Francesca Curtis, the first woman to come out as lesbian on Australian television passed away, aged 90, on Christmas Eve. She is survived by Phyllis Papps, her partner of over 50 years.

Francesca and her longtime partner, Phyllis Papps were featured on the ABC program This Day Tonight in October 1970 when they openly spoke about their sexual orientation, their relationship and lifestyle. 

Shortly before their national television appearance, the two had exchanged wedding rings.

Why Did She Have to Tell the World? was a documentary that was made about the couple. It premiered earlier this year at the Mardi Gras Film Festival. 

Why Did She Have to Tell the World?


On the Why Did She Have to Tell the World? Facebook page, filmmakers Abbie Pobjoy and Bonny Scott wrote: “We are sending all our thoughts to her lifetime partner Phyllis Papps, friends, family and all that knew her. 


“We feel so privileged to be able to share her story and her friendship. Francesca’s humour, courage and kindness will never be forgotten. 

“Her never ending fight for equality and acceptance will carry on and always inform the younger generations. Rest In Peace Francesca, you will always be with us.”

One Twitter user wrote: “Vale Francesca Curtis. Together with her partner of over 50 years, Phyllis Papps, a true champion of LGBTIQ+ equality and rights from the 70s to now.” 

A Feminist And A True Champion Of LGBTQI Equality

While Curtis and Papps gave access to the public to their lives on This Day Tonight, male homosexuality was illegal nationwide although there were no laws that mentioned same-sex relations between women. 

Curtis and Papps said they met in activist circles and became members of The Daughters of Bilitis, Australia’s first homosexual political rights group. It was later renamed the Australasian Lesbian Movement and was the first forum of its kind where lesbians could talk about their sexualities. 

Curtis was a feminist and writer of short stories, poetry and satire who spent her early years in Leongatha and Wonthaggi before moving to Melbourne then the Victorian Bass Coast. 

She received a lifetime achievement award from the Australian LGBTI Awards. While giving her speech, she called on Australia’s young people to continue working on progressing LGBTQIA+ rights for which she was given a standing ovation. 

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.







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