Clutch your pearls, we’re thirty

Clutch your pearls, we’re thirty

This week Sydney Star Observer celebrates 30 years of publishing. We are the oldest gay and lesbian newspaper not only in Australia, but in the southern hemisphere.

For 30 years we have given gay Sydney, and gay Australia, a voice -” a privilege we are immensely proud of.

In the following pages you will find some of the key moments from the last 30 years. Moments that not only shaped the Sydney Star Observer, but changed Australia’s gay community for all time.

We’d like to take this opportunity to say thanks for picking us up every week for the last 30 years – it is humbling to be such a trusted member of this wonderful community.

We trust you will continue to do the same for many more years to come.

Scott Abrahams

Editor and Publisher

1979 – A new Star is born

Michael Glynn emigrated to Australia in 1971 after becoming disillusioned with his country’s involvement in the Vietnam War, and quickly came to love this country as his own, seeing in it a potential-¦ to achieve a greatness unmatched by any other nation.

With just one gay magazine and no gay newspapers serving the country, he saw both a business opportunity and a way to foster the growing sense of community and self-awareness that had emerged on the Sydney gay scene.

Glynn published the first issue of the Star on credit with payment promised for ads by most of Sydney’s then gay venues, and used public buses and a backpack to distribute it on the night of July 6, 1979.
The next Monday everyone paid up and he went back to the printers -” and the Star’s never missed an issue since.

With the assassination of Harvey Milk still fresh in their minds, the Star’s readers were shocked to learn San Francisco City Supervisor Dan White was convicted of voluntary manslaughter after a jury found him incapable of the premeditation needed for a murder charge because he consumed excessive amounts of junk food. In response, outraged San Franciscans went on the rampage in what became known as the White Night Riots, destroying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property.

1980 – Lesbians called on to contribute

In 1980, the Star was publishing fortnightly out of an office at 93 Crown St, with a yearly subscription available for $12.

The paper still had a heavily male readership and pushed the leather and denim -˜clone’ image in its covers.

When accusations of sexism arose, Glynn complained in an editorial that a consistent effort made during the Star’s first year to seek contributions from the lesbians in this city-¦ has proven fruitless.

I would challenge those lesbians who constantly complain about the attitudes of men to contribute in a positive way to a publication which is available to them.

The Star remained primarily a boys rag for a few more years, but gradually the level of female content began to rise.

Readers were outraged when a Sydney man was detained by US immigration officials because his earrings made them suspect him of being a homosexual.

Under a 1965 immigration law, homosexuals and others defined as having psychopathic personalities could be barred from entry to the United States.

The case sparked uproar in gay communities around the world and the Dutch Government announced they would challenge the US Government’s policy at the Council of Europe.

1981 – First account of AIDS published

In a fateful notice on July 3, 1981, the Star published the first account in any Australian newspaper of what would become known as the AIDS epidemic.

ATLANTA, GA – A type of pneumonia has been found in five young men, two of whom died, and may be linked to some aspect of homosexual lifestyle, according to the US Public Health Service’s Center for Disease Control. Between October 1980 and May 1981 the five, all active gay men, were treated for pneumonia caused by the pneumocystis carnii parasite, the Center reported in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: the fact that these patients were all homosexual suggests an association between some aspect of homosexual lifestyle or disease acquired through sexual contact and pneumocystis pneumonia.

The New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby wrote to all Members of Parliament demanding the repeal of all the state’s laws that criminalised gays. At the same time the Campaign for Homosexual Equality Queensland, lead by MCC pastor Harry de Jong, began the fight in the Sunshine State. Both pleas were ignored, and the NSW Parliament voted down a bill removing anti-homosexual sections of the Crimes Act, put forward by the Member for Kembla, Wilfred Petersen.

1982 – A Year for gay youth and business

The Star’s third year of publication was a year of firsts for Sydney’s gay and lesbian community, in which some of its oldest and most loved institutions were founded.

Responding to the growing numbers of gay teens arriving homeless and penniless in the big city, Sydney’s gays and lesbians decided something must be done and established 2010 to assist gay youth in crisis who were too young to qualify for social security and might otherwise end up at The Wall.
Meanwhile, at the big end of town, the Sydney Gay Business Association celebrated its first year of existence with its inaugural annual general meeting.

Australia mobilised a 70-strong team for the first ever Gay Olympics, held in San Francisco. By the time they got there it was the Gay Games after a lawsuit by the International Olympic Committee forced a name change.

