A new podcast explores the dark untold story behind the world’s only “gay prison,” which operated in a regional Australian town in the 1950s to house men convicted of gay sex offences.
Journalist Patrick Abboud created the podcast The Greatest Menace after spending three years investigating the history of Cooma, a small regional New South Wales town.
Abboud told news.com.au he had spent time in the town as a young man. But in 2017, he was shocked when someone told him about its dark secret.
In 1958, then-New South Wales police commissioner Colin Delaney described homosexuality as the “greatest menace” facing Australia, Abboud explained.
“They established a prison specifically to incarcerate gay men, and they had an intention behind that,” he said.
He said the government was public to a certain degree about the purpose of the prison in Cooma.
Abboud said the historical prison was reopened and operational by 1958. However there was very little information about what happened there.
But he said authorities set up a research committee to run the facility, which he believes shows a plot to “eradicate homosexuality”.
“Where’s the report? Where’s the findings of what happened?” he said.
“My instinct is that they didn’t want it to be widely known.”
Shocking stories of police entrapment of gay men in podcast
In the podcast, Patrick Abboud interviews inmates of the prison and claims police formed a vice squad to entrap gay men and send them there.
“A lot of the arrests that were made at the time, and the charges, are just ludicrous,” he said.
“Discovering what some of those men went through in the process of being trapped and charged, it’s horrifying.
“Their lives were destroyed, and they’re still reeling from it.”
Abboud said the NSW Police deny entrapment was used to arrest gay men.
However he speaks to a man called Terry who says a “good-looking” man approached him at the beach. Terry said the man asked him to take his penis out of his swimsuit.
The man was an undercover police officer and he charged Terry with indecency.
Police later dropped the charges. However Terry’s mother still had to bail him out of jail. The man also lost his job when police informed his employer.
Homosexuality was later decriminalised in New South Wales in 1984.
Today, the Cooma Correctional Centre is used as a minimum and medium security facility.
Patrick Abboud said he hopes the podcast will encourage people who have more information about the dark history of the “gay prison” to come forward.
The Greatest Menace podcast is free to listen to from Audible for six months.
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