Pioneering political activism group CAMP Inc will receive a special award at this year’s Honour Awards benefit, recognising their trailblazing work in Australia’s LGBTI community.

The 2018 Honour Awards will be the 12th instalment of ACON’s yearly gala fundraising event, where CAMP Inc will receive the prestigious President’s Award.

The awards recognise significant contributions to, and in service of, the LGBTI community in New South Wales.

CAMP Inc, also known as the Campaign Against Moral Persecution, was founded in 1970 with the aim of raising visibility of gay and lesbian people in Australia, reducing isolation and improving mental health among members of the community.

CAMP was established by John Ware, Christabel Poll and their partners, and they held the first gay demonstration in Australia, protesting on 6 October 1971 in support of Tom Hughes, a candidate for pre-selection who supported gay law reform.

Further demonstrations in favour of law reform and tackling discrimination by psychiatrists, the church and others followed.

In 1973 CAMP Inc established the telephone counselling service, ‘Phone-a-Friend’, which came to later dominate the group’s work.

Member of CAMP Inc and Mardi Gras ’78er Peter de Waal recalled the day CAMP Inc was brought to the attention of the Australian public and the legacy of that moment.

“The 10th of September 1970 was a very significant day for Australian homosexuals.

“On this day Janet Hawley wrote in The Australian about the founding of CAMP Inc – the Campaign Against Moral Persecution – the first Australian national homosexual rights movement.

“John Ware, one of the founders of CAMP Inc, stated in the article, ‘CAMP Inc hopes to get rid of the numerous misinterpretations about homosexuality by encouraging homosexuals to admit that they are, and to discuss it openly’.

“John’s ‘coming out’ observation, nearly 50 years ago, is as relevant today as it was all those years ago.

“The naming of the first 1978 Sydney Mardi Gras came out of a CAMP Inc executive meeting,” de Waal said.

“The precursor of the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service – Phone-A-Friend – is a direct descendant of CAMP Inc”

“Their contribution to our community has been literally life-saving and it’s particularly timely to acknowledge their collective achievements given the huge progress towards equality our community has made over the past year,” said ACON President Dr Justin Koonin of the award.

“The fact that the LGBTI community has been able to achieve as much as it has towards equality and rights in NSW is testament to their devotion and passion in improving the lives of our community.

“They were amongst some of the first pioneers for lesbian and gay rights in Australia and ACON is proud to be acknowledging their enormous contributions to our communities.”

’78er Robyn Plaister said that the recognition of early activists is a reminder of how far the LGBTI community has come.

“Recognition by ACON of the work that CAMP Inc has covered is important for all of us who spent our early years fighting for the rights of both lesbians and gay men,” Plaister said.

“Many rights that we take for granted now such as lesbian mother custody rights, adoption, fostering, teacher rights in public schools, taking homosexuality off the psychiatric illnesses list, and bringing partners to Australia from overseas were put in place due to the work of both female and male activists in CAMP over the years.”

Members of CAMP Inc will be present at the awards on October 3, at which ’78er Robyn Kennedy is nominated for Community Hero alongside Sue Thompson, Peta Friend and Shane Brown.

For more information about this year’s finalists or to purchase tickets, head to www.honourawards.com.au.

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