Australia blitzed the medal tally, winning six gold, 11 silver and three bronze, with 17 of these alone won by New South Wales’ star swimmer Bobby Goldsmith (pictured, right).

1983 – First AIDS case announced

1983 will be remembered as the year AIDS came Down Under when the Department of Health announced its first Australian case.

Having reported on the sudden rise and spread of the once-rare disease Kaposi’s sarcoma throughout the United States during 1982, on May 6, the Star confirmed a local gay man was being treated at St Vincent’s.

Contributing to the level of fear, there were no precise answers as to what caused the syndrome or how it was spread.

An issue later, the Star printed its first AIDS education guide, a reprint of a pamphlet produced by San Francisco’s Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights (now the US’s Gay and Lesbian Medical Association) whose members had been working at the coalface of the outbreak’s Californian epicentre.

In July a second case was reported, this time in Victoria.

In January 1983 Michael Glynn announced his ambition to reproduce nationally what the Star had done for Sydney in the form of the Green Park Observer.

A special two page spread in the Star was used to launch the concept and get advertisers onboard early. Glynn would serve as managing editor, while New Zealander Richard Turner would edit the paper.

John Wishart, a former sub-editor at the Women’s Weekly and London’s Daily Record, took on the role of advertising manager.

The Observer sold through newsagents on national distribution. However, the idea was too ambitious for its time, and cost Glynn a packet before it folded.

1984 – Community feat as AIDS gets a name

1984 was the year history turned in so many ways. It was the year the pink vote came to Sydney, the year the chains came off, and the year AIDS got a face -” in more ways than one.

On May 4, 1984, the Star reported the discovery of the virus responsible for AIDS. The discovery was made by virologist Luc Montagnier of the Pasteur Institute in France and confirmed by Robert Gallo at the American National Institute of Health. They named the virus HTLV-3.

A month later Bobby Goldsmith succumbed to the disease. The Bobby Goldsmith Foundation began life as a benefit party in the weeks leading up to his death.

A tribute to Bobby appeared in the Star’s fifth anniversary issue.

Victorian RSL president Bruce Ruxton declared, There were no poofters in WWII … private soldiers would smell a queer a hundred miles a way, only to discover that national RSL president Colin Keon-Cohen was gay with a live-in lover.

Keon-Cohen’s relationship with partner Alasdair Cameron became public when Cameron was denied possession of the flat he said was promised to him.

With no recognition of same-sex relationships in Australian law, he received just a tenth of its value in an out-of-court settlement.

1985 – Star sold to its staff

In May 1984, Michael Glynn sold the paper to a group of its key staff -” Richard Turner, Paul Smith, Tony Cooper and Bob Hay -” and retired to the Blue Mountains.

Less than a year later, on April 25 the Sydney Star ceased publication due to its inability to discharge its debts. A week later, Star editor Richard Turner and the Gay Publications Cooperative, owners of the national magazine Outrage and Melbourne’s Star Observer, published the first issue of Sydney’s Star Observer utilising many of the paper’s former staff.

The Star’s old owners became shareholders of the new publishing entity and an obituary eulogising the Star appeared in the Star Observer’s first issue.

Sparking outrage, the Commonwealth AIDS Taskforce called for all gay venues, including pubs and bars, to be closed and -˜homosexual areas’ targeted by police despite its own chairman, Professor Richard Penington, disagreeing.

Penington said any effort to combat the spread of the virus must enlist the help of gay people, however, even he suggested the closing of some sex-on-premises venues.

1986 – NZ decriminalises homosexuality

Sydney’s Star Observer published its first full colour glossy cover in May as part of a campaign with the AIDS Council of NSW.

That year ACON released a draft policy on antibody testing for HIV -” still known as HTLV-3 -” based on a policy of free and informed consent, with proper access to counselling to deal with results.

In June, as obituaries continued to fill the pages of the paper, the Star published a legal guide to help people with AIDS make wills and establish powers of attorney to put in place plans for situations where they may no longer be able to express their wishes.

Across the pond, New Zealand decriminalised homosexuality despite huge opposition from campaigners on the Religious Right.

The Bill was introduced by Labour MP Fran Wilde and supported by Prime Minister David Lange.

Homosexuality was still illegal in more than half of Australia’s states, although it had been decriminalised in both the ACT and the Northern Territory.

1987 – Community buys Star Observer

In July of 1987 the ‘s was dropped from the masthead and the paper published as the Sydney Star Observer for the first time. Secretly, the paper was $30,000 in debt and on the brink of closure.

