Never A Crime
This project focuses on building Pride in our LGBTIQ identities. It involves workshops where Pride is discussed and Pride masks are made. The first workshops focused on gay and bisexual men, to affirm homosexuality as an equal way of being and to raise awareness of the Expungement Scheme. Photographs of men and their masks were exhibited for Midsumma in 2018 (see below) and we received requests to expand the project to include all LGBTIQ community members. We also received requests for a workshop that paid tribute to the survivors of the Tasty night club raid.
We are grateful to Midsumma Festival for supporting the Exhibition and to the City of Melbourne who provided a Community Grant to support four workshops in 2018.
The Apology – healing stigma
The project began with conversations about the Expungement Scheme in Victoria. The Scheme offers people 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). While these reforms are significant there is still a sense of stigma and shame around LGBTIQ identities. The Never a Crime project aims to address that stigma by building Pride.
These portraits of LGBTIQ people their Pride masks were taken by Lisa White, The Social Photographer. You can also click on the link here to read the stories workshop participants shared.
Ayman Barbaresco – Never A Crime
To me, pride is when you can truly be yourself. It means to be the real person that you are and not worry about what other people think. It is about letting your guard down and being happy in your own skin. I have had a very mixed life as a gay man. I was accepted by...
Andrew Rogers – Never a Crime
Pride to me means quiet strength in breathing the same amount of airspace as those around me, to paraphrase a writer whose name escapes me. Pride is recognising the courage with which we confidently move through the world as equal but not the same participants. My...
Michael Dalton – Never a Crime
Pride means I get to be me. I get to live my life as a proud, out gay man. When I was younger I remember hearing the word “poof” like so many others around me. It prevented me from coming out when I was really young (15 or 16). But it didn’t take me much...
Antony McManus – Never a Crime
Pride is living without fear. I can take pride knowing that I get involved when I see injustices within our community. I have been very lucky. I have surrounded myself with supportive, loving people.
Peter Hudson – Never A Crime
Pride means confidence, self-expression, community, acceptance, solidarity, camaraderie, joy of life, living, amazing creativity, growing graciousness and wisdom My message to men who were unjustly convicted is claim your emancipation! Take back what is rightfully...
Paul Marshall – Never A Crime
What does pride mean to me? I'm not sure I can give you an answer you may be looking for. I do not feel pride in being a gay man. Nor do I feel shame. I am just me, I don't spend much time that I am aware of thinking about being gay. I am me, no more and no less. I...
James Heggie – Never A Crime
What Pride means to me is learning to be comfortable in yourself and loving you for who you are. You need to feel like you are able to love, date and care for whoever you want My message to men who were unjustly convicted is don’t be afraid to be true to yourself as...
Rod White – Never A Crime
Pride means to be able to walk in public with confidence and head held high. To be able to say ‘I’m a gay man’ in conversation with strangers. To listen to and acknowledge the journeys travelled by the elders who have paved the way for this life we lead My message to...
James Conlan – Never A Crime
Pride means being proud of who I am despite my differences. That I am just as worthy as everyone else. That I have just as much positivity, life, and energy to contribute to the world as everyone else. That I want to leave the world a little bit better off for those I...
David Morrison – Never A Crime
Pride means I can be the person I really am, quite independent of the societal commentators on how one should think concerning one’s sexuality. To be relaxed as to how I conduct myself as a gay man in everyday activities. To feel at home with the human race in the...
Max Primmer – Never A Crime
Pride means to me being able to live my life true to myself, having true friends around me, gay, bi, straight. Being able to feel comfortable with all my friends as a gay man and Drag Queen. The total acceptance of family and friends of who I am. Doing my best to pass...
Matthew Wade – Never A Crime
To me, pride means celebrating my differences rather than hiding from them. I remind myself on a daily basis that I’m lucky to be gay, because I’ve been able to grow up with a firm sense of social justice and important understanding of oppression and marginalisation....
Jack Dow – Never A Crime
Pride means to comfortably be who you are without fear or compromise (eg: not adjusting your personality, language, attire to suit others). My message to men who were unjustly convicted is Thank you. As a young gay man I am only partially aware of the experiences that...
Fernando Estrada – Never A Crime
Pride means to me to be able to stand up for myself and my LGBTIQ+ community by openly expressing my beliefs about what it is to be gay. My message to men who were unjustly convicted is I am so sorry that you lived bullying, harassment, exclusion and discrimination as...
Mohsin Ali – Never A Crime
Pride is an intrinsic part of myself. Pride in my sexuality, ethnicity. What I stand for and what I believe. It breaks my heart that the laws were unjust. I cannot imagine how harrowing that must have been. I hope expungement goes some way to healing the pain....
Tribute to Tasty Raid Survivors
We also received requests for a workshop that paid tribute to the survivors of the Tasty night club raid. Police have apologised for the raid. A workshop was facilitated as part of the Community Grant provided by the City of Melbourne. Workshop participants included Ron, a gay man who was at Tasty when it was raided. You can read Ron’s story hereand the messages from other workshop participants are shared below.
Messages to men who were unjustly convicted
David Morrison: I like being gay
The apology 2015
The Expungement Scheme
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.
There are a number of wonderful support services out there to help if you need someone to talk to:
- Switchboard Victoria provides peer based support for LGBTIQ people and their friends, family and allies. Switchboard is a Victorian partner in the national telephone and web counselling, information and referral service (QLife) and are available 3pm – 12am every day on 1800 184 527 or web: http://www.switchboard.org.au/
- VAC counselling service: the first session is free and from then on fees are based on a scale depending on your income. Open Monday to Thursday 9am – 8pm. Friday 9am – 4pm. Phone (03) 9865 6700 or web: http://vac.org.au/lgbti-health/counselling
- QLife are available from 5:30pm – 10:30pm and can be contacted on 1800 184 527 or web: https://qlife.org.au/
- beyondblue provides a free phone service 24 hours a day on 1300 22 4636 or web: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
- Lifeline is a free phone service available 24 hours a day on 13 11 14 or web: https://www.lifeline.org.au/
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