We’re not all straight in the Garden State


Donated by Anne Picot

Museum of Australian Democracy collection

Victoria, the ‘Garden State’, was at the forefront of the gay rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s. The state claims one of the first gay rights organisations in Australia, the Daughters of Bilitis, formed in 1969 and inspired by the American movement of the same name. The Melbourne-based gay rights organisation Society Five was formed in 1971, followed by the Homosexual Law Reform Coalition in 1975 and the Gay Teachers Group in the late 1970s.

However, it was not until December 1980 that homosexuality was decriminalised in Victoria and the age of consent for gay men set at 18 years of age. In 1994 the age of consent was lowered to 16 years of age.

In 1975 the University of Melbourne hosted the first National Homosexual Conference, organised by the Australian Union of Students. The Conference highlighted the broad perspectives of the gay rights movement, including those that sought radical social change and those seeking law reform. In 1978, at the Fourth National Homosexual Conference in Sydney, the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives were established. Based in Melbourne, the Archives is the only community organisation in Australia that actively collects and preserves lesbian and gay material from across the nation.