Friend to Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen and founder of the Society To Outlaw Pornography (STOP) and the Campaign Against Regressive Education (CARE), Rona Joyner was a force to be reckoned with in the Joh era. Although Mrs Rona Joyner held no elected office or government appointment, in a situation peculiar to Queensland, she wielded more power than Ministers of the Crown.
Heads of departments could make exhaustive fact-based submissions till the cows came home, but it only took one phone call from Rona to Joh Bjelke-Petersen to see the work binned and the minister’s job threatened.
The state enjoyed renown as Australia’s “deep north,” an ultra-conservative outpost insusceptible to the advances of the modern world.
Interstate airline pilots told their passengers on arrival, “We are now entering Queensland. Please turn your watches back one hour for daylight saving… and a decade for everything else.”
At Mrs Joyner’s insistence, Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen ordered ministers to banish sex education from Queensland schools.
Her arbitrary decisions informed what fellow citizens read. On her own count, she had 49 books and magazines banned.
Her wish list of works to be prescribed included the novel To Kill a Mockingbird and the classic Hollywood movie Gone with the Wind.
Penthouse and Playboy printed Queensland editions with “naked” centrefolds attired in sensible underthings, although even that proved inadequate for Joh’s censors who further decreed, “No Nipples.”
Due to official dread of the naked female breast, local workers found gainful employment squiggling out nipples with felt pens.
Generations of Queensland lads experienced disappointment on their wedding night when they discovered they’d married an unnatural freak possessed of nipples, not the normal porn mag squiggle that roused them to self-abuse.
Anticipating today’s “patriots,” Rona decided who were “real” Australians. Again, like the patriots, she concluded real Australians were a mirror image of her good self.
“Australia will prosper again only if we return to our roots — the Christian monoculture.”
‘Alien’ First Nations peoples
That of course ignored the pre-existence of First Nations peoples, but Rona had no truck with that. She demanded the government limit the teaching of “alien” Aboriginal history and culture.
“They don’t believe in worshipping God in a Christian manner,” she explained.
She didn’t storm out, she sat down to chat
I grew up in Mrs Joyner’s Queensland and first transitioned at a young age.
Around 1980, during a brief and unsuccessful flirtation with the role of suburban housewife, I wrote an article about Rona for national gay publication Campaign, published under a male nom-de-plume to appear more authoritative.
Women generally wrote social and fashion notes back then.
After the first article, the editor asked me to go undercover. I applied to join STOP under my then legal name. A week later, she was on my doorstep.
“Mrs St John?”
“Miss,” I answered.
“It’s a big house for a single woman.”
“Um… come in.” I was in shock at the unexpected visit, but unknown to me, Rona vetted every applicant for membership — in person. Anyone wishing to enlist in the Society to Outlaw Pornography or Campaign Against Regressive Education had to survive her personal scrutiny.
I lost my nerve and blabbed the truth, that I’d penned an attack on her and was attempting to infiltrate her pious crusade. Pathetic, I know. The end of my undercover career.
She had read the article. “But a man wrote that.”
I explained. She didn’t storm out, attempt an exorcism or call Joh’s stormtroopers to levy righteous punishment, all of which I considered distinct possibilities.
She sat down to chat.
“Oh, your hormones and everything,” she said.
I was gobsmacked.
The antithesis of everything I believed in, the woman who instigated the vendetta against gay teachers, the LGBTIQ community’s greatest enemy other than Joh himself, and she settled in for a friendly chat.
Rona Joyner, equal opportunity discriminator
Rona, I discovered, was an equal opportunity discriminator. She had no special prejudice against gays.
She despised all fornicators, heterosexual and homosexual. Sex should only take place within marriage and same-sex marriage was an impossibility. It would never happen.
She never hectored, chastised or judged. I hate to say it, but she was lovely. Her subject matter, however, was out there.
She explained the ungodly communist plot to take over the world.
Before they found fame, The Beatles played a residency in a Hamburg nightclub. Brought under the sway of Soviet operatives, they were subjected to either blackmail or brainwashing and subsequently grew their hair long in defiance of the masculine norm.
With secret Soviet backing, they became global celebrities and world-wide, men forwent the until then mandatory crewcut.
As a result, Rona revealed, western men would soon be feminised to the point they were too girly to defend Christian civilisation and Satan’s communist forces would rule the world.
Yes, sinners. You read it right. Before the advent of same-sex marriage as the death knell of civilisation, men with long hair threatened end times.
We parted on friendly terms and I never saw her again.
‘Sucking on the tit of the whore of Rome’
Who knows what inner demons drove Rona? Most people of faith are content to live their own truth, or at least, only evangelise to the consenting.
However, some do insist on bedevilling the indifferent and worse, a very few, Rona among them, possess sufficient conceit to presume righteousness is only found in their own reflection.
However, Rona eventually experienced the receiving end of bigotry such as her own.
The formerly very protestant crusader converted to Catholicism in 2006. Her former adherents were aghast.
If there’s anyone zealots hate more than unbelievers, it’s people who believe similarly but differently. Phrases not heard since the Reformation were thrown around with glorious abandon.
“Sucking on the tit of the whore of Rome,” undoubtedly my favourite.
Aged in her mid-nineties, Rona Joyner has given up politics to focus on her own salvation, and I believe still lives at Narangba, although someone has killed her off on ancestry.com.
We must not ignore the moral crusaders
For those of us who experienced those years, it is difficult to let go the bitterness from watching friends die, unable to any longer suffer the endless discrimination and persecution.
Or to forget that uni students we knew may not have contracted AIDS had not Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s thugs crowbarred condom machines from campus walls.
Self-righteous morals crusaders might not kill people, but are directly responsible for almighty human suffering, including death.
Joh Bjelke-Petersen visited untold suffering on Queenslanders he considered unsuitable residents of ‘his’ state.
Not everyone is concerned by the Bernardis, the Katters, the Hansons, the Sheltons and their fellow travellers.
“Oh, they’re okay. I’ve met them.” Or, “They don’t really matter. Don’t give them oxygen.”
They are not okay, and matter whether we ignore them or not. They have power over our lives.
Life is a funny thing. Rona Joyner was very decent person-to-person. Her deeds were pure evil, but honestly, she was lovely.
QN Magazine | 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.