Australian gay and women’s rights pioneer Dr Sue Wills has died

dr sue wills australian queer archives
Image: courtesy of Australian Queer Archives

Dr Sue Wills is being remembered as a pioneer and a trailblazer in Australia’s gay and women’s liberation movements, after the activist and academic recently passed away.

This week, the Australian Queer Archives shared a lengthy tribute to Dr Wills (pictured), honouring her life’s work as “a pioneer of the gay and women’s liberation movements”.

“She was also an archivist and historian who spent her life in service to a vision of social equality,” AQuA wrote.

Born in 1944, Wills took over as one of the co-presidents of CAMP (Campaign Against Moral Persecution) in New South Wales in late 1971.

The next year, Sue Wills and her then-partner Gaby Antolovich were two of five gay and lesbian Australians to appear on ABC’s Chequerboard current affairs program.

On the program, Sue and Gaby “spoke eloquently to large audiences about their lesbianism and their lives, shaping early attitudes,” AQuA explained.

Dr Sue Wills fought against abuse of gay people in psychiatry

As CAMP President, Dr Sue Wills challenged the psychiatric community’s views and treatment of homosexuality, arguing it was not an illness to be “cured”.

“She was one of the first to draw attention to, and to campaign against the abuse of gay people by the psychiatric profession, including its use of ‘aversion therapy’, in articles and interviews that still resonate today,” AQuA wrote.

“She was also a historian. Her PhD thesis The Politics of Women’s Liberation was a deeply researched exploration of the links between the social movements of the early 1970s, including the gay movement (as it was then called) and the women’s movement.

“Like the best such work, she drew upon her own participation in the movements to draw out their inner depths.

“The documents that she collected, and went on collecting, are a remarkable archive of campaigns and ideas.”

Dr Sue Wills resigned from CAMP in 1974 but for several years remained active in the gay and lesbian rights and women’s movements.

In 2009, she participated in a conference marking the 40th anniversary of CAMP and the next year Dr Wills was named a Community Hero at ACON’s Honour Awards.

“AQuA shares the sadness of her many friends and colleagues but joins with them in celebrating her life and work,” the tribute reads.

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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