IN the Star Observer’s May 8, 1997 edition, we featured a double-page feature on the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Tasmania.

The state’s Legislative Council passed the laws that no longer made homosexuality a crime on May 1 at 5pm, which up until then was an offence punishable by up to 25 years in jail.

Rodney Croome, a Tasmanian native who was at the centre of the campaign that dominated his life for almost a decade, wrote an article (see image below) about the long-awaited reforms.

“After nine long years, we had achieved the reform we sometimes thought would never happen,” wrote Croome, who is now the current Australian Marriage Equality national director.

“Our very own Berlin Wall had tumbled to the ground.”

He also went on to write: “The successful completion of the gay law reform in Tasmania has enormous and very positive implications for Tasmania and the nation.”

Since 1997, Tasmania’s reforms on LGBTI rights have been described by many — including Croome himself — as some of the most extensive and noteworthy in the world.

They were the last state in Australia to decriminalise homosexuality, but the first to introduce a state-based bill to legalise same-sex marriage, which failed to pass through parliament in 2012.

In the 1997 article for the Star Observer (then known as Sydney Star Observer) Croome foreshadowed Tasmania’s progressive future:

“Perhaps the most profound impact of the passage of gay law reform is on Tasmania society. In the words of Greens leader Christine Milne [who is now the national Greens leader], ‘gay law reform is to social justice in Tasmania as the Franklin Dam was to the environment’.

“Nine years of constantly debating gay law reform has utterly transformed the island’s people and establishment into one of the most tolerant communities in the country.”

How the Star Observer (then known as Sydney Star Observer) covered the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Tasmania in its May 8, 1997 issue. (Source: Star Observer archives)

How the Star Observer (then known as Sydney Star Observer) covered the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Tasmania in its May 8, 1997 issue. (Source: Star Observer archives)

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Timeline of when each Australian jurisdiction decriminalised homosexuality: 

South Australia: 1975

Victoria: 1980

Northern Territory: 1983

NSW: 1984

ACT: 1985

Western Australia: 1990

Queensland: 1990

Commonwealth of Australia: 1994

Tasmania: 1997

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RELATED: 30 years on: Star Observer’s front cover when being gay in NSW was decriminalised

 

 

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