Australian Queer Archival Films

These films have been uploaded to YouTube and and logged by YouTube user kurvapicsa


First Australian female to male cross dresser on film (1913)

First Australian female to male cross dresser on film, 1913

Theatre owner and entrepreneur, Sir Benjamin Fuller, chats to a male impersonator and several women at a stall at a fete.

‘Theatrical Personality makes History : Sir Benjamin Fuller arranges most successful garden fete of year : Every shy rings a Bull’s Eye : Poverty Point, N.S.W.’

Australian soldiers in tight white uniforms (1917)

Australian soldiers in sexy tight white uniforms, very camp to those with queer sensibilities


One of Australia’s first tom-boys on film in ‘Silks & Saddles’ (1921)

One of Australia’s first tom-boys on film. Check out the knowing lesbian glances between Bobbie & Mrs Fane at 1.33′.

‘Silks & Saddles’ is a racecourse melodrama with a strong willed heroine, Bobbie Morton, who in the tradition of ‘The Girl of the Bush’ and ‘The Squatter’s Daughter’ is horsewoman, larrikin two-up player and dainty romantic interest. With a plot of race-rigging at its centre, the film introduced some delightful moments with a portly besotted flying squatter who vies for Bobbie’s hand. General notes: Shot in and around Sydney, especially at Randwick racetrack and on the MacArthur-Onslow stud at Camden, the film credited racing champion of the day ‘Kennaquhair’ as ‘Alert’, the horse Bobbie rides in the big race. Director John K. Wells and star Brownie Vernon were Americans and the film was released in the US as ‘Queen of the Turf’.

Women surf lifesavers at Bondi Beach in the 1920s: newsreel ‘Surf Guardians’

A short silent historical newsreel film from the 1920s entitled ‘Surf Guardians’, showing the new patrol of women surf lifesavers in the Bondi surf lifesaving club

Women cross dressing to pass as men: excerpts from the Australian film ‘Sunshine Sally’ (1922)

‘Sunshine Sally’ is a perceptive and professional portrayal of the life-style and characters of the working-class area of Sydney known as the ‘Loo (Woolloomooloo) and the luxurious houses and spacious gardens of the rich Sydney area of Potts Point. Following the story of the spirited Sally who works in a sweatshop, the ‘White Star Laundry’, the film introduces us to Sally’s best friend Tottie and their larrikin friends, Skinny Smith and Spud Murphy. Sally’s family origins are unknown and when she is rescued from the surf at Coogee by bronzed lifesaver Basil Stanton, she becomes involved with Basil and his mother’s rich and cultured lifestyle. The film was shot in October and November 1922 at locations in Sydney. Its original title was ‘Winnie of Woolloomooloo’. The film’s plot reveals itself with reformed larrikins and the fulfilment of Sally’s romance. There are many delightful scenes such as Skinny and Spud’s clash over the affections of Sally, Skinny’s horse which imitates its master’s habit of crossing its legs when he stops for a chat, and Sally’s comical attempts at Potts Point etiquette. Intertitles illustrate the colloquial language and slang of Sally and her friends. ‘Sunshine Sally’ never achieved a commercial success despite its being what is clearly a confident and professional work.

Female to male cross dressing: surviving footage from the Australian film ‘Jewelled Nights’ (1925)

The surviving footage of ‘Jewelled Nights’ consists of out-takes, credit titles and a brief tinted indoor scene at a bar. The out-takes come from the first part of the film when actress Louise Lovely’s character is a socialite, before she runs away to the wilderness of Tasmania disguised as a boy in a mining camp. This big budget production cost in excess of £8000 and had lavish indoor sets as well as being shot on location in Tasmania. The film was not well received and both Louise Lovely and author Marie Bjelke-Petersen (Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s aunt) abandoned hopes of filming more novels for an Australian film industry producing wholesome family entertainment.

Lasker and Lasker: Australian cinema advertisement for women’s and men’s swimwear (1925)

Promotes Sydney’s ‘Lasker and Lasker’ Surf Outfitters of 402 and 404 George St. Women and men model bathing suits and caps on a beach. Shots include the models standing next to a surf boat, models with parasols, and a model putting on a beach coat. Men are dressed in full length costumes.

