Mardi Gras is a time I look back on how far we’ve come in overcoming discrimination and persecution on the grounds of sexuality and gender identity.

Once upon a time — in Australia, in living memory — you could have been imprisoned (in a mental hospital or a jail) just for being who you were. Homosexuality was still on the Australian Medical Association’s list of disorders until 1984. Male homosexuality was decriminalised the same year.

We’re celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP), Australia’s first gay and lesbian activist organisation and an integral part of the struggle towards equal rights.

Formed in 1970 by John Ware and Christobel Poll, CAMP operated as an umbrella organisation for issue-based sub-groups working on law reform, publicity and support.

By 1981 CAMP’s activities mostly focused on supporting the community via the counselling line and providing public education. The company changed its name to Gays Counselling Service (GCS) in 1983, and Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service of NSW (GLCS) in 1990.

To celebrate our birthday and the 40-year history of activism and support in Sydney, we are:

Opening the Archives — an exhibition to celebrate 40 years of CAMP and GLCS, in collaboration with the Pride History Group www.pridehistorygroup.org.au

Opening: Wednesday, March 9, 6pm-8.30pm, 43 Bedford St, Newtown. To be opened by the Honourable Michael Kirby followed by special guest speakers. The archival exhibition will then be open March 10 – 11, 4pm-7.30pm, and March 12, 10am-12.30pm.

Viewings outside these hours may be arranged through GLCS on 02 8594 9500 or admin@glcsnsw.org.au The exhibition will be held upstairs which may pose accessibility issues. Contact the office for information.

Counselling lines open daily 5.30pm-9.30pm: 02 8594 9596 or 1800 184 527 (freecall regional NSW). Visit www.glcsnsw.org.au

info: Fiona Paskulich is the GLCS administration coordinator.

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