Dr. George Duncan Memorial

Don Dunstan
Premier of South Australia
1967 - 1968 | 1970 - 1979
Born
21 September 1926
Died
6 February 1999
Aged
72

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References to same sex attractio

References to same sex attraction among men and women have appeared in literature since the time of the Greek philosophers and poets. In about 600 B.C. Sappho was writing poetry to her female companions on Lesbos and in 360 B.C. Plato in Symposium relates a discussion on the nature of erotic love between two men.

Early English responses 1376 to 1861

Responses to sexuality since antiquity have been largely cultural, focusing almost entirely on relationships between men, and driven by religious belief and social perception. In 1376 the English Parliament unsuccessfully petitioned Edward III to banish foreign artisans accusing them of the "too horrible vice which is not to be named". The first English legislation relating to same sex relationships was The Buggery Act introduced by Henry VIII in 1533. Abolished in 1553 it was reinstated by Elizabeth ten years later. From this time until 1861 English law proscribed the death penalty for this offence.

South Australian law reform 1859 to 1975

In the colonies of New South Wales and Tasmania seventeen people were executed for buggery between 1828 and 1863. Although South Australia by default also proscribed the death penalty for the crime of buggery, there were no executions, and in 1859 the South Australian Parliament passed An Act for consolidating the Statute Law in force in South Australia relating to Indictable Offences against the Person. Section 42 of that act decreed that "Whosoever shall be convicted of the abominable crime of buggery, committed either with mankind or with any animal, shall be imprisoned for life, with solitary confinement." This began a process of slow but steady amelioration of the penalties for buggery.

The Criminal Law Consolidation Act, 1876, Section 71 amended the penalty to "Whosoever shall be convicted of the abominable crime of buggery... shall be liable to be imprisoned for life, or any term not less than ten years, with hard labour, and maybe whipped."  Section 72 of the same Act added the crime of attempting to commit the "abominable crime of buggery", and allowed for imprisonment, "not exceeding ten years, with hard labour, and maybe whipped." The Criminal Law Amendment Act, of 1925 further reduced the penalty for buggery to a term of imprisonment "not exceeding ten years, with hard labour, and maybe whipped."  But this Act added a section (15) in which any,

male person who, in public or in private, commits or is a party to the commission of or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of an act of gross indecency with another male person shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and shall be liable to imprisonment for any term not exceeding three years, with hard labour.

Apart from a minor amendment in 1935, the law remained largely unchanged for several decades, until two events worked to completely overturn the legislation. On June 2 1970 the Dunstan Labor government was elected, beginning a decade of social reform, and on May 10 1972, Adelaide University law lecturer, Dr George Duncan, was thrown into the Torrens River and drowned.

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On 26 July 1972, Liberal MLC, Murray Hill, introduced a private members Bill to amend the Criminal Law Consolidation Act, 1935-1971. The amended Bill was passed and assented to on 9 November 1972, and changed the law to allow for the defence of a "homosexual act ... committed with another male person, in private", where "he and the other male person consented to the act and had attained the age of twenty-one years."

The following year the ALP Member for Elizabeth, Peter Duncan, introduced his Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill into Parliament. This was passed in the Lower House but was defeated on two occasions in the Legislative Council. Duncan introduced a substantially unchanged Bill to the Parliament on 27 August 1975, where it was read a second and third time and passed, all on the same day, making South Australia the first state to decriminalise homosexual acts between consenting males.

Countering Discrimination

Removal of the crime of buggery from the statutes did not address the many other areas of law that continued to permit discrimination against gay men, lesbians and transgender people. It was not until August 1984 that the Bannon government introduced Anti-Discrimination legislation outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexuality, marital status, pregnancy, race or physical impairment. The sexuality clauses caused considerable discussion during the second reading debate, and, although the opposition opposed the inclusion of sexuality in the legislation, the legislation passed.

Transgender Law Reform

The transgender community has long been paradoxically both visible and invisible, due to the indeterminate nature of its makeup. Where the theatre has long provided 'acceptable' examples of cross dressing, transgender behaviours elsewhere have been seen as aberrant, attracting legal and medical attention.

