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. The Never a Crime project addresses this shame by inviting gay and bisexual men to participate in workshop to share their stories and build a sense of Pride in who they are – because Pride is the opposite of shame. The project is 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.
Pride Workshops 2018
Between April and June 2018 we will host four Pride Workshops, supported by a City of Melbourne Community Grant. If you participate in a workshop you will be invited to share what Pride means to you and to reflect on the historical treatment of gay and bisexual men. Workshops will include mask making and portraits. The portraits and stories will be shared on this page to affirm homosexuality as an equal way of being. Workshop dates are listed below and more information is available in the information sheet (here). Bookings essential
- Sunday 22 April, 1-5pm: Community Leaders Workshop (see flyer below)
- Sunday 20 May, 1-5pm: TBC
- Sunday 17th June, 1-5pm
Masks and Stories
Messages to men who were unjustly convicted
An important part of this project has been inviting participants, and those attending the Exhibition, 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.
Our 2017 pilot workshops were powerful and fun – see workshop photos below by Lisa White, The Social Photographer. The portraits were exhibited for Midsumma 2018 (details 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.
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.
The historical treatment of gay and bisexual men
The Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives are part of the project team and will provide archival material for the project – to help educate others who are unaware of the historical experiences of gay and bisexual men.
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: email@example.com
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