Early Australian example of a Pantomime Dame: a man in drag, in the film ‘Freckles’ (1929)

‘Freckles’ is a slapstick comedy with children as the main characters, and a teacher who is a man in drag. The original surviving footage is 19 minutes long. The teacher is beset by problems, first in the schoolyard with the children, and then particularly in a makeshift classroom, where the cooking lesson goes disastrously wrong. Episodes with the cooking lesson include one of the children putting a cat in the dough. Whenever the teacher asks (via intertitles) ‘Who did that?’, the reply is always ‘Freckles’. Subsequently Freckles is cartoon-comedy caned by the teacher. Mayhem in the classroom concludes the film. The film is promoted as a university comedy in which the plot and settings are entirely original. It appears to be an amateur production. The cast, primarily children, were chosen from the members of Anthony Hordern’s Saturday Morning Radio Club.

‘Beautiful Lines of Woman Triumphant’: 1920s Australian ladies underwear cinema advertising

Early Australian film promotion for Berlei ladies’ lingerie garments. Women dressed in modest dark underwear, silk stockings and shoes model various styles of corsetry available to Australian women in the 1920s. This advertisement shows the fuller figures of the models as compared with models of today.

Two women dressed in dark underwear, silk stockings and shoes model two styles of Berlei corsetry. They stand on raised platforms in front of a plain backdrop, the larger space of the studio visible beyond it. They turn, step down from their platforms, link hands and walk back towards to the camera. The woman on the left comes forward, does a full turn, poses, turns again and walks back. The woman on the right mirrors the first woman, and similarly models her corset. This is followed by the women modelling their undergarments in single shot.

In the 1920s Berlei conducted a survey of Australian women and their figure measurements. These were recorded and analysed to construct the ‘Berlei Figure Type’ classification system which, according to Berlei’s website, ‘revolutionised corset fitting’. The acknowledgement that women come in all shapes and sizes was an important one for Berlei to make, and the company continues to manufacture a range of lingerie and undergarments to cater to women of all sizes.

The manner of modelling seen here — where each model gracefully turns to show off her costume without a hint of self-importance — has been refined and redefined as the fashion industry has grown throughout the twentieth century. Today modelling is much more of a performance (and no less so if modelling underwear or swimwear). Models carry an attitude and a layer of artifice absent in this advertisement for Berlei.

This advertisement also captures the hairstyle fashions of the 1920s, where women wore their hair cropped short and styled close to their face.


Camp acting policeman in the Australian short film ‘Oh! What a Night’ (1930)

Efftee Productions’ short film ‘Oh! What a night’ is a knockout vaudeville sketch with George Wallace playing a drunk. The sketch is typical of Wallace’s style, showing his simple but clever dialogue, mime and exploitation of simple situations. ‘Oh! What a night’ was written by George Wallace and Dinks Patterson in 1928.

Bondi Beach Life Savers (1932)

This is part of a short film about Bondi Beach made in 1932. Surf lifesavers demonstrate surf rescue and resuscitation techniques. Lifesavers run down to the beach in a slightly camp gait.

Athletic firemen in an excerpt from Australian film ‘Fire Guardians’ (1932)

Firemen doing athletics and gymnastics. At one point four men are piled up on top of each other on a wooden horse. Features the N.S.W. Fire Brigade. The story and interpretation by Australian film-maker Frank Hurley.

Australian radio personality Jack Davey camps it up: cinema advertisement (1935)

Well-known 1930s radio presenter, Jack Davey, camps it up whilst promoting Mullard radios and radio valves that ensure he sounds just as good, or better, in the home as in the studio. His on air catch-cry was ‘Hi-Ho everybody’.

