Gay pride demonstration in Adelaide

This is a colour photograph of the first Gay Pride demonstration by gay activists in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1973. At the forefront marchers hold up individual letters spelling out the words 'Gay Pride'. Numerous other banners are also carried, including a large one bearing the inscription 'Homosexual Liberation'. Bunches of pink and black balloons float above the marchers.

Educational value

  • The photograph shows marchers in the Proud Parade, Adelaide's first gay pride march, held on Saturday 15 September 1973 as part of 'Gay Pride Week' activities in capital cities throughout Australia. The march route went through prominent streets in Adelaide, including Rundle Street and King William Street, ending up at Victoria Square. It was held on a busy Saturday shopping morning to create the greatest impact.

  • The march was part of increasing social concern about discrimination towards minorities and had the multiple aims of recognising and celebrating gay lifestyles, protesting against discrimination and opening up dialogue on homosexual issues with the wider community. Marchers displayed brightly coloured balloons and banners, sang, danced and chanted to attract attention. They distributed leaflets outlining the problems they faced and calling for legal and social reforms.

  • The marchers were able to openly organise the event and lobby on gay issues because of a private member's bill introduced by Murray Hill and passed in 1972. This bill had been weakened by amendments but gave some legality to homosexuality in private by consenting adults over 21 years of age. However, discrimination in the forms of threats, vilification and violence continued and the lives of homosexuals remained difficult and even dangerous.

  • Discrimination against homosexuals was a source of increasing concern in 1973, even though some changes had already been made to the law on homosexuality. Further reform was already on the agenda because of two other events, the election of the more sympathetic Dunstan Labor state government, and the drowning in 1972 of Dr George Duncan, a lecturer at the University of Adelaide. Duncan was allegedly a victim of homophobic violence and his death outraged many in the community.

  • In 1975 South Australia became the first state in Australia to fully decriminalise homosexuality. In 1973, the Australian Labor Party Member for Elizabeth, Peter Duncan, introduced his Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill into Parliament. It was initially defeated but Duncan reintroduced a substantially unchanged Bill to the Parliament on 27 August 1975 that was passed, making South Australia the first state to decriminalise homosexual acts between consenting males.

  • The march was only one of several events organised for Gay Pride Week in Adelaide which attracted considerable media coverage, including television reports. A full press conference was organised by gay activists, dance and street theatre performances were also held and 60 pink crosses were set out in North Terrace as a memorial to gay World War II Holocaust victims. The crosses were quickly removed by authorities.

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This learning content – description and educational value statement – co-created by National Digital Learning Resource Network and National Archives of Australia.

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