Then on November 8, Victorian publishers Co-Op Media (formerly Gay Publications Cooperative) announced they would sell the paper to a newly-formed entity, wholly owned by members of the Sydney GLBT community, to be known as Sydney Gay Community Publishing.

Gay activists Fabian Lo Schiavo and Edwin Collard were arrested by police and charged with offensive conduct during a visit by Pope John Paul II, when they chanted, anti-woman, anti-gay, fascist Pope go away, during a papal address to students in Sydney University quadrangle. The Magistrates Court found the charges proven but dismissed them anyway.

1988 – Community takse ownership of the paper

On February 7 the shareholders of Sydney Gay Community Publishing formally bought the Sydney Star Observer from Co-Op Media Enterprises, returning it to full Sydney ownership for the first time in three years.

Two hundred shares were issued to interested community members at a cost of $200 each. To stop any one individual taking control, the maximum number of shares any person could own was set at 10 with one vote per shareholder no matter how many shares they owned.

The deal made the Star one of the few truly community-owned gay publications anywhere in the world.
Editor Tim Carrigan took over from editor Stephen Kirby. The transfer was so smooth, the paper didn’t even miss an issue.

In October, members of the Tasmanian Law Reform Group defied a Hobart City Council ban on gay rights stalls at Salamanca Market.

Among the arrested was activist Rodney Croome who would later, with partner Nick Toonen, challenge Tasmania’s homophobic laws in the UN.

Over eight weeks the illegal stall was set up again and again, with 130 people arrested before authorities backed down in what remains the largest incident of civil disobedience in the history of gay Australia.

1989 – Oral sex gets OK from AIDS Council

In 1989 the AIDS Council of NSW gave the OK on oral sex without a condom after it was confirmed that HIV could be passed by saliva and that digestion killed it.

However, hysteria still surrounded the virus, with David West, chair of the Australian Association of Surgeons, stating doctors should have the right to refuse to treat people who have HIV.

Said West, If I reckon a patient’s a queer, I should be able to test him.

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons agreed, recommending elective surgery be refused any patient who refused a blood test.

However, the surgeons were rebuffed when a conference of Australia’s Health Ministers opposed calls for compulsory testing of patients suspected to be gay.

That year a study in the Medical Journal of Australia found HIV infections continued to fall from their peak in 1985.

In a Star exclusive, actor Tony Sheldon claimed the existence of a -˜pink list’ held by leading Australian casting agents, barring them from work.

Sheldon said, If you play more than one gay role you’re cutting your throat… There are certain TV series on at the moment, that if you’re a gay actor, you will not work on those shows.

The Anti-Discrimination Board confirmed such a list would be illegal.

1990 – Anti-gay gangs move into suburbs

1990 was the year gay Sydney said -˜enough is enough’ to homophobic violence.

Starting in January, police warned of a drastic rise in the number of bashings of gay men in the inner city, with robbery often a secondary motive in humiliating victims.

The perpetrators were usually young men from the suburbs who came to the city to get drunk and then trawl the streets of Newtown, Darlinghurst and Surry Hills for victims.

However, attacks often occurred in broad daylight as well.

In June there was outrage when Judge Derreck Hand pushed for charges of manslaughter instead of murder after a group of seven youths lured 33-year-old Richard Johnson to a public toilet in Alexandria Park and then bashed him to death.

Mardi Gras marched backwards, beginning at Parliament House before marching up Macquarie Street to Darlinghurst.

Victims of gay bashings came out in force, identifying themselves in the parade by wearing red armbands.

The prayers of the Rev Fred Nile were finally answered when the heavens opened, soaking the parade and scattering spectators. Only 50,000 stayed to watch, the worst turnout for years. However, the deluge also thinned the ranks of the anti-gay protesters to just twenty.

1991 – Lobby pressures Education Minister

The Glebe Children’s Court heard how a 17-year-old schoolboy boasted to friends of bashing a local gay Thai man at a Bondi beat before pushing him over a cliff to his death.

The case shocked Sydney, highlighting the issue of homophobia among school-aged children.
The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby demanded action from the Liberal Education Minister Virginia Chadwick.

In 1991 few public schools even offered sex education, let alone anti-homophobia instruction, as these remained optional units of the syllabus.

A mysterious group calling itself -˜One In Seven’, announced its formation in a full-page ad in the Star. It intended to -˜paint the town red’ to protest the link between the churches and anti-gay violence.

