Cover for Gay and Lesbian then and now Documenting Australia’s gay and lesbian history: life stories to go on record

A new three-year project is to record the life stories of gay and lesbian Australians in the first comprehensive nationwide documentation of changing attitudes to homosexuality.

The Past in the Present: Australian Lesbian and Gay Life Stories, a joint study by Macquarie University and the National Library Australia, will record the life stories of 60 gay and lesbian people from all walks of life in various parts of Australia. The taped interviews will be lodged with the National Library.

Chief investigator, Associate Professor Robert Reynolds of Macquarie University, says the interviews are critically important in documenting a neglected area of Australian history.

Reynolds says social attitudes towards lesbian and gay individuals have undergone a remarkable transformation over the past 50 years.

 “While now we debate gay marriage it was only a few decades ago that the majority of Australians thought male-to-male sexual activity should not be decriminalised,” Reynolds said.

The collection of taped interviews will provide a unique insight into how individuals negotiate intimate social change.

Contemporary studies have shown that gay and lesbian people are more likely to experience abuse and violence, more likely to commit suicide and have poorer health than other members of the community.

“The project will give ordinary gay and lesbian Australians of all ages a voice—they will tell the human story of a socially marginalised group,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said his research team was now calling for volunteers to take part in the project.

“We are looking for every day, ordinary people who would like to tell us their story, who would like to be a part of this important record of gay and lesbian life,” he said. “We want people from all across Australia, including those who were born in Australia and those who were born overseas, those who live in rural locations, those who live in suburbs and those who live in cities.”

The interviews will be conducted by historians from Macquarie University, the University of Queensland and the University of Melbourne.

Interested individuals can view the project in detail and fill in an expression of interest form on its website at:  Australianlesbianandgaylifestories.org.au. Or for more information, they can phone (02) 9850 9678 and leave their contact details.