This project is about developing a collective sense of Pride – and building our pride in our individual LGBTIQ identities.
The project began with conversations about the Expungement Scheme in Victoria. The Scheme offers men the opportunity to have historical convictions for consensual homosexual sex overturned. We heard that men who had been through Expungement reported it was cathartic – but few men have participated.
In conversations about why this was the case were we told this: the historic oppression of gay and bisexual men by law and society sought to create a sense of shame around homosexuality. In 1981 this oppression shifted in Victoria when legislative reforms saw consensual homosexual sex decriminalized; and then again in 2015 when the State Government implemented a scheme to expunge historical convictions for homosexual sex. While legislative reform is essential there is also a need to heal the stigma, hurt, shame and losses these laws created.
A process of healing began in 2016, when Premier Daniel Andrews made an apology in State Parliament for past injustices (read the apology here) or view the apology video below. While these reforms are significant – there is still a sense of shame around homosexuality. Many have suggested that the stigma and shame is a barrier to men accessing the Expungement Scheme.
First workshops – for gay & bi men
The first Pride workshops were held in 2017 and invited gay and bisexual men to participate to share their stories and build a sense of Pride in who they are – because Pride is the opposite of shame. The workshops were structured to:
- Contribute to healing the wounds of past injustices
- Reduce the stigma and shame associated with homosexuality
- Affirm homosexuality as an equal way of being
- Celebrate gay and bisexual men’s resilience and survival
- Raise awareness of the Expungement Scheme.
We were pleased the workshops were popular with younger, middle and mature age gay and bisexual men. We invited them to write their messages of support to older men who were unjustly convicted (see below). We were surprised to learn that Pride is as important to the twenty years old participants – as it was the 80 year olds. We still need Pride.
The workshops were powerful and the photos were exhibited for Midsumma in 2018 (see below). In feedback on the workshops and exhibition, we heard the project needed to be expanded to include all LGBTIQ community members. We were made aware that Trans and Gender Diverse people and lesbians received criminal convictions (see Hold Hands on a Tram).
In discussing messages of support to older men – many workshop participants made reference to the Tasty night club raid and the importance of sending messages to the Survivors of the raid. A workshop was offered for Survivors of the raid and their allies – we hope this workshop will send messages of support to Survivors. Police have apologised for the raid.
Working with the City of Melbourne
In early 2018 we hosted four Pride Workshops, supported by a City of Melbourne Community Grant. A final workshop held on Sunday 17th June 1.30-4pm is a tribute to Tasty Survivors – we hope this workshop will produce messages of support for all the Survivors of the raid. The information sheet (here). Bookings essential
Masks and Stories
Messages to men who were unjustly convicted
Workshop participants and those attending the Exhibition were invited to send a message of support to men who were unjustly convicted. The responses are heart warming and we display them here in the hope that they will help to send a message of support.
The Pride workshops are a lot of fun – and a powerful process. Participants tell us that working on their mask and reflecting on Pride is quite uplifting and is an important process. Check out some of our workshop photos by Lisa White below.
David Morrison: I like being gay
In one of our workshops, 86 year old David Morrison shared his historical experiences of homophobia and pride and concludes: I am happy now – I like being gay. In this short film David describes the mask he made.
We were proud to partner with Midsumma Festival and the Abbotsford Convent Gallery in January 2017, to present an exhibition of photographs of men and their masks by Lisa White, The Social Photographer. View details of the exhibition here.
As part of the launch exhibition we invited men who participated in the Pride Workshops to reflect on the project, the exhibition, their masks and Pride. Their responses are very touching and can be viewed in the YouTube video below.
The apology 2015
In May 2015 Premier Daniel Andrews issued a formal apology in State Parliament to gay men for past injustices – making Victoria the first state to apologise. You can view the apology below – courtesy of ABC News.
Below are a series of photos taken from the apology in State Parliament, which was open to the general public, and an extract from the apology.
The Expungement Scheme
In September 2015 a new scheme was implemented in Victoria to expunge historical convictions for homosexual activity that would not be a criminal offence today. Under the scheme, an individual (or the appropriate representative of a deceased person) can make a confidential application to the Secretary of the Department of Justice and Regulation to have their conviction or finding of guilt for an historical homosexual offence expunged. This application can be made free of charge. For more information about the Scheme go to the Department of Justice and Regulations webpage.
Human Rights Law Centre – here to help
The Human Rights Law Centre is a wonderful organisation that has set up an Expungement Legal Service to help people who work through the process of Expungement. If you have or know someone who has a historic finding of guilt or conviction for homosexual activity, the Expungement Legal Service can help: advise you on the expungement scheme (including if you are eligible to apply); assist you to prepare your application and relevant paperwork; and support you through the expungement process.
The Expungement Legal Service provides free and confidential legal help to anyone affected by these laws in any state or territory in Australia. The team is staffed by LGBTIQ identifying lawyers and includes volunteer lawyer Jamie Gardiner who has personal experience of the climate and police attitudes before the old laws were repealed. For more information go to the HRLC webpage on Expungement by clicking here.
If you would like more information about this project please contact the project coordinator Dr Catherine Barrett by hone: 0429 582 237 or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Barrett-White collaboration
This project was bought to you by Catherine Barrett and Lisa White. Catherine and Lisa are passionate about engaging communities in real change for social justice – and are grateful to the following organisations and individuals:
- Ro Allen, Gender and Sexuality Commissioner: project patron
- Jamie Gardiner: for his advice and encouragement
- Human Rights Law Centre: for supporting the project
- Switchboard Victoria: for supporting the project
- Vintage Men Inc: for supporting the project
- Victorian AIDS Council: for supporting the project
- Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives: for their display and the project Exhibition
- Midsumma Festival: for partnering in a 2018 project Exhibition
- Abbotsford Convent: for providing a venue for the 2018 project Exhibition
- City of Melbourne: for providing a community grant for four workshops in 2018
In the Media
We are grateful to those working in the Media who have shared information about the project – your stories help us to challenge the shame around homosexuality and bisexuality.
- Saturday Magazine (6th Jan 2018) with Jamie Gardiner: link