A chronology of lesbian and gay communities, movements, and venues in Sydney









1960 - 1966























































Australian society in the late 1960s was hostile to homosexuals or, at least, its institutions were. The Law treated gay men as criminals who could be locked away for 14 years for the “abominable crime of buggery”, and the police were active in trying to prosecute them.

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Coming Out Into a Hostile World

Francesca (Chesca) Curtis's television appearance on The Bailey File, a Melbourne-based current affairs programme on commercial television TV's Channel 9, in May or June 1970, speaking about the aims of the Australian Lesbian Movement was arguably Australia's first "coming out" in the media.

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Australia's First National Coming Out

Homosexual/transgender social groups began forming in the early 1960s in Sydney. They offered membership of a discreet “camp” organisation. Their dances provided the perfect stage for Sydney’s new amateur drag scene to flourish and a place for men and women to meet up and find Miss or Mr Right – at least for the night. In the Leichhardt area, there was no shortage of public halls for these groups.

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Leichhardt/Dykehardt Exhibition

Male homosexual acts are no longer criminal in NSW – the law was amended in 1984, and ‘gay’ men can live quite open lives, with a range of venues where they can socialize in ways similar to their heterosexual counterparts. Also, the two worlds now softly collide, with gays and straights mixing together quite easily in many places in Sydney’s inner suburbs.

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And The Beats Go On...

The following people participated in the first Mardi Gras and/or the related events . While every attempt has been made to ensure accuracy, the list could include errors and omissions. Some names are also likely to be the arrestees' aliases.

78ers Honour Roll

1940s Chronology

  1. 1940s
  2. 1947 Events

World War II (1939-45) resulted in massive social dislocation in Australia with large numbers of young men living together away from home and large numbers of women also out of the home in the workforce.

The impact on the lives of gay and lesbian people remains substantially unresearched. Kinsey's first volume, 'Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male' of 1948, which may in part reflect war-time experiences, had a major impact on public thinking - both positive and negative.


If not in Sydney


November 1947


Police Commissioner William Johns reports to SA Parliament on the surge in sexual crime and notes that the national conference of police commissioners had resulted in “a generous system of collaboration between all police forces of the Commonwealth”. Johns reiterates a call for segregated colony for sex offenders. In 1948, SA police begin a blitz on homosexual men.

Updated: 11 May 2015 by John Witte using information in a chronology compiled by Robert French.


Venues 1940s


These camp venues are named in Garry Wotherspoon’s Gay Sydney: A History (2016) (GW) and slotted into the decades he allocates them. References are also made to his book, Being Different (1986).

Restaurants, coffee shops

Cahill’s Coffee Shop

GW notes the Market Street, Sydney branch opposite David Jones was as a discreet meeting place (GW interviews with Ian D September 1977 and John C March 1980). The telephone directory had no Cahills in Market Street.

California Coffee Shop

Originally listed in the 1930 telephone directory at 9 Darlinghurst Road, by the 1940s it is at 41 Darlinghurst Road Kings Cross. Frequented by a homosexual clientele in the 1940s.

Kashmir Coffee Lounge

Listed in the 1949 telephone directory at 105 Macleay Street, Kings Cross, it continued into the 1960s. With its walls painted by Rosaleen Norton, it was an important meeting place for bohemians and homosexuals – a place Carlotta felt safe. (Prue McSween I’m Not That Kind of Girl: Carlotta 2003)

Latin Cafe

Run by Madam Helen Pura, it attracted a wide spectrum of society, including a large homosexual clientele. (GW source: Interview with Madam Pura 1979). Listed in the phone directory from 1927 – 1956 at No.1, 2nd Floor Royal Arcade, between Market and Park Streets.

Mockbell’s Restaurant

GW notes it was a venue frequented by (male) artists and bohemians. (GW source: J. Lindsay The Roaring Twenties Penguin 1980). The phone directory lists “Mockbell Kabell, Mecca Coffee Houses” from 1925. In 1949 a Mockbells Restaurant was at 53 Castlereagh Street until 1954.

Rainard’s Restaurant

Located in the basement of 180 King Street, Sydney a favourite for Sydney’s homosexuals. It is listed in the 1930 telephone directory and was still operating into the 1950s.

Repin’s Coffee Shop

GW says this was patronised by workers and actors from the nearby Theatre Royal pre-war. The 1955 telephone directory lists two Repins, one at 130 and another at 138 Market Street, Sydney.

Shalimar Restaurant


A middle class restaurant, with musicians playing light music. Downstairs in the old T & G Insurance Building cnr Elizabeth and Park Streets. (GW source: Interview with Ian D, September 1977). Listed in the 1950 phone directory and was still operating in the 1960s.


Adam’s (Tattersall’s) Hotel (Marble Bar)

In Garry Wotherspoon’s Being Different John O’Donnell remembers the toilets always being busy pre-war. The address in the 1930 telephone directory is 259 Pitt Street, Sydney.

Belfields Hotel

A working class hotel on the corner of King and George Streets, Sydney. (GW source: B Warren “The Good Old Days of Kamp” Campaign 53 May 1980) Not listed in listed in telephone directory. Site developed as shops in 1955 (City Council records)

Carlton Hotel/Carlton Rex (Dugout Bar)

At 56 Castlereagh Street, Sydney the Carlton was close by other hotels popular with homosexuals in the City in the 1930s. The telephone directory lists this hotel in 1950 and for Adrian Dixon in Being Different it was among the “gayest bars mid-week”. It was renamed the Carlton Rex Hotel in 1958. The Boomerangs Social Group was formed in the Dugout Bar in 1967.

Hotel Australia, the Long bar/Sportsman’s Bar

One of the gayest bars mid-week, with a discreet entrance in Rowe Street, attracting professionals, white collar and country visitors.  (Source: G Wotherspoon, “History” Campaign 53) It was located at 45 Castlereagh Street, between Martin Place and King Street. Closed in 1971.

Pfahlerts Hotel

Described by Ken Johnson (PHG interview 051126 KJ) as “pimms, cocktails, leisurely, bit more screamy, possibly a queen’s bar”. Listed in 1930 – 1955 telephone directories at 50 Margaret Street, Sydney. (GW source: Ian D September 1977, Brian B March 1980, R Connell “The Way it Was” OWN 25, 20 October 1983)

Ushers Metropolitan Hotel

In Garry Wotherspoon’s Being Different John O’Donnell remembers this hotel as the “main one” pre-war and Adrian Dixon says that it was among the “gayest bars mid-week“ in the 1950s. The 1955 telephone directory lists the address as 64-68 Castlereagh Street, Sydney.

Dance venues, bars

Black Ada’s Academy School of Dancing

This was a major Saturday night venue for homosexuals, in a dimly lit large studio with a dance floor lined with tables.  Admittance only if Ada knew you. Wentworth Avenue. It closed down in the early 1940s. GW source: B Warren, “The Good Old Days of Kamp”, Campaign 53, May 1980). Not listed in phone directory.

Updated and revised: John Witte 22 August 2016