On Sunday November 29 First Mardi Gras Inc will hold an online forum entitled Fifty Years Of Visibility: Pioneers And Connections Before 1978. The forum will take place in two parts, and will focus on the history of gay and lesbian activism in the lead up to the first Mardi Gras in 1978.

Ken Davis and Dianne Minnis, co-chairs of First Mardi Gras Inc both spoke to Star Observer about the significance in recognising this period of history of LGBTQI activism prior to Mardi Gras.

Mr Davis stated that this year marks “the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the lesbian and gay movement in Australia.” In acknowledging the significance of Mardi Gras in the history of LGBTQI Australians, Mr Davis went on to state that “prior to that there was an enormous movement from 1970 onwards.” Ms Minnis particularly pointed out the “Australian lesbian movement in Melbourne,” which began in 1969.

Mr Davis spoke briefly about this period, recognising the formation of CAMP as a “watershed” moment, but also exploring the significance of the “diversity of people” involved in various organisations around Australia. Mr Davis also spoke about the significance of recognising this period of history, speaking about it, and allowing those who were involved to reflect on the period. “Coming out was a very difficult and brave thing, there was no protection,” Mr Davis stated in reference to the 1970s in Australia. “I think it’s hard for young people now to understand the environment of the movement, and why we felt so rebellious.”

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 Dianne Minnis also spoke with Star Observer about the forum. Ms Minnis explained that the forum will be split into two, with the first one featuring Abbie Pobjoy speaking about the Australasian Lesbian Movement from 1969, Gabrielle Antolovich and Barry Charles speaking about CAMP Inc, Women’s and Gay Liberation, Robert French speaking of a historical timeline of early activism and Dennis Altman speaking about the US influences and the early Sydney scene.

Part two will then feature Jamie Gardiner speaking about the UK experience and law reform for LGBTQI people before 1978, Jade Munro speaking about early Gay Liberation in Melbourne and Robyn Kennedy speaking about the progression of early activism from CAMP Inc onwards. Diane Minnis and Ken Davis will also participate in the second forum themselves, with Ms Minnis speaking about early lesbian activism in Melbourne and Sydney, and Mr Davis speaking about the progression from early activism to the triggers for 1978.

Registration is free and can be done online

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