The Australian Lesbian & Gay Archives (ALGA) says it has not been approached to be a part of a new gay and lesbian museum and cultural centre in Melbourne.
Peel Hotel owner Tom McFeely announced last week that he has submitted a proposal to Yarra City Council to turn a disused former church hall at 12 Peel St into an interactive gay and lesbian cultural space.
ALGA president Graham Willett said the archives had not been contacted about McFeely’s plans.
“We were very surprised to read in the media about Mr McFeely’s idea,” Willett said.
“The Australian Lesbian & Gay Archives has been actively collecting, preserving and educating people about the history of Australia’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer communities for over 30 years.
“We are always open to discussions about further raising the profile of these histories in the community.”
McFeely told the Star Observer this week he believes a gay and lesbian cultural centre would fit in the area because Peel St is “synonymous with gayness”.
“When I put the submission in a few months ago, apart from realising there was an empty building [in Peel St], it also coincided with coming back from Canberra, visiting the War Memorial up there and looking at the interactive museum they have,” he told the Star Observer.
“I felt there’s been a need for [a gay and lesbian history museum] here.
“I like the thought of school groups coming through, and AFL footballers coming through, if they want to get a better understanding of our culture.”
McFeely said the plan is in its early stages and will rely on the council’s response to his proposal.
“What we wanted to do was sound the council out, to see if in fact it’s something they’d consider before going as far as working out programs or a curator,” McFeely said.
“Once the council gives a more indicative sign, I think we can then take it a stage further.”
Yarra Mayor Alison Clarke told the Star Observer a formal expression of interest process to use the building has not yet been put in place.
“In recent years, it has been our intention to refurbish the old church hall so it can be used by the community,” Clarke said.
“Mr McFeely’s proposal is worth exploring, as the gay community makes an important contribution to Yarra, and has an important role in our local history.
“However, we haven’t even discussed renovating the building or setting up an expression of interest process yet.” McFeely said, if given the green light, he would work with all parts of the community to get the space up and running.
“All I really want to do is help facilitate it and those with knowledge and expertise can hopefully see it come to fruition and keep it going,” he said.
McFeely said the proposal has the backing of gay businesses in the area and has already attracted some corporate interest.
Earlier this year McFeely announced he intended to float popular gay venue the Peel Hotel and allow gay and lesbian community members to become shareholders.
He said his plans to release a prospectus to publicly list the company have been delayed since his recent acquisition of gay Richmond pub, DT’s Hotel.
McFeely is awaiting licensing approval for DT’s. He said the prospectus, to be released in coming months, would including DT’s in the float.
Partly housed at the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre in South Yarra, ALGA has a collection of over 100,000 items of queer significance.