They delivered on their promise, splashing red paint down the steps of St Mary’s and St Andrew’s Cathedrals to symbolise the blood of poofter-bashing victims. Other targets included Channel 10 and the Downing Centre courts.

In a coup, Kylie Minogue performs at Mardi Gras. It was to be the pop princesses first of two appearances at the event. She sang What Do I Have To Do? in a fluffy pic tutu, to the delight of partygoers.

1992 – Gailbraith resigns to write book

SSO Editor Larry Galbraith announces his resignation from the paper. He plans to write a book on Mardi Gras and spend more time working on Classifieds magazine which he part owns. Under his editorship the paper’s circulation has risen to 14,000. The SSO Board picks two of the paper’s journalists, Campion Decent and Will Harris to take over in his place as Editor and News Editor. The same year the board elects its first female chair, Carole Ruthchild.

In June NSW Police Commissioner, Tony Lauer declares his support for gay and lesbian police officers when a group calling itself Gays Against Institutionalised Homophobia threatens to publicly out 35 gay policemen. The group demands positive police recruiting and more gay and lesbian liason officers. Says Lauer, I abhor and condemn such tactics as an invasion of privacy-¦ A person’s sexuality has nothing to do with their job. Later in the year another group, Faggots Reclaiming Oxford Street (FROX) plasters the golden mile with heterophobic posters carrying slogans including breeders fuck off and overt heterosexuality is offensive to complain about the number of straight people hanging out in gay clubs.

1993 – Star sparks coronial inquest

In April a CAB audit confirmed the Star’s circulation at 20,160.

The same issue the paper’s first female editor, Barbara Farrelly, took over. She later won the Terry Bell Award for journalism for her coverage of the death in custody of Brendan James Law, found hanging by a bedsheet in his cell in Queensland’s Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre after being raped and taunted by fellow prisoners.

Law had been kept in custody with his rapists even after investigations into the crimes had begun.
The Star’s coverage sparked a coronial inquest.

NSW’s first openly gay politician, Labor MLC Paul O’Grady revealed triple-0 operators refused him assistance when he and his partner were attacked by a gang of drunken louts on William Street.

Operators asked him three times if it was a life-threatening situation before hanging up.

Said O’Grady, My life was not in danger but my point is this -” any citizen has a right to report crime or potential crime and if the police are serious about combating street violence against gays and lesbians then they have to intervene before someone is bashed.

In a step forward, a group of queer Sydney filmmakers, students and others approached Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras with the view of establishing an independent organisation whose primary focus was queer film and screen culture. This organisation, Queer Screen, had the central aim of reclaiming Sydney’s LGBT film festival as owned and operated by the community.

1994 – Catholic Church targets Mardi Gras

Concerned at the level of female involvement in the company, the Star’s publishers changed its name to Sydney Gay and Lesbian Publishing, and launched the second part of an affirmative action plan aimed at raising the number of female shareholders.

Multiple shareholders were asked to make their excess shares available, to be sold at their face value of $50 or given away free to applicants in financial hardship.

The Star’s circulation rose to 23,557, and was read by over 70,000 people every week, confirming it again as Australia’s number one gay and lesbian news source. Kevin Hume became editor.

In 1994 the ABC screened its first telecast of the Mardi Gras parade, switching between nine different cameras along the parade route.

On top of its Australian audience, the ABC made the broadcast available to a potential 40 million viewers in the Asia Pacific region through its international service.

The Catholic Church organised a letter-writing campaign trying to stop the broadcast and 90 federal politicians called for it to be banned or moved to a later timeslot. It went ahead anyway, creating ratings history when 45 percent of viewers switched to Auntie to watch the parade.

1995 – Marsden cleared by DPP

From September 2, 1995 the Star went weekly, capturing an audience of close to 100,000 readers each issue.

The same year gay prisoners at Goulburn and Junee prisons complained prison staff were confiscating their copies of the paper, removing subscriber copies from their mail. Goulburn jail wardens even went so far as to mail back confiscated issues to the paper’s offices.

The Department of Corrective Services confirmed that gay publications were allowed and launched an investigation.

1996 – Star Founder dies

On July 10, Star founder Michael Glynn died after a long battle with AIDS, and 10 years after leaving the paper.

In his final years, however, he was an occasional contributor. Glynn was remembered by the community for his landmark role in gay publishing, his involvement in the campaign for homosexual law reform in NSW and as a founding member of Australia’s first Gay Business Association.