Gay romance: excerpts from the Australian film ‘Rangle River’ (1936)

One of the first Australian films to hint at gay romance and sexual attraction between two men. Australian Western ‘Rangle River’ with its three way intersex love triangle and a script from Zane Grey is a 1936 Australian western comedy about a woman (Margaret Dare) trying to save her father’s property in western Queensland with the help of a ranch hand Dick (Victor Jory) and RAF Pilot Reggie Bannister (Robert Coote). The script was written by Charles and Elsa Chauvel and the film was directed by American Clarence G. Badger.

‘Meet the Girl who Became a Man’: Australian Cinesound newsreel (1937)

Peter Alexander, interviewed in Sydney, born and brought up as Mavis Higgins in New Zealand, speaks of his sex change from female to male. He discusses the aspects of his personality when younger which influenced his decision, his view of women in society and his plans for the future. Although Peter talks about shaving, it is not clear if any medical intervention had assisted his sex change. The predominant voice in this clip is that of Alexander, dressed in jacket and tie, talking cheerily about his interest in sport, his awareness that his ‘male side and personality’ were always dominant, his desire to marry and continue with his musical career. The story was sensationalised in the tabloid newspaper of the day, ‘The Truth’.

Athletics: Gymnasts lead the Way to Physical Fitness, Australian cinema newsreel (1937)

Lots of male eye candy on display here as male gymnasts of the Graham Gymnastic Club give a spectacular demonstration at a Sydney open air gym. The show includes different vaults, parallel bar work and a high bar routine.

The flamboyantly camp ‘Entwistle’ in Australian film ‘Dad and Dave Come to Town’ (1938)

The character ‘Entwistle’, played by actor Alec Kellaway in the ‘Dad & Dave’ series of movies, was one of the first positive portrayals of an effeminate man in Australian cinema. ‘Dad and Dave Come to Town’ was Kellaway’s debut as the shop assistant / floorwalker ‘Entwistle’.

In this clip, Dad (Bert Bailey) and Dave (Fred MacDonald) arrive at Cecille’s dress shop to inspect their new inheritance. After some confusion with the mannequins, they meet the floorwalker, Mr Entwhistle, a flamboyantly effeminate man who shows them around. Dave mistakes one of the models, Myrtle (Muriel Flood), for a mannequin, but he likes what he sees.

The homosexual ‘sissy’ was a relatively common stereotype in American comedies of the 1930s, although in somewhat more disguised form. They were often prissy Englishmen, rather than transparently gay (as in some of the Fred Astaire films). There was a similar tradition of effeminate Englishmen in Australian comedy, going back to the silent era, but Alec Kellaway’s performance here set a new benchmark. The humour in this film is more openly ribald than in any earlier Cinesound film, and the depiction of Entwhistle appears to be part of that new boldness on Ken Hall’s part. Entwhistle was certainly popular, because Kellaway played him again in ‘Dad Rudd, MP’ (1940), the last of the Dad and Dave films, two years later.

The film is a ‘Dad and Dave’ comedy in which Dad unexpectedly inherits a woman’s fashion store in the city, and the family moves there to take charge but find it hard to adapt to city life. Climax is a spectacular fashion show which is a huge success and allows Dad to return to the farm. Commercially successful in Australia and Britain. It was released in England as ‘The Rudd Family Come to Town’, and was the first Australian film to screen in a cinema in the West End.


The camp ‘Mr Entwistle’ in Australian film ‘Dad Rudd M.P.’ (1940)

The flamboyantly camp Mr. Entwistle is the hero in this ‘Dad and Dave’ movie, where he devises a plan to help Dad Rudd’s election campaign.

A ‘Dad and Dave’ comedy in which Dad tires of constantly failing in his fights for water rights. He decides to become a Member of Parliament to protect his fellow farmers and to fight the local MP who controls the water.

‘Calling Australia’, World War 2 Japanese propaganda film: P.O.W.s in drag perform operetta (1943)

Calling Australia : P.O.W. Presentation : An Australian Message

This Japanese propaganda film from ca.1943 shows the treatment of Australian prisoners of war on the island of Batavia (Java).

This excerpt from the final part of the film shows the P.O.W.s putting on an eleborate operetta, with men playing both male and female parts.

