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Adelaide could be a dangerous place for homosexuals and bisexuals in 1972. Homosexual acts between consenting adults were illegal, and participants were enthusiastically and ruthlessly pursued by poofter bashers and the South Australian Police.
Night time brought relative safety and opportunities to meet other like minded people for social or other intercourse. Most men were forced to meet at Adelaide's gay beats, although places such as the AC/DC Club in the city were springing up, and later the Buckingham Arms Hotel and the Mars Bar became popular. But if you weren't a university student or in a gay network, you wouldn't know about them.
One of the most notorious gay beats in Adelaide was on the banks of the River Torrens between Jolleys Boathouse Restaurant and the disused police station on Victoria Drive. It was here in May 1972 that law lecturer Dr. George Duncan was thrown in the river and drowned, probably by off-duty Vice Squad police officers.
This tragic event caused national public outrage, and ultimately contributed to the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in South Australia in 1975, the first state in the nation to do so. It also led to increased confidence within the gay community, and the following year Adelaide held its first Gay Pride march ever.
The Gay Times Are Here Again Exhibition celebrates the 40th anniversary of the first Gay Pride march on Saturday September 15 1973, when Adelaide shoppers were stunned by the spectacle of lesbian and gay people openly marching on the street in broad daylight!
Activist & Historian John Lee Leads the Pride March Along Rundle Street (Jill Matthews Collection, Courtesy of Ian Purcell)
The Pride march was the main event of the Adelaide Gay Pride Week and marked a major milestone for the gay community. No longer would South Australian lesbian gay and transgendered people sit quietly and inoffensively by while being discriminated against.
[ADVERT]It took place during a period of massive reform and renewal in South Australia, when premier Don Dunstan introduced such sweeping changes that the period is frequently referred to as the Dunstan decade, and SA blossomed on the national stage as the leader of a social and cultural modernisation program.
The State Library of South Australia has combined with the Australian Lesbian & Gay Archives, the SA Gay & Lesbian Archives, the Parkestone Association and the National Australian Archives to bring a major exhibition of gay history to the heritage listed Institute Room from Wednesday September 18 until Sunday November 24. The Exhibition includes historic photos, television footage and newspaper accounts from Adelaide's gay history over the forty year period since Adelaide's first Gay Pride march.
GAA Collective Outside the Exeter Hotel During Gay Pride Week (Jill Matthews Collection, Courtesy of Ian Purcell)
It's the first time that the photos have been publicly displayed, and they reflect a period very different from today. They depict the start of a time of change which is still continuing, with the realisation that it is now time for marriage equality too.
Thank goodness times have changed. Unfortunately, some people are still of the belief that gayness can be "cured". Lets hope, before another thirty years passes,they will also be enlightened. Thank God for people like Don Dunstan. I`m old enough to remember him being vilified for his views.Thank goodness also for The Mars Bar, where gay people could go 25 years ago and still can now.
Brilliant!!! Thankyou Dave for keeping this part of our South Australian history in the forefront of people's minds. i.e. the harassment, abuse and continuing denigration of our Gay South Australians and especially the fact that those, in "the establishment", deemed to be responsible for the death of Dr Duncan have never had to face a Court of Law. Disgracedful!!!
Sure Don did some good stuff re: the Arts and being an "arty farty" from way back I sure do agree. However. his work to stop the accepted, and rampant abuse, of South Australian homosexuals is IMHO his greatest work in improving our Society.