Glynn was also a leading figure in the push to send an Australian team to the first Gay Games and in the Street Patrol gay community policing group. After leaving the Star Glynn founded and published the Harbour City Times.

The Wood Royal Commission into police corruption went off track to become what looked like a homophobic witch hunt to find pedophiles in the gay community.

Supreme Court Judge David Yeldham, a bisexual who used beats, committed suicide after being outed by Labor MP Franca Arena. No charge was ever proved against him.

Commission Watch’s Richard Cobden declared, David Yeldham was assassinated. Franca Arena pulled the trigger; Justice Wood and [assistant counsel] Paddy Bergin loaded the gun.

Concerns were raised that NSW police were pursuing cases against men who had consensual relationships with males over 16, because of the publicity.

1997 – Gay student sues school

In 1997 the plight of gay kids in our schools was hammered home and the community stepped up.

The issue was highlighted when 14-year-old gay student Christopher Tsakalos and his mother Vicky took Cranbrook High School and the NSW Department of Education to court for failing in their duty of care after Chris was forced to leave school to escape homophobic violence.

Anti-homophobia resources remained non-controversial while an unequal age of consent rendered gay teens either invisible or criminal.

A former Marcellin College student sued the Catholic Education Office for having to endure two years of homophobic abuse while teachers watched.

The abuse resulted in a playground breakdown and years of depression for the victim.

The winner was Sydney when in November the city’s bid to host the 2002 Gay Games was confirmed.

The bid received a boost earlier in the year when Qantas and Tourism NSW signed on as partners, and organisers received a $75,000 cheque from the Minister for Tourism. Not happy, a Kiama Labor MP broke ranks to condemn the move, calling gays perverts.

1998 – Star goes black, white and pink

In January the Star printed a special edition with eight pages devoted to reconciliation with the indigenous peoples of Australia and the Torres Strait Islands.

In a -˜Black, White & Pink’ statement, reconciliation receives the endorsement of the paper and every major GLBT institution in NSW.

Referring to the climate of dog-whistle politics under the Howard Government, Bruce Grant of the Anti-Violence Project told the Star, The new stereotypes are that the blacks have all the land, the women have all the jobs and the homosexuals have all the rights. Reconciliation is about rejecting stereotypes and embracing the truth.

Later in the year, the Star encouraged readers to turn out en masse for Sorry Day and sign the Sorry Book at the Sydney Opera House.

Dr Kerryn Phelps and Jackie Stricker made headlines when they tied the knot in a Jewish ceremony in New York. The news drew a stunning attack from Phelps’ then fellow Daily Telegraph columnist, Mike Gibson, who wrote, By choosing to reject the responsibilities of the traditional family lifestyle at which so many homosexuals sneer-¦ Dr Phelps and her girlfriend relinquished the right by community standards to marry. Apparently Carlton was unaware the couple was raising Phelps’ children from a previous marriage.

1999 – Labor kills age of consent

When Labor MLC Jan Burnswoods’ bill to equalise the age of consent was killed from within her own party, the Star investigated.

Former Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney turned Labor parliamentarian Henry Tsang scuttled the bill with his deciding vote, after telling Sing Tao newspaper that passing the bill would have far-reaching influence on protecting the young people from being sexually assaulted, drawing the ire of Sydney’s gay Asian communities. However, Tsang told the Star he was all for the Gay Games.

In April, the -˜London nail bomber’, David Copeland blew up the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho in the heart of London’s gay village, killing four people, in the final of a series of deadly attacks. No warnings were given.

Copeland, a homophobic former member of the British National Party, had hoped to start a race war through the bombings.

Two months later the Townsville branch of the Queensland AIDS Council was damaged in a homemade bomb attack, injuring regional director Darrel Colbert-Whitford. The attack came as the culmination of a campaign of abuse targeting gay men by two local 19-year-olds. Colbert-Whitford had previously been stabbed with a syringe in an unrelated attack.

2000 – Satellite Group collapse shock

In 2000 the collapse of the Satellite Group sent a shockwave through the world of gay and lesbian publishing in Australia.

The Satellite Group, billed as the world’s first publicly-listed gay and lesbian company, had floated on the Australian Stock Exchange just a year before and grew to be valued at $220 million, buying up gay venues and media including the Melbourne Star Observer, Brother-Sister (Victoria and Queensland), Adelaide GT, Perth’s Westside Observer, Capital Q and Outrage magazine, before going into voluntary administration in November.

