The Gold Coast has a population of over 600,000, but there is a distinct lack of spaces for the local LGBTQI community. In the past three years, the Gold Coast has seen the closure of its last remaining gay nightclubs, but according to Vince Siciliani, Director of Gold Coast Rainbow Communities, the issues run much deeper than just a lack of queer and safe spaces.
“The main challenge is that it’s still very backwards here on the coast, it’s very homophobic.” Siciliani tells us, adding that, “When we run public events, we often get a lot of people passing by and commenting, and not necessarily very nice comments.”
In an extreme example of this kind of culture, a homophobic attack, which took place in 2019, saw a 21 year old man and his younger brother hunted down by about 10 teenagers. The 21 year old suffered broken ribs and a swollen face after the attack. His younger brother suffered fractured ribs, a swollen eye and split lip.
Gold Coast Pride
And Siciliani should know. Last year and despite the still ongoing COVID19 pandemic, he and the team at Gold Coast Rainbow Communities team managed to pull off the impossible, putting on the Gold Coast’s first pride march.
Though due to restrictions on public gatherings, only a small number of people were allowed to participate, this year’s event, held last week however was well attended and as Siciliani tells us was “Definitely what the community needed a lot of people said that they haven’t felt so connected to community for a very long time.”
“We’ve had a very positive response.”
“We’ve been working tirelessly to do activities almost every month just so the community can feel connected, even though we don’t have a venue at the moment, our events are well supported and always something the community enjoys. Our long term goal of the rainbow community on the Gold Coast is to open a pride centre here where we can bring all the essential services together.” Siciliani adds.
Folau Welcome Irks Community
Recently, Israel Folau’s attempt at an NRL comeback via Gold Coast NRL team the Southport Tigers, all with the support of businessman Clive Palmer, who is reportedly paying the dual international over $200,000 to play in the local competition, has raised concerns with Gold Coast LGBTQI communities.
“It certainly talks to the type of culture that is here on the Gold Coast and its not very good for the LGBTQI community. We are very disappointed that South Port Tigers signed Israel Folau and it just goes to show what the Tiger’s values are,” Siciliani explains.
Another local Don Balfour agrees. “It’s absolutely disgusting, I’ve been a social justice advocate for many years, I went through the AIDS epidemic in Sydney and fought for human rights back then. We seem to take one step forward then two steps back. Equality in sport and acceptance, they’ve done this massive campaign for many years and they have one idiot that ruins it.”
Balfour originally from Melbourne has lived on the Gold Coast for more than a decade and was for a time the Head DJ for Rise Nightclub which closed at the end of 2018. “It’s shit, there is nothing up here. On the Gold Coast if one person does something and it’s a success, there are four or five others which will pop up to do the same thing everyone else has done.”
Reflecting on times before the closure of the Gold Coast’s last remaining LGBTQI venues, Balfour said: “Rise was the most amazing club on Cavill Avenue, but that closed in June 2018, and the other club we had closed not long after that. I think the Gold Coast has a lot to offer but there is nothing here for our community. The Pride Festival, I believe have done a very good job but I also think the scene has been watered down terribly all over Australia, and COVID has kicked a lot of people out.”
Hope On The Horizon
But is there hope on the horizon? One local resident who certainly believes there is, is drag performerMarty Koch from Haus Of Kace, who told The Star Observer that the Gold Coast “is definitely growing. In the next coming months, we are about to see a new venue popping up on the Gold Coast.”
This new venue will be an official gay venue, Koch explains adding that around the Broadbeach area they are expecting to see a lot of growth and change in coming months and years.
“For myself, it’s been tricky, my relation to the scene is as a drag performer and artist, but there hasn’t been much that we have been able to do collectively since Rise or Escape shut down. But us locals have kept in touch since then and tried to bring everyone together but it’s hard without a central hub.”
“With the Gold Coast it’s an absolutely incredible place with so much to offer everyone.” Koch concludes. “I think for the LGBTQI community it has so much potential. We want to bring the scene back with a bang in the right way, with a lot more love and less toxic behaviour. The people that are behind all these projects have incredibly amazing intent behind them, I think that’s why we are going to see a massive shift and change in the Gold Coast LGBTQI communities.”
So, is it trouble in paradise, or is there hope on the horizon for Gold Coast’s rainbow communities? Only time will tell.
To find out more about the work of Gold Coast Rainbow Communities, head to the organisation’s website.