A new plan for a queer memorial and museum on Oxford Street is in development.

Unlike other major cities such as Melbourne, whose Victorian Pride Centre opened in July this year, Sydney does not yet have a museum that celebrates the history, achievements, and lives of the city’s queer community.

“This is a major omission that needs to be rectified,” asserted Qtopia Sydney, the group leading the charge to open a queer museum by WorldPride 2023.

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The framework for the project is already in place, with Hall and Wilcox providing pro bono legal services and PricewaterhouseCoopers working pro bono on a business plan and feasibility study. The Victorian Pride Centre has given access to its research and its administrative structure while the Sydney Jewish Museum has shared details of its volunteer program, which Qtopia has adopted.

‘Museum Has To Be Around Taylor Square’

Among the possible locations for the museum include the T2 Building and the old Darlinghurst Police Station. 

Qtopia’s Committee Chair, David Polson stressed that the museum, “has to be in or around Taylor Square. That is really the epicentre of queer life on Oxford Street. During the HIV AIDS pandemic, Oxford Street was close-by to St Vincent’s Hospital where all of us were looked after and many, many people died. That’s the epicentre in our mind for Qtopia.”  

Qtopia’s initiative has the backing and support of former High Court judge Michael Kirby, publisher Ita Buttrose, LGBTQI rights advocate Ian Roberts, queer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander group BlaQ, and ACON.

michael kirby

Michael Kirby. Photo: Sasha Hadden.

Mayor Candidates Back Plan

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There is also wide support for the museum amongst City of Sydney’s mayoral candidates.

Unite for Sydney mayoral candidate Yvonne Weldon believes that, “The City of Sydney should absolutely support this idea.” She continued, “As Lord Mayor, I would welcome the opportunity to work with a committed team from Sydney’s LGBTQI community and pledge to commit City of Sydney resources to help make this dream a reality.”

Sylvie Ellsmore, Greens candidate for Lord Mayor, offered council assistance for the project, voicing that, “active support by the City of Sydney is needed to make the long-requested Pride Museum and or Pride Centre happen. This should include assistance identifying and assessing the viability of venues, assistance applying for funding from places like the NSW Government, and, importantly, direct funding to secure a space, and or access to Council-owned buildings.”  

Labor candidate for Lord Mayor, Linda Scott reiterated her long-time support for the project saying she is, “strongly in favour of the LGBTQI museum” and that as Lord Mayor she “would ensure that this becomes a reality and would work to ensure that it can be realised on or as close to Oxford Street as possible.” 

Shauna Jarrett, the Liberal Party candidate for Lord Mayor, says that she would, “support the establishment of a LGBTQI funded Queer Museum by enabling the identification of a suitable Council premise, (and) support any application for the project made through the Council grants program as a part of enabling the Museum to become independent and self-supporting.”

Current Lord Mayor, Clover Moore is in favour of an LGBTQI Museum. Moore told the Sydney Morning Herald, “While the City is not in the business of establishing and running museums ourselves, our approach is always to welcome such ideas from the community and provide support to make them a reality.”

Previous Attempts For A Museum Failed

Oxford Street, Sydney. Photographer: Paul Patterson , courtesy of the City of Sydney Archives.

Polson said that his journey with this project came about after the death of his former doctor and leading HIV/AIDS researcher Professor David Cooper.

“When he died, his wife and I were talking and she said ‘Oh, I’m so sad that David never got to see his vision of an AIDS museum.’ Well, I pounced on that. I felt this is a wonderful way I can honour my friendship with David and the fact that he saved my life. So, I set about doing exactly that.” Polson was one of the first people diagnosed with HIV in Australia in 1984.

Polson said that previous attempts at forming the memorial and museum failed due to the lack of an organised volunteer framework, which has since been formed. The group is currently looking for volunteers, who can e-mail [email protected] with the subject: “Attention: Volunteering”.

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