Fearing Melbourne readers would be left with a news blackout, the Star published two special Victorian editions before Bnews rose to fill the gap.

Same-sex marriage became a reality when Holland became the first country to pass laws legalising it in an overwhelming vote of 103 in favour to 33 against.

The term -˜civil unions’ joined the lexicon when Vermont became the first American state to grant same-sex couples all of the responsibilities and rights of marriage but not the name.

California legalised same-sex domestic partnerships the previous year, but with fewer rights and benefits.

2001 – Inner west the new pink haven

A survey released by the Star in 2001 showed the changing face of readers and of pink Sydney -” for the first time most readers lived in the city’s inner west.

The average reader was a gay man aged between 25 and 44. He preferred cats to dogs, ate well and was well-travelled. He was born in Sydney, lost his virginity at 17 and wanted his relationship recognised by the Government. He spent 40 minutes reading the Star each week and paid more attention to it than any other gay publication.

Demonstrating a growing sense of confidence, the number of readers reporting physical attacks in the last year dropped from seven percent in 1998 to just over five percent. However, the level of reported harassment in the workplace remained the same.

On September 11, 2001 the world was shocked when Islamic terrorists from Al Qaeda crashed hijacked aeroplanes into the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC.

Readers later learned that Mark Bingham, a gay businessman and rugby player, was aboard a fourth plane, United Airlines 93, probably destined for the US Capitol, that crashed in Pennsylvania while Mark and other passengers fought to regain control of the plane.

They were the only passengers on all four flights to rise up and fight back.

The Mark Bingham Cup, an international gay rugby union tournament, was named in his honour, and he received the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage posthumously the following year.

2002 – Carr pushed on age of consent laws

In 2002 the Star was shocked when people in the NSW Labor Party faxed copies of an SSO interview with new Liberal Opposition leader John Brogden to the rural press, detailing his support for the equalising of the age of consent.

The same week Labor’s Tony Kelly issued a press release demanding to know the Nationals member for Barwon supported his leader’s radical views on homosexuals.

The scandal led to strong questioning from Clover Moore and the Greens in Parliament, forcing Premier Bob Carr to make his first public statement on the issue, declaring he was for it. I can think of no substantial argument against introducing a uniform age of consent.

George Pell was accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old while camping with altar boys in 1961. Pell would have been 20 and a seminarian.

A Church inquiry found the allegation unproven due to a lack of evidence and corroborating witnesses. Retired Supreme Court judge Alec Southwell found, the complainant, when giving evidence of molesting, gave the impression that he was speaking honestly from an actual recollection. However, the respondent also gave me the impression that he was speaking the truth.

Earlier in the year 60 Minutes claimed Pell offered hush money to child abuse victims to keep allegations against other priests from becoming public while he was Archbishop of Melbourne.

Meanwhile, Sydney is awash with thousands of gay and lesbian visitors as it plays host to the Gay Games.

The successful opening night featured a keynote speech by Justice Michael Kirby.

2003 – Age of consent equalised in NSW

In a conscience vote by both major parties, the age of consent was finally legalised in New South Wales -”sweeping the last homosexuals-only category of crime from the statutes.
Liberal leader John Brogden voted in favour of it.

Today’s Opposition leader Barry O’Farrell voted against it, as did Labor MPs Joe Tripodi, Grant McBride, Richard Amery, Paul Gibson, Tony Stuart and Kevin Greene. All but Stuart remain in Parliament today.

The reforms also removed the defence used by heterosexuals in underage sex trials -” that they believed the child was over 16. However, the changes were not retrospective, leaving open the possibility that gay men who in the past had had 16- and 17-year-old boyfriends could still be charged with a crime.

Gay senior Edward Young scored a victory against the Howard Government when the UN’s Human Rights Committee ruled he’d been discriminated against by being denied a bereavement payment and widowers pension after his war veteran partner Larry Cain died in 1998.

The UN ordered Australia to change its laws to recognise same-sex couples, and a week later the Senate passed a resolution calling on the Government to do the same.

The Labor Opposition announced it would amend laws which discriminate against same-sex couples.
Prime Minister John Howard simply ignored the ruling.

2004 – Government bans gay marriage

In February, 300 same-sex couples tied the knot in Sydney in the largest commitment ceremony in the world to draw attention to Australia’s lack of marriage equality.

The debate soured in the following months with John Howard announcing he wanted to ban gay adoption and same-sex marriage.

