Gay Pride Week, 1973

By 1973, there was a sense that the movement had peaked (how wrong was that?) and Sydney Gay Liberation proposed a national week of action, a proposal  taken up by organisations in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. Activism, in all its glorious variety, was on display, militant and confrontational, celebratory and educational, coming out, being visible.

Targeted at: ‘all the institutions of our oppression: the police courts, job discrimination, the bigoted churchmen and politicians, the media, the psychiatrists, the aversion therapists, the military, the schools, the universities, the work-places … It will also seek to change the mind of the prejudiced, the fearful, the conditioned, the sexually repressed, all those who in oppressing us, oppress themselves.’
It was also intended that it: ‘will say to gay and straight alike: gay is good, gay is proud, gay is aggressively fighting for liberation. It will say to gays: come out and stand up. Only you can win your own liberation. Come out of the ghettos, the bars and beats, from your closets in suburbia and in your own minds and join he struggle for your own liberation.’

Melbourne organised graffiti paint-ups, a demo of some 250 people, a dance and a Schoolday (to talk to high school students) and a parents of gays evening. Members appeared on television programs twice and on a radio talkback show. But the centrepiece of the week was a picnic in the Botanical Gardens, attended by a hundred and fifty lesbians and gay men. Rennie Ellis reported in the Nation Review that the public response to the picnic was one of ‘good humour at least and an easy going acceptance at best’. One spectator was heard to remark that he had no idea that there were so many homosexuals in Melbourne. And that, after all, had been the point of the week’s events.

Brisbane Campus Camp marked the week with a range of activities spread over the week: turning up in King George Square, at the university and outside Brisbane Grammar, selling badges and fairy floss and handing out leaflets and boiled lollies. Members appeared on several radio programs.

Adelaide was lively and vibrant, marking, in that city as in most others, the high point of the early phase of the gay liberation movement. From Friday 7 September to Sunday 16th, almost every day was marked by some event – a press conference, a dance, church leafleting, Remembrance Day activities, speakouts, a march and a fair.

In Sydney, however, things turned nasty. After a week of various activities including a speak out, a festival in the Domain and a public meeting, the final day of the week was to be marked by a demonstration. About two hundred lesbians and gay men set out from the Town Hall to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph only to find the police determined to stop them. There were clashes all along the route as protesters, armed with balloons and banners and streamers, broke through police lines, darting through the traffic chanting ‘Ho, Ho, homosexual, the ruling class is ineffectual’ and ‘Out of the beats and onto the streets’. There were further arrests when the crowd marched to the central police station to demand the release of those arrested earlier. In all, eighteen people were charged. The arrests provided the focus for another burst of activity. Melbourne GLF’s dance on 12 October was made a fundraiser to pay the fines of those arrested.

Photo: Jill Matthews Photographic Album of the 1973 Adelaide Gay Pride Week. Australian Queer Archives Collection

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