Pride’s gay history focus set to grow

Pride’s gay history focus set to grow

Celebrating a new home and with two publications already available, Sydney’s own Pride History Group is now working on a third collection, hoping to capture first person accounts of early Mardi Gras.

PHG secretary John Witte said the group wanted to show how common perceptions of that time weren’t always true.

I think people expected Mardi Gras was a male-orientated organisation. But in the early days a lot of women were involved, Witte said.

The group will be interviewing women involved around 1980-81 on how they came into it and what they contributed. But one of the most famous of that era, the recently departed Dawn O’Donnell, wasn’t among them.

Dawn was always in the background, but she was never directly involved. There’s a quote of her in the early years saying she didn’t think Mardi Gras was a goer, Witte said.

When social clubs were approached for interviews, Witte said many had never given accounts before and many former members were now in their 70s and 80s.

If we don’t get them now, we’ll lose them. It’s really important that we do capture these memories, he said.

In addition to its collection of in-house publications, the group also wants to use its website as more than just a passive storage space for history, but rather to capture it too.

We might put up an exhibition of a historical event, and people send in their stories, pictures and we do a little editing and it’d go up, something like Wikipedia, Witte said.

Recently moved into a new office in Glebe, the group hopes to attract more history enthusiasts to tackle the sizeable archives of original and new material.

We’ve based a lot of work on a collection of interviews given to us by Larry Galbraith. But we also have oral histories that we took and a collection of Sydney Star Observers from the late 80s up to now, Witte said.

We’re trying to develop a knowledge base of gay Sydney, building a basic collection of books and newspapers.

The group celebrated the opening of its new Glebe Point Rd offices on Sunday with a gathering and blessing. Members and guests looked over part of the group’s historical documents and photos and a badge collection tracking the changes to gay Sydney.

Camp Nights and Camp As A Row Of Tents, the group’s previous publications, are available from the new office at Benledi, 186 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe. People interested in the history of gay Sydney can help the Pride History Group by contacting John Witte on 9558 9419.

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