In May, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock introduced the Marriage Amendment Bill 2004 which did just that. In August it passed with the bipartisan support of the Labor Party, sending a shock wave through GLBT Australia.

In the days beforehand gays were labelled the moral terrorists of the 21st century by Christians gathered in the Great Hall of Parliament for a National Forum on Marriage. Things seemed like they couldn’t get any worse -” then they did when John Howard was returned as PM at the 2004 election.

Federal Opposition leader Mark Latham disappointed the community when he joined a throng of conservative voices in complaining about a Play School segment that included two lesbian mums and their child, saying, as a parent I would prefer if they could leave these things to the parents rather than do it through ABC TV. Communications Minister Daryl Williams raised the episode with the ABC Board, while Prime Minister John Howard accused the public broadcaster of pushing an agenda.

2005 – Our Kylie has breast cancer

In 2005 Star readers’ collective hearts skipped a beat when the Impossible Princess’ life became seemingly too impossible.

Kylie Minogue was sounding upbeat when she gave an exclusive interview to the Star in January, waxing lyrical about an upcoming film role and then boyfriend Olivier Martinez.

Things are cruising along. I do feel happy -” I’m in a great relationship.

In May, Kylie announced she had breast cancer and postponed her Showgirl Tour indefinitely.
Thankfully doctors got to it quickly and after surgery at a Melbourne Hospital she underwent a course of chemotherapy. She was back on her feet by July.

For the fans who missed out, she released Over The Rainbow, a live recording single from the tour.
Mark Brindal, a married South Australian Liberal MP who sponsored a civil unions bill in his state Parliament, was outed as bisexual when the media brought to light an affair he had with Paul Graham. As a result, he decided not to stand for re-election.

SA Liberal leader Rob Kerin praised him as a very good local member who made a significant contribution to his state’s public life. The same year, the Liberals’ only openly gay MP was dumped by the Victorian Opposition after a drink-driving incident.

2006 – Childcare centre under attack

In February, SSO’s editor-in-chief Marcus O’Donnell announced he was taking on the role of journalism lecturer at the University of Wollongong after seven years at the paper.

O’Donnell guided the paper through a tumultuous time for the Australian gay media with a slew of publications failing and financial troubles striking many community organisations.

Said O’Donnell, the reason we’ve been able to do that is we’ve realised the gay and lesbian community is in a radical new moment.

We’ve done two things that gay media need to do. We’ve been critical where it’s been necessary to hold people and organisations to account and we’ve been supportive and encouraging of new initiatives and growth in the community.

Stacy Farrar took over in his place to become the Star’s second female editor in 27 years.
In June The Daily Telegraph attacked the inclusion of anti-homophobia materials at a childcare centre under the control of Marrickville’s Greens-led council.

An editorial attacked the policy, Tillman Park sounds more like a cult than a childcare centre. It’s funding should be cut off. State Labor MP Penny Sharpe supported the centre and Marrickville Council stuck to their guns but Labor Premier Morris Iemma condemned the program, along with a host of state and federal Coalition MPs.

2007 – Australia boots John Howard

In June the Star found a new direction when the former editor-in-chief of Courier Newspapers, Scott Abrahams, became publishing editor, revamping the look of the paper and its masthead in time for the 2007 federal election.

In an interview about his new role Abrahams said, I’m very proud and passionate about the GLBT community. Despite all the difficulties and barriers it has faced, it continues to fight for what it believes is right.

The opportunity to harness and strengthen this passion is part of why I decided to join the SSO.
For almost 30 years it has been the voice of Australia’s GLBT population, setting agendas and fighting alongside community groups to raise awareness of remaining social injustice.

The ALP’s national conference promised gay and lesbian Australia that the party would introduce nationally consistent state-based registration schemes based on Tasmania’s scheme which has been law since 2004, but would not agree to civil unions or marriage federally.

Victoria had already announced it would introduce a scheme, but in August the NSW Government said it would not do it and no other state announced plans to do so. They still haven’t today.

Federal Labor promised to remove all incidences of discrimination under federal law should they get in -” and they do! Goodbye Mr Howard.

2008 – ‘You fucking faggot’

In January, Sydney was shocked by the bashing of couple Craig Gee and Shane Brennen by men yelling, Give us your money, you fucking faggot.

Adding insult to injury, the attackers called Craig’s mother and tell her they’d killed him. When police failed to release photos of individuals alleged to have used Craig’s credit cards, the Star applied pressure and got a result.

When community members came together to stage a rally against homophobic violence, the Star got behind it with free advertising and editorial support.

