New documentary explores beginnings of gay liberation movement

As debate rages over the rights or wrongs of a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, it’s perhaps a good time to reflect.

It now seems incomprehensible that it was 1975 when South Australia became the first state to decriminalise homosexuality – it took another 22 years (1997) before Tasmania became the last state to follow suit.

And, until 1949, the punishment for sodomy was death.

A new 12-minute documentary, Out of the Closets, Into the Streets explores the genesis of the gay liberation movement in Melbourne, when gay and lesbian people found their voice. It documents the moment they took to the streets, coming out and proud and challenging the status quo.

“In those days that was a really potent political statement. To come out was a really big thing,” film producer Lucinda Horrocks said.

The ABC reports that alongside current interviews with activists from the 1970s, the doco features original super 8 footage of the 1970s Gay Liberation and Women’s Liberation activities, filmed by documentary film maker and activist Barbara Creed, along with archival images.

Ms Horrocks said the gay liberation movement helped people understand they were being discriminated against, and helped give them a voice.

It was the drowning of 41-year old University of Adelaide law lecturer Dr George Duncan in the River Torrens that galvanised the movement, the ABC report says.

Police who had been patrolling a beat in Adelaide on the banks of the river had been suspected of foul play, but because of the illegality of homosexual behaviour, it meant witnesses were reluctant to come forward and Dr Duncan’s assailants were never convicted.

“It became a very big cause, a controversial cause that particularly Australian gay liberation movement activists took up,” Ms Horrocks said.

Out of the Closets, Into the Streets will premiere on October 8 at the Castlemaine Local and International Film Festival in Melbourne.

(Photo: Gay Pride Week, Melbourne, 1973, photo by Frank Prain, courtesy Australian Gay and Lesbian Archives)

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