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









1960 - 1966






















































In late 1980, the late Michael Glynn, founder and owner of the Sydney Star newspaper (which he had started the year before) had a brain child, “to establish an association of business people to promote the interests of gay business”

It was his challenge to get people interested and bring the subterranean gay community to the surface and form an out and proud vibrant gay business community.

Pride History Group and SGLBA member, Ian McLean presented this paper at a conference in 2015.

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History of the SGLBA


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


* 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. John Ware and Christabel Poll's appearance in the national media in September articulating the aims and concerns of the Campaign Against Moral Persecution, sparked the birth of homosexual rights/liberation organisations across Australia.



What led up to the coming out? The John Ware interview.

John Ware and Christabel Poll lived with their same sex partners in the Delmont Apartments at Milsons Point, a harbourside suburb of Sydney. Both were tertiary educated as were many of their friends. The impetus behind them forming a "gay liberation group" is told to Ken Davis and Robert French in an interview with John in 1990 for the magazine Outrage.

RF - John can I start by asking you what it was you expected to happen when you agreed to make the announcement of the formation of Camp Inc in September 1970

JW - I don't think I can answer the question. That's not what happened. I didn't agree to do anything.

RF - You didn't agree to do it?

JW - It means that there was someone to agree for, to agree with but there was no question of this. There was only me and Christabel Poll, that is all.

I did it partly as a result of a psych course I was doing at the time. I don't know if you know psychologists, especially academic psychologists, as I have ... they're pretty screwed up. They were saying I was sick and psychologically disturbed because I was gay and they were promoting aversion therapy. I wouldn’t support it.

And I think about that time either Stonewall happened or there was something happening in America. [The first Gay Pride march in New York in June 1970 on the first anniversary of Stonewall, which was reported in The Australian and the Canberra Times on 30 June]. This gave us the notion that one could do something, stand up and be countered and challenge the system. Continued ...


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The article that started Australia's lesbian and gay movement - The Australian 19th September 1970

The "Couples" article, a commentary

by John Witte

“Couples” was an article that appeared in the national Rupert Murdoch publication, The Australian on 19th September 1970. Reporter Janet Hawley was sent to John Ware and Christabel Poll’s block of units in Milsons Point to interview John and his partner Michael Cass and Christabel Poll. John had announced the formation of CAMP in a letter to the editor and The Australian saw a news item in it.

Janet places the formation of CAMP in the context of Gay Liberation Week in New York a month before and the vibrant local camp scene, where US performer, Frances Faye was an icon of local “friends of Dorothy”.

CAMP is introduced as a homosexual and lesbian organisation which aims at a “redefining of the homosexual’s place in society. It champion’s Pierre Trudeau’s comment that the ‘Government has no place in the bedrooms of the nation’ and will agitate for law reform”.

The tone of the article is non confrontational. John at the age of 30 was referred to in the diminutive “boy” and John and Michael’s flat was quite ordinary,

“The kitchen has red enamelled saucepans and a coffee pot, hanging lengths of salami, mozzarella cheese, garlic and a wooden shelf lined with 50 different herbs and spices. But it could be any bachelor’s pad, now that the in-thing is to be the accomplished international cook.”

Only when Michael refers to John as “darling” does it come home to the reporter, she was no longer in Kansas, “it struck home: my God, they really are queer.”

The article gives John and Chris a platform to espouse the developing aims of CAMP and early arguments redefining the homosexual’s place in Australian society;

  • “Homosexuals and lesbians are no odd ball minority – we’re a very large sub-group in the society ...
  • “CAMP Inc claims there are 600,000 homosexuals in Australia ...
  • “It’s taken this long because homosexuals are generally guilt ridden traumatic, laden with persecution complexes, and terrified to admit what they are, because they fear recriminations from society and employers ...
  • “They still get guilt ridden and think they’re ghastly ...
  • CAMP will encourage “coming out”, so “that the public will eventually get rid of their misconceptions ...
  • “We’re not looking for a cure ...
  • “Homosexuals are made before puberty. There is no choice ...
  • “Public toilets – ‘bogs’ in camp jargon (sic) (are) the quickest and surest way of finding another lonely homosexual ...
  • “Certainly some (lesbian couples) are like this (fem/butch role play), but they are the exception ..."

The article finally gives the GPO Box number and what CAMP wants to do,

“We want to produce brochures, organise debates, lectures, discussion groups, make all facts as widely known as possible and attack misconceptions when we see them”, says John.

CAMP will not hold any demonstrations in Martin Plaza: ”We’d probably be thrown in Hyde Park fountain.”

Interestingly, the reporter in a nod to the large well established Sydney camp social scene, surmises that CAMP “will try to encourage homosexuals to get away from the in-group stuff, the jargon, the secrecy, classic products of insecurity felt by any minority, and in turn generating hostility”. (My emphasis)

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