As with the Gay and Lesbian rights movement, transgender people were not openly organized until the early 1970s, when the Seahorse Club established branches in most Australian capital cities. In May 1985 some South Australian members of Seahorse formed the Carrousel Club specifically to provide social and peer support to transgender people.

In December 1987, the Attorney General, the Hon. Chris Sumner, introduced the Sexual Reassignment Bill, making South Australia the first state to regulate the performance of reassignment procedures, and provide for the legal recognition of the reassigned sexual identity. The Bill underwent considerable amendment, with discussion of the value of sex change operations, and concern that amended birth certificates should continue to record the previous sexual identity

In 1994 a group of transgender people, with the support of a local treating psychiatrist established South Australian Transsexual Support (SATS) to provide information and support to people seeking sex reassignment surgery.

Carrousel continues to provide support to transgender people in South Australia.

Coming Out in S.A. 1879 - 1960

The social history of same sex attracted and transgender people is not so easy to discover. Until the 1970s most same sex attracted and transgender people hid their sexuality and gender identity in order to avoid discrimination and criminal penalties. The researcher must often rely on the records of trials of gay men, or seek evidence such as domestic living arrangements that may suggest a relationship. Sexuality defining terms such as homosexual, lesbian or transsexual, were not used before the early twentieth century, the concept of physical love between women being ignored by authorities as barely comprehensible,  and transsexuality was mostly unknown before 1952, when American, Christine Jorgenson, had sex change surgery in Copenhagen.

Reports of the suicides of Ernest Neville and John Adamson at Gawler in 1879 provide an example of a tragedy that suggests an intimate relationship. "Both men were about thirty years of age, and bachelors, were deeply attached to each other, and in talking would always speak of each other as 'chummy', and have been keeping house together for a number of years". (Illustrated Adelaide News, November 1879) Conclusive evidence of the nature of their relationship, and those of men and women in similar situations, do not exist.

The prosecution of Adelaide City Councillor, Member of Parliament and probably best known gay man of the period, Bert Edwards, provides one of the city's most infamous crime cases. Arrested for sodomy in 1930, he was found guilty and sentenced to five years with hard labour, after a trial that lasted 8 days and attracted considerable public interest in February 1931. Edwards had been much loved in Adelaide's West End and had a reputation as a philanthropist, with numerous stories existing of his efforts to alleviate the conditions of the poor and disadvantaged. He was released on probation on 8 June 1933 and although expelled from the ALP in 1938, he was re-elected to the Adelaide City Council in 1948 remaining until his death in 1963. His obituary in The Advertiser said he was "well known for his charitable work among the needy of Adelaide's West End" where his name was "legend", that the "Nuns of the Daughters of Charity named a new dining hall after him" and the Premier, Sir Thomas Playford said, "Scarcely a good cause in the city did not receive some help from him." No mention was made of his conviction.

Coming Out in S.A. 1960 to 2015

The international post-war rise of the civil rights movement and feminism included a growing resistance movement against legal persecution of minority groups. On 27 June 1969 a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York city, precipitated a series of riots that are celebrated worldwide as the beginning of the gay rights movement.

In South Australia after the law reforms of 1972, gay men and lesbians were able to organise and lobby relatively openly, although they continued to be subjected to vilification and threats from right wing organisations and some religous groups.

The periodical Gay Times was first published in 1972, and renamed Boiled Sweets in 1973. Early editions describe protest actions such as 'Zapping' - the act of confronting homophobic doctors. The September 1973 issue advertises Adelaide's 'Gay Pride Week' and the first 'Proud Parade', held on 15 September 1973.

In 1975 the '1346 Club' was formed by two gay households, the name chosen as being the combination of their two house numbers. The committee of men and women organised a series of events for the gay, lesbian and transgender communities, including a Show Boat cruise, the Gay Olympic Festival, the Black and White Ball, Mardi Gras by Night, and 'War in a Warehouse', which was described as "the largest gathering of gay people under one roof at any one time in South Australia". (Gay News Service, Number 6 pg.3.) The proceeds from these events were returned to community organisations such as the Gay Community Centre, Gayline and the Women's Information Switchboard.

