One of Australia’s longest-running LGBTI groups, the Country Network, is proudly celebrating its 40th anniversary this month.
The group was founded in the regional New South Wales town of Dubbo in 1977 by local man David, who saw an urgent need to reach out to gay and bisexual men in regional areas who faced limited opportunities for social interaction and friendships.
At the time, homosexuality was still a crime in nearly all Australian states and territories and gay men faced a very real risk of being arrested and charged, fired from their jobs and ostracised by their community should their sexuality be discovered.
After David placed an advertisement in the Campaign Newspaper in autumn 1977, a few men came knocking on his door while others contacted him via mail.
Within a few months, a short newsletter was being circulated among a number of men. It was at the first social event the men organised in Christmas 1977 that they discussed forming an organised network, and membership grew around New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory largely by word of mouth alone.
Events the group held to celebrate Australia Day and Easter in 1978 attracted new members, including men from Queensland and other areas of New South Wales. The group began holding Annual General Meetings (AGMs) that year, and now hold them annually right around the country to include interstate members.
Today, the group has about 300 members in both cities and regional areas and from October 20 to 23 the group will come together for their 2017 AGM and celebrate the 40th anniversary in the place it all began, in Dubbo.
For more information about the Country Network and information on becoming a member, visit the group’s website here.