movement‚s important work in its early years, often in a hostile environment.
COUNCILLOR CLOVER MOORE MP
Lord Mayor 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BEGINNINGS OF GAY AND LESBIAN ACTIVISM IN AUSTRALIA 17401009
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