1965: Tolerance

By the middle of the 1960s, a greater tolerance of homosexuality was starting to be expressed in Australian public life. 1965 offers a couple of striking examples.

In the Bulletin in May 1965, Gordon Hawkins referred to NSW Police Commissioner Colin Delaney’s claim that homosexuality was ‘Australia’s greatest menace’ – and immediately set about demolishing it. He railed against the ‘prudery, obscurantism and ignorance’ which marked attitudes to homosexuality. Homosexuals were not the ‘depraved, degenerate types’ of popular mythology, nor were they any more likely to ‘attack, assault, molest or seduce children’ than heterosexuals. Legalisation was unlikely to result in ‘proselytism on the part of homosexuals’ for the rather simple reason that ‘the vast majority [of homosexuals] regard their homosexuality as an affliction’. Indeed, all in all, it was difficult, according to Hawkins, to say anything significant about homosexuals at all: ‘the principle distinguishing feature is simply that they prefer their own to the opposite sex’.

Not that it was just the intellectuals. In February 1965, Judge Hidden of the Darlinghurst Quarter Sessions found himself sentencing two 20 year old men who had pleaded guilty to having indecently assaulted each other. Homosexuality, opined the judge, was ‘as much a disease as a crime’ and he declared that, ‘I am convinced, after many years in this court, that putting these people in gaol is no remedy’. His preference was that the legislature should provide him with an institution to which he could send offenders but in the absence of such he released the men on good behaviour bonds.

Brought to you by the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

Posted in History Bites.