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Pride Month at the National Library

Pride Month at the National Library
On the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, take a look through some of the LGBTIQ material that the Library is proud to hold.
28 June 2020

For many years, June has been recognised as Pride Month. It is a time to both commemorate and celebrate the journey of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) community and to reflect on progress yet to be made.

Karl Sharp, Protesters Gather at 'Equal Rights for Same Sex Marriage' Rally, Taylor Square, Sydney, May 2004 [picture], nla.cat-vn3257795.

The origins of June as Pride Month can be traced to a brutal police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York City on 28 June 1969 where LGBTIQ patrons fought back. While there had been earlier riots and resistance in the US, the Stonewall riots ignited a movement for liberation that reverberated across the world.

The Library holds a wealth of collection material about LGBTIQ people in Australia. Collection material covers the very early years of the public movement through to the contribution and issues faced by LGBTIQ people in contemporary Australia. Collection material is both sobering in documenting the traumatic situations people have lived through and inspiring in recording profound and hard-won victories.

In 1969, the Daughters of Bilitis, Australia’s first gay rights group, based on a US group of the same name, formed in Melbourne. Two members of the group, Francesca Curtis and Phyllis Papps, were the first lesbian couple to appear on Australian national television when they appeared on This Day Tonight in October 1970. They took this courageous step when being visible carried with it very real risk. The Library holds an oral history interview with Francesca Curtis and Phyllis Papps in the LGBTIQ Pioneers Oral History Project.

In February 1971, the Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP) formed in Sydney with the aim of bringing together homosexual people to provide social support and work for equal treatment under the law. The first Co-Presidents of CAMP, confirmed in 1972, were Lex Watson and Sue Wills. Branches of CAMP were active all across Australia during the 1970s. The Library holds issues of CAMP’s magazine, CAMP Ink, from 1970 to 1977, available online via TROVE.

On 24 June 1978, a day and evening of events was organised by the gay and lesbian community in Sydney around the anniversary of the Stonewall riots to draw attention to discrimination and to express solidarity with others around the world. The evening parade, described as a ‘Mardi Gras’, ended with violence as police responded brutally and arrested 53 people. Many were subsequently beaten in their prison cells.

Despite these difficult beginnings, the event now known as the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has continued and is now one of the largest celebrations of LGBTIQ people and culture in the world. In 2018, it celebrated its 40th anniversary. It continues to draw attention to LGBTIQ issues nationally and globally. The events of the first Mardi Gras and subsequent years are captured in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Oral History Project Julie McCrossin, who marched in the very first Mardi Gras and went on to have a very successful media career, is amongst one of many who share their story. Images taken by photographer William Yang also capture the rich history of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

One of the gravest challenges the LGBTIQ community has had to confront has been the devastating impact of the HIV and AIDS epidemic. Amongst such grief, the community helped to develop one of the world’s best responses to the epidemic. Collection material that captures this includes the Australian Response to AIDS Oral History Project, which was undertaken in collaboration with the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO). William Yang photographs also capture the grief and emotion of this time. 

William Yang, The Last Candle, AIDS Vigil [The Domain, Sydney], 1994, nla.cat-vn3097674.

One of the most visible recent campaigns for LGBTIQ rights centered around the movement for marriage equality. This campaign is captured in a wide range of collection material, including photographs, the Marriage Equality Oral History Project and posters and ephemera.

The movement for LGBTIQ equality continues beyond the marriage equality campaign. Oral histories such as that of Katherine Cummings, who won the Australian Human Rights Award for Non-Fiction for her autobiography, Katherine’s Diary, provide important accounts of the strength leaders from the transgender and gender diverse community have shown in challenging prejudice and working for reform.

The web archive also continues to capture the important activism that has been conducted by groups such as Organisation Intersex International Australia (OII) (now Intersex Human Rights Australia) and Genderqueer Australia.

The Library recognises that the significant and ongoing history of LGBTIQ Australians must be preserved for future generations. TROVE provides a platform that connect people from all across the country—and the world—with that material. We hope you will be inspired and moved by the people and perspectives in the Library’s LGBTIQ collection.