THE stories of LGBTI Victorians before homosexuality was decriminalised will be collected as a part of a project tying in with the state government’s upcoming apology to those who were convicted of consensual gay sex offences.

The project, titled Illegal Love, will record and present first-hand stories of gay Victorian life before decriminalisation in 1980.

The initiative is being developed by ABC Open and the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives (ALGA), with the latter also planning to showcase an exhibition about the history of law reform around decriminalisation.

ALGA committee member Nick Henderson said the project and the government’s apology would both help reduce the stigma faced by those previously convicted.

“Hopefully the expungement of these offences and the apology will provide an acknowledgement of the hurt it caused, as well as recognition that what was done was wrong,” he told the Star Observer.

“Part of the project is to provide a framework where people can provide their stories in their own setting, it’s giving a voice to the people whose voices haven’t really been heard.

“With the exhibition, we hope to show a broader overview of that movement towards law reform while also looking at the personal experiences of those who were criminalised.”

At Midsumma’s Pride March earlier this year, Premier Daniel Andrews announced the Victorian Government would make a formal apology to those convicted of consensual gay sex crimes.

“They’re all owed an apology and they’re all going to get a full and frank one on the floor of parliament,” he told the Star Observer at the time.

Illegal Love will be presented in the lead up to the apology in May, and the ALGA’s exhibition will be showcased in Queens Hall at Parliament House in Melbourne.

Henderson believes the process of Victoria’s apology and reform has played out far better than it has in other instances.

“The recent apologies in NSW, particularly by the police, were announced on the day and the [Mardi Gras] 78ers weren’t even told,” he said.

“The parliamentary apology was even limited, because the Premier wasn’t there.

“So this is being done in the best possible way, because it’s being done by Victoria’s Premier and Minister for Equality.”

The exhibition will feature expansive content covering the history of decriminalisation in Victoria and the road to law reform.

“We’ve got photos, and interviews… from instances such as the Blackrock Beach arrests, where over 100 people were arrested in the summer of 1966 and 1967,” he said.

“In a sense it really helped to kick start the campaign around decriminalisation.

“The project and exhibition will be effective engagement processes, and supporting them will be very important.”

If you’d like to share your story about Victoria pre-decriminalisation, reach out via http://bitly.com/illegallove.

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