Australia’s ‘most homophobic town’ is now proudly flying rainbow flag


rainbow flag ulverstone tasmania homophobic
Image: Equality Tasmania

LGBTIQ advocates and leaders in Ulverstone in Tasmania have raised a rainbow flag, thirty years after the town was called one of the most homophobic places in Australia.

The coastal town of Ulverstone, on Tasmania’s north-west coast, is home to around 15,000 people.

On Monday morning, LGBTIQ+ advocates and local leaders gathered to raise the rainbow flag above the Central Coast Council chambers. The flag is flying for a week, to coincide with North West Pride’s local celebrations. They’re holding the annual Out in the Park event in Ulverstone on November 21.

Equality Tasmania president and former local Rodney Croome recalled in 1989, the media dubbed Ulverstone the “most homophobic town” in Australia.

At the time, the town was “ground zero” in Tasmania’s fierce debate on decriminalising homosexuality in the 1980s and 90s.

Opponents held the state’s earliest, largest and most infamous anti-gay rallies in Ulverstone. The aggressive and violent protests drew national and international attention.

Later, Ulverstone’s council passed a motion opposing decriminalisation in December 1990. The council also urged other Tasmanian councils to oppose the reforms.

At the time, Rodney Croome was part of counter-rallies in the area in favour of the gay law reform.

Tasmania was the last state or territory to decriminalise gay sexual activity, in 1997, after decades of campaigning.

The hate and prejudice of the time drove many LGBTIQ+ people out of Ulverstone, and claimed the lives of others.

Tasmanian town’s ‘remarkable and wonderful’ transformation

On Monday morning, Rodney Croome joined Central Coast Mayor Jan Bonde and Councillor Amanda Diprose as well as dozens of locals to raise Ulverstone’s first rainbow flag.

The veteran activist said he “couldn’t have imagined” back then that only two decades later, he’d see the flag flying above the council chambers.

“The Lonely Planet travel guide advised LGBTIQ+ visitors to Tasmania not to go to Ulverstone,” he said.

“They said that they couldn’t recommend Ulverstone as a place to stay or to visit, because it was too dangerous.

“That’s how bad Ulverstone’s reputation was in the 1990s.

“It’s what makes it all the more remarkable and wonderful that the council is flying the rainbow flag.

“[It] sends a message to LGBTIQ young people that they belong, helps heal old wounds and shows the world just how much Ulverstone has changed.”

ulverstone tasmania rainbow flag

Croome said Ulverstone is the second rainbow flag flying over a Tasmanian town hall, following capital city Hobart.

He also urged other councils to do the same to show their support for equality and inclusion of LGBTIQ+ people.

In 2018, the Central Coast Council passed a motion put forward by Cr Diprose. It both acknowledged the region’s past and supported the LGBTIQ+ community.

In 2019, she and Mayor Jan Bonde planted a tree and unveiled a special plaque in ANZAC Park to celebrate the town’s “more inclusive and respectful” community.

In March, Hobart City Council flew the transgender pride flag from Hobart Town Hall for the first time to celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility.

For more information about North West Pride’s events, visit the group’s Facebook page.

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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