Anti-homosexual laws, alongside broader homophobia and transphobia, ruined the lives of many men and women who were arrested, bashed or 'treated'. LGBTIQ people responded by creating an underground homosexual and transgender world.

A movement for lesbian and gay rights began with the founding of CAMP Inc and Sydney Gay Liberation. The straight world saw gays in demonstrations and protests as a result.

The movement branched into counselling, Women’s Health Centres, media, national conferences, law reform groups and the Mardi Gras. 



Back Then...

There was widespread fear and disgust of homosexuals and transgender people in society. Most camps (homosexuals) hid but some faced this world as queers, lessos, poofs or “practising homosexuals”.

Ken Garrahy describes the police surveillance and harassment homosexuals were subject to.

Dennis McManus was sent for “treatment”.

Geoff Ostling’s parents never forgave him.

Colin Wiseman describes police actions at beats and how he and his union fought his homophobic sacking.

Activists like Charlie Bowers believed the camp commercial world had reasons to keep clear of the gay rights movement.




The formation of a gay rights group in Sydney in 1970 was inspired by what was happening in America.

Ian Black knew the founders of Camp Inc.

Peter Trebilco describes the formation of Camp Inc.

Brian Woodward describes the first public meeting, and Mark Matheson describes going to their club rooms.

And when they held their first demonstration, John Storey remembers the night.

CAMP Inc established Phone-a-friend, the precursor to the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service. Brian Woodward was involved.

CAMP’s lobbying was another of its achievements. Robyn Plaister elaborates.

In October 1972 Peter De Waal his partner and another couple front up to a national TV audience.  Peter De Waal describes the consequences of the ABC Chequerboard Program.


Watch -- ABC Chequerboard Program

The groundbreaking Australian 1972 ABC documentary on gays and lesbians, the first to feature a gay male kiss on Australian television. It features interviews with Peter de Waal, Peter Bonsall-Boone, Gaby Antolovich and Sue Wills.

In 1972 Peter Bonsall Boone (Bon) and his partner Peter de Waal "came out" on Chequerboard. Their open revelations on life as a homosexual couple were a television first in Australia, however it was their brief kiss hello that caused the most stir in public reaction, a pivotal moment as the first male to male kiss on Australian television and possibly even the world happened.

Peter and Bon agreed to appear on the original Chequerboard series as a political statement, yet even they could not have imagined the wide reaching ramifications of their daring actions. The first reaction was from Bon's employer who sacked him from his job as a secretary in a church in Mosman on Sydney's North Shore after the show went to air. Having started off as simply another couple on television, they became the focal point of gay rights activism and have spent their life after Chequerboard campaigning relentlessly.



Sydney Gay Lib

Gay Liberation split from CAMP. It had other ideas about change.

John Storey witnessed the split.

Dennis Altman was the media face of Sydney Gay Liberation and Anton Veenstra remembers him speaking to students.

Gay Lib was more in your face. Dennis McManus describes a zap.

Katy O’Rourke relates her experiences at consciousness raising groups.

In June 1973, Jeremy Fisher was expelled from his college at Macquarie University and he describes what happened and the intervention of a union, the Builders Labourer’s Federation.

There were a couple of Centres and Gary Schliemann describes what happened there.


Gay Pride Week in 1973 was the first national gay protest. In Sydney it ended in violent mass arrests.

Terry Rolfe helped plan the week and was arrested.

Diane Minnis and Katy O’Rourke describe Gay Pride Week.



Gays On The Job

In the mid to late 70s, job-based groups became active to prevent discrimination and sackings and to tackle ignorance about homosexuality. The most active was the Gay Teachers and the Lesbian Teachers Groups.

Edd Ashmore talks about these groups.

Geoff Ostling has vivid memories of the Homosexuality Kit.

Ian MacNeill was also an active member.



Women’s Movement

Many lesbians left gay activism and worked in the women’s movement on specific demands or issues.

Sandra Mackay talks about this time.

Annie Parkinson remembers the Rape Crisis Centre.

Katy O’Rourke tells us about when a group of women challenged the ban on women in Public Hotel Bars.



Within The Church

Cross+Section was an attempt by Christian gay activists in CAMP to move the churches to a progressive stand on homosexuality from within.

Peter Bonsall-Boone describes the group.

Fabian LoSchiavo explains that Angays continued this work.



A Gay Media

A key demand for the fledgling gay movement was that there be a gay media. The Gay Waves radio program at Radio 2SERFM was set up in the late 70s along these lines.

David Urquhart was an early contributor.



Law Reform

After NSW homosexual law reform in 1984, efforts to bring about equality between heterosexual and homosexuals continued.

As the first openly gay member of Parliament in NSW, Paul O’Grady describes what it was like as a member of the ALP and member of parliament.




The 1990s saw queer activism arrive in Australia.

Amanda Crammon talks about Queer Girls Queer Boys groups at Sydney University, and Queer Collaborations.