Sydney’s The Pollys Club celebrates 60 years

Sydney's The Polly's Club is celebrating 60 years in 2024.

The Pollys Club began life as a social group for gay men in the Inner West in the 1960s before there were even gay bars in Sydney and is still going strong in 2024.

Australia’s longest continuing LGBTQIA+ organisation, The Pollys Club, is celebrating 60 years, having raised over half a million dollars for charity through drag nights and social dances since its founding in 1964.

Pollys is hosting a sold out Diamond Dance at the Paddington Town Hall as part of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival in a partnership with the Dykes on Bikes, and will have a float in the parade.

Pollys will also host a Masquerade 60th anniversary dance on July 13 at the UNSW Roundhouse with an expected crowd of over 500 attendees.

Club president David Haynes said much of the money raised was during the HIV epidemic when Pollys became a major supporter of the E10 West Ward at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

“We have had very varied recipients over the years, but we usually target organisations with attachment to the LGBTIQ+ community, including Bobby Goldsmith Foundation, Western Suburbs Haven, and Dementia Centre for Research,” Haynes said.

The club has also donated to organisations including Nepal Australia Project and Pattaya Street Kids in Thailand, as well as Sex and Gender Education (SAGE) Australia and the Taronga Conservation Society.

“Over the past few years, we have changed some of our focus to being involved in community activities, particularly brought about by COVID,” Haynes continued.

“In 2020, we prepared 300 meals and distributed these to 100 people in the Sydney area who are living with HIV and AIDS and were struggling to obtain services via their usual channels due to the COVID lockdowns.”

“In December 2020, we produced 50 Christmas bags for people living with HIV.”

Two years earlier, The Pollys Club became involved with the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse Arterie program, designed as a diversional therapy program for cancer patients, their carers, families, volunteers and staff.

“We funded and were involved in a hat making project, and in 2019 a puppet making project. Pollys members were able to get involved with the program and attend workshops and presentation days,” Haynes said.

The club provides the opportunity for people to give back to the LGBTQIA+ community through volunteer work.

This includes holding positions on the executive committee, alongside taking part in or producing drag shows that form part of The Pollys Club social dances every year.

“It’s hard work but very rewarding, and you get to make life-long friendships and not just with fellow members but also our regular patrons,” Haynes said.

“It also provides members with an opportunity to work in Executive Committee roles, work with local councils and other organisations, and stalwarts of our community, such as Mardi Gras, Bobby Goldsmith, PFLAG and so on.”

Haynes has been club president since 2016, with some members being part of the club for over 40 years – including lifetime members Bill Mansell and Garry Trotter.

Mansell, who also goes by the drag name Sue Ellen, has been a member of Pollys for 43 years.

“My top highlights include the Poly-lympics, a gay games day mostly held in Milperra that drew crowds of about two thousand, and our participation in the second Mardi Gras parade leaving from Bathurst Street in Sydney,” Mansell said.

-Diamond Dance is at Paddington Town Hall from 6.30pm on February 29.

-The Polly’s Club will celebrate its diamond anniversary at the UNSW Roundhouse from 7pm on Saturday, July 13 with Masquerade: 60th Birthday Dance.

Andrew M Potts

Andrew has been covering LGBTQIA+ issues for a range of publications in Australia over two decades and was the Asia-Pacific correspondent for global LGBTQIA+ news website Gay Star News.

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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