When Noel Tovey was arrested for the “the abominable crime of buggery” on two counts, the vilification he faced in Australia was severe.

“For the first eight years I had a terrible time, I was vilified by every newspaper in Melbourne and I couldn’t get a job,” he told the Star Observer.

“I couldn’t even be seen with my friends in public because I was a known criminal.

“When I made my professional debut in the musical Paint Your Wagon the dancers in the show at the time didn’t even want to work with me – they said I was a notorious homosexual, that I’d been in jail, and that I was Aboriginal.”

Police followed Tovey up until he moved abroad to England for thirty years.

“In England they were changing their homosexual laws whereas in Australia the police were still arresting people,” he said.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in Victoria in 1981, but the state parliament only passed the historic gay sex convictions expungement bill in 2014 – which allows the men affected to apply to have any historic convictions of consensual homosexual sex removed from their records as if they never existed in the first place.

Now, 64 years since his conviction, Tovey has had his application to expunge it approved by the Department of Justice and Regulation.

And the Victorian Government plan to make a formal state apology to the men who were previously convicted in parliament this week.

Tovey said while the expungement bill is important for a lot of people, the apology is a natural next step.

“My approval for expungement is great, but a formal apology means another step towards recognising homosexual men as actual people,” he said.

“The apology is also another step towards recognising it’s only a matter of time until Australia needs to accept same-sex marriage.”

Tovey said he hopes with the expungement bill having passed and the apology on its way, more men will feel comfortable applying to have their convictions expunged.

“I’m hoping now that a lot of those men come forward, come out, stop being obscure, and apply for expungement,” he said.

‘By remaining as if it’s something obscure, the others win.

“It’s now a good time to come and get it over and done with, that’s what the apology is about… that it never should have happened.”

Despite his conviction occurring 64 years ago Tovey has continued to champion LGBT rights ever since.

“I’m still fighting for what I believed in then, and that’s to be accepted.”

The state apology will take place in Victorian parliament on Tuesday May 24.

 

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