At a meeting at the Gouger Gay Men's Centre on 11 March 1976, the Gay Counselling Service (GCS) predecessor of the present Gay and Lesbian Community Service (GLCS) was formed by three psychologists and activist, Peter Migalka. In 1985 the services provided by the GCS were considerably expanded through government funding in response to the spread of HIV and AIDS, and a centre was opened at 130 Carrington Street. The establishment of the AIDS Council of South Australia (ACSA) in 1986, allowed GCS to return to its original volunteer counselling role. As increasing numbers of women joined GCS, services to lesbians were provided and the name changed to Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service (GLCS). In 2006 the name became Gay and Lesbian Community Service, reflecting the broader role of the organisation.

On 21 June 1989, in response to reports to GLCS of police harassment of gay men, a public meeting attended by more than 100 people was held at the Box Factory in Regent Street. At this meeting Gay Community Action (GCA) was formed. At a second meeting held on 6 December 1989 the name was changed to Lesbian and Gay Community Action (LGCA). LGCA was a community development organisation producing the annual Picnic in the Park, Stone Wall commemoration celebrations, and in 1994 the Police and You report. In 1993 LGCA received an Achievement Award from the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity. It wound up its activities in 1997.

Many of the community events that had been organised by LGCA were taken over by Feast, a annual cultural festival developed by Margie Fisher, Helen Bock, Luke Cutler and Damien Carey and first held in November 1997.

Further organised lobbying for gay law reform did not occur until 2000, with the formation of Let's Get Equal (LGE) to campaign for equal legal rights for same sex couples. The campaign received a significant boost in January 2005 when well known community advocate Ian Purcell was made a Member of the Order of Australia for "service to the community, particularly gay and lesbian people through advocacy, education, law reform and support for community events". The South Australian Labor Government introduced its Statutes Amendment (Relationships) Bill, intended to remove legislative discrimination against same sex attracted people, in early 2005. After passing in the Legislative Council it failed to complete its passage through the Lower House prior to the March 2006 election.

On 14 November 2006, the Attorney General, Michael Atkinson, introduced a revised Bill, the Statutes Amendment (Domestic Partners) Bill. This legislation amended existing legislation to include same sex couples and other couples living in non-sexual domestic relationships. The legislation passed the House of Representatives on 23 November and the Legislative Council 0n 7 December.

On 1 July 2009 Commonwealth legislative reforms affecting same-sex couples particularly relating to tax, social security, superannuation, immigration, child support and aged care came into effect. (see Attorney General Same-Sex reforms )

Same-sex couples continue to be discriminated against on issues of adoption of children, access to IVF, and marriage, a Commonwealth responsibility.

Canary 1972 to 1974

Canary was published by the South Australian branch of the Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP), a gay and lesbian rights group, between 1972 and 1974. First published as Campcites in September 1972, volume 1 number 2, published in October 1972, was retitled Canary. Following the drowning of Dr George Duncan in May 1972, Canary documents many of the debates and activities that led to South Australia becoming the first Australian state to legalise homosexual acts between consenting males in September 1975.

The title, Canary, was drawn from 'Canary Cottage' the name given by the local gay community to the toilet block located on the Torrens Lake near where Duncan's body was found.

Canary documents the Duncan case, the progress of law reform in South Australia and the other states, the creation of groups such as Gay Lib. and Gay Activists Alliance, social activites and groups such as the A.C./D.C. club and religious groups, and attitudes expressed in the media.

The GALAH 1989 to 1990

Replacing Catch 22, published from 1983 to 1989, The GALAH was first published by the Adelaide Directory Collective in May 1989 and for the first two issues included the additional title 'The Gay and Lesbian Australian Herald'. This changed from issue three to 'For the Gay and Lesbian Australian'.

Although its focus was primarily Adelaide news and events GALAH did report a significant amount of interstate and international news.

The first issue of GALAH included Adelaide and Melbourne Directories and an advertised distribution through 32 Adelaide and 27 Melbourne venues. By Issue 10 (February 1990) GALAH was claiming a distribution of 12,000 copies in every Australian capital city and Alice Springs.

Significant themes covered in 1989 and 1990 issues include articles and photographs of GLBT community celebrations and anniversaries, responses to HIV and AIDS, reports of homophobia, homophobic violence and community responses, and interviews with GLBT identities.

Rodney Ellis was the author of most of the editorial comment, titled "Not the editorial".

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