Anger over the case led to the transfer of two senior police out of the Surry Hills command, and a recovered Craig and Shane showed they weren’t beaten when they led the 2008 Mardi Gras Parade.

In November when Melbourne’s Bnews went under, SSO Media started the Southern Star newspaper to fill the gap, starting a new era of cooperation between the Sydney and Melbourne communities.

In November the Rudd Labor Government passed its historic same-sex reforms package, giving gay and lesbian couples equality in virtually all areas under federal law. Sensing the wind had changed with the departure of John Howard, the Liberals largely supported the changes, although they were criticised for slowing the process by sending the legislation to a Senate Committee. However, same-sex couples still remain with neither same-sex marriage nor civil unions, nor is it compulsory for private super funds to recognise their relationships and neither Labor nor the Liberals support changing that yet.

2009 – Kirby retires from High Court

It was the end of an era when High Court Justice Michael Kirby retired from the bench in February. In a wide-ranging interview with the Star’s Harley Dennett, he told us we shouldn’t expect to see him slowing down at 70.

The campaign for the global decriminalisation of homosexuality remained a passion, and eight universities had asked him to be a visiting professor -” all this on top of a role with the UN in its new appeals tribunal.

Kirby also talked about his private life, revealing close family members knew about his sexuality since puberty, and how he met his partner, Johan van Vloten, in 1969.

History was made when the UN voted on a resolution for the Universal Decriminalisation of Homosexuality and more countries voted in favour if it than against it.

The declaration received the support of 67 countries including the entire European Union, and the continents of Australia and North and South America, with some Asian and African nations supporting the resolution as well. Around 50, mainly Muslim, countries signed a counterresolution.

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6 responses to “Clutch your pearls, we’re thirty”

  1. Off topic I know..

    RE. The Convicts appearance on the Footy show …as Garry Burns , myself and a very few said on this forum.. very bad move! We were howled down by the majority here and today in The Star Observer is the news that, as we predicted Channel 9 is citing the appearance of The Convicts on the Footy Show in its legal defence against a complaint lodged by Garry Burns with the NSW Anti Discrimination Board.

    As I said at the time, never a good move to consort with the enemy, appeasement never works.The Convicts,and the supporters of their decision to appear on The homophobic Footy show are collaborators and a big vat of tar and lots off white feathers should be ordered and applied.

  2. 1986 – NZ decriminalises homosexuality

    My son was born two years before the above law change.
    I didn’t really think about homosexuality much, growing up. It didn’t matter to me what my friends’ sexual orientation was, but I certainly never put any thought into gay rights issues.
    However, my son is homosexual and if that law change had not been introduced, he would be considered a criminal. I would be absolutely furious about that and I’d be out marching against it.
    It was an outrage ever to have had such a law and I feel appalled that, until it hit closer to home, I never stopped to think just what a terrible thing it was.
    I feel quite ashamed. Ignorant people created such laws and, sadly, ignorant people such as myself never gave it a second’s thought, which is why it lasted as long as it did.

  3. Congrats on reaching 30 years. I wish I was that age again. But having been with the SSO almost from the start, I have to say I find it a pale shadow of what it used to be in its heyday as an informer and entertainer. These days the SSO as with many other gay magazines and newspapers, is all about lifestyle (when its not droning on endlessly about gay marriage – a narcissistic topic of overwhelming unimportance.) Now they contain little that is relevant. I understand you need to do this because of the advertising, but to put it bluntly, I used to read every issue and go out of my way to get a copy if I’d missed out. Now it doesn’t bother me if I miss an issue or three. Still, I wish you well for the next 30 years.

  4. Great timeline. But it must be noted HIV/AIDS has not left the Gay Community. The inner City of Sydney within the 2010 post code still has the higest rates of HIV infection in Australia.

    Remember boys ALWAYS PRACTICE SAFE SEX!( even when your drunk or drug fucked, it only takes one slip up)

    (well thats my 2cents worth) LOL

    Congrats on turning the BIG 30!!!!


  5. What a fantastic timeline!!!! Also I have a question to the Editor: How did the SSO paper survive the censorship in the late 1970s????

    You missed out on this in 1982 it becomes illegal to discriminate on the basis of an individuals actual or percieved homosexuality in NSW (the first in Australia). Norway was the first country in the world to outlaw homosexual discrimination as well in 1981.
    Wisconsin became the first US state to outlaw sexual oreintation discrimnation in 1983.