GAY and lesbian rights activist Lex Watson is likely to be long remembered as a leading figure of Sydney’s LGBTI community.
But what about the contribution of lesser known names such as Frank Paysen, Sue Wills or Barry Checcinni ?
Following on from the PHG’s successful 100 Voices oral history program, the Pioneer Names Project already lists 300 names scoured from various sources including early issues of the Star Observer, with basic details of which groups they were part of.
However, PHG is hoping to bring together the life stories of LGBTI Sydneysiders already collected for 100 Voices with new information to create a comprehensive and searchable website of the city’s queer trailblazers.
PHG President Robert French said the idea for Pioneer Names came to him when he spoke at an event at the NSW Parliament last year to mark Watson’s passing.
“At that event I read out the names of a number of people who hadn’t got credit for homosexual law reform and there were names I didn’t know and I’ve been involved with the gay liberation movement since 1971,” he said.
“This is just not right,” he said.
“There is a real need to make a memorial for the people that put in the hard yards.”
People like Checcinni who bought famous Darlinghurst gay pub the Beresford in the late ‘70s.
“On the night of the Club 80 police raids in 1983 he came running out of the Beresford and abused the cops and even ended getting himself arrested,” French said.
Or Paysen, who was treasurer of the Campaign against Moral Persecution (CAMP) which, “back in those days was pretty gutsy,” he said.
“We’ve already had people come forward with names… and the community [are] encouraged to suggest to us further names to be added to the list and to provide biographical details,” said French.
“These people were part of the community and they deserve to be remembered.”
The Sydney LGBTI Pioneer Names Project can be found at: camp.org.au/pioneer-names-project