A retired Tasmanian man is currently raising money to help preserve the state’s queer history, and research gaps in the national archives.

Robert Thompson, whose involvement in the queer community spans forty years, says money towards oral history equipment will help him document Tasmania’s queer history prior to the fight for marriage equality, particularly during the forties, fifties, and sixties.

“As a consequence of the remoteness of the various settlements here, there was and probably still is a wide underground gay life, with informal social groups and venues” he told the Star Observer.

“These flourished in even the most ‘redneck’ towns and their existence and activities will be lost forever if those still living do not record their experiences.

“I’m hoping to research and document the venues of the time – the hotels friendly to gay gatherings, meeting places, race meetings, fox hunts – the point is to outline and record a very valid and colourful vein of Tasmanian social history.

“Bear in mind that most of the participants [in this underground gay life] were fully functioning members of society with families and children of their own.”

If Thompson raises his $1,000 target, his interviews will be conducted on archive-quality digital recorders for the purpose of oral history work. Written recollections and any other relevant material will also be accepted for the project.

Copies of the recordings will then be lodged with interested archives including the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives (ALGA).

Nick Henderson from ALGA says Tasmania has very colourful pre-marriage equality queer histories, as with all state and territories in Australia.

“One of the most prominent campaigners in the fight for Australian marriage equality, Tasmanian Rodney Croome, bridges a number of these recent histories,” he told the Star Observer.

“Preceding decriminalisation and anti-discrimination campaigns during the late eighties and nineties, [Croome] was a key activist through the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (TGLRL).

“Tasmania’s queer history of course extends further back than the TGLRL – from reports of lesbian relationships at the Hobart Female Factory in the colonial period and the hints of the camp community in Fern Tree, to the literary circle of novelist Marie Bjelke Petersen in the twenties and the camp networks in the sixties and seventies in Hobart venues such as Hadley’s Hotel, St Ives Hotel, and the New Sydney Hotel.”

Henderson added that Tasmanian queer histories are important to record, preserve, and celebrate, and that ALGA had been advising and supporting Thompson’s fundraising and research to date.

“We look forward to the extension of our important existing Tasmanian collections to ensure a broader and deeper coverage of oral history recordings focusing on Tasmania, and extending the ability to support research into Tasmanian queer history in the future,” he said.

To donate to Thompson’s research and archiving project you can visit his GoFundMe page here.

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