Australian Cinesound newsreel – Waratahs Mobile Theatre Unit – featuring actor in drag (1943)

A brief feature on the Waratahs army travelling theatre unit. Features the song ‘Olga Polovski the beautiful spy’ (sung by a man in drag). Covers the overall project, and presents extracts from the show, which includes a band performing hot swing with improvisation.

Australian Cinema Advertisement for Persil, ‘The Gossips’ (1948), featuring George Wallace in drag

Cinema advertisement from around 1948 showing George Wallace, Howard Vernon, Rod Douglas and Reg Quartley involved in a comedy sketch in which they role play women to promote Persil washing powder. George Wallace appears in drag at the end of the film as ‘Aunt Fanny’.


Cinema Advertisement for Sennitt’s Ice Cream (1955) with Graham Kennedy in drag

Entitled ‘In The Foreign Legion’, this cinema advertisement for Sennitt’s Ice Cream features Melbourne radio personalities Cliff ‘Nicky’ Nicholls and Graham Kennedy, who appears in the advertisement in drag as a genie.

‘Look Your Best’ (1955): Australian Women’s Army training film

This 1955 film is a gem for those with lesbian sensibilities.

Produced for the Department of the Army, Directorate of Military Training. Relates to the Royal Australian Nursing Corps. A commentary describes the importance of wearing immaculate uniforms and gives several examples of what is unacceptable (e.g. wasp waists, creased stockings, the angle of the beret). A female army officer adjusts the uniforms of other officers standing by their beds.


Cafe Continental: Australian ABC TV variety show (1960) featuring French duo ‘The Rivieras’

Is she a ‘she’ or a ‘he’? French duo ‘the Rivieras’. Muscular woman in high heels picks up her partner and spins him around above her head, amongst other physical feats.

This episode features the Rivieras, an apache dance duo whom producer Harry Wren had included in his Many Happy Returns show of 1959. On Cafe Continental, the Rivieras perform two dances — a jitterbug, which is also recorded as performed on stage in George Wallace Junior’s home movie of the Many Happy Returns tour, and an apache routine in which the exaggerated physicality of the performers, their lively audience interaction, and their aggressive gender relations, threaten to exceed the close-up containment of the television studio.

Among the variety shows of television’s first decade in Australia, Cafe Continental was distinctive in adopting the premise that variety in entertainment could reflect a diversity of world cultures. The show was modelled on a BBC show of the same name and produced by Harry Pringle (later, Peter Page) at the ABC Gore Hill Studios in Sydney from 1959 to 1961. Cafe Continental was hosted by the suave cosmopolite Hal Wayne (‘Bonsoir mesdames et messieurs’), with music led by Italian-Australian Enzo Toppano. Each episode, Wayne presented a mixed bill of touring entertainers from around the world, alongside local folkloric groups from communities of post-war migrants to Australia. The show was styled as a cabaret. It was broadcast live and well-attended. The studio audience were invited to dance at the show’s opening and close, between which they sit at tables, sipping drinks, while the entertainers presented their acts in a floor show.

Graham Kennedy Show (1964): Bert Newton & Graham Kennedy piggyback each other

Graham Kennedy gives Bert Newton a piggyback ride, then Bert returns the favour. Graham Kennedy reacts with several gay innuendos. The two fall over to audience hilarity.

Bert Newton advertising ‘Gay-Life’ shirts 1960s

1960s Australian TV clip of Bert Newton advertising Glo-Weave ‘Gay-Life’ shirts with its obvious double entendres.

Australian TV documentary ‘The Glittering Mile’ (1964) featuring Carlotta at ‘The Jewel Box’

Kings Cross ‘all male revue’ ‘The Jewel Box’, forerunner of ‘Les Girls’, from documentary on Kings Cross called ‘The Glittering Mile’ made in 1964. There is an interview with Carlotta at the end of this clip. This is one of the first appearances Carlotta made on TV or film.

Australian TV documentary ‘The Glittering Mile’ (1964): historical portrait of Kings Cross in the 60s

The entire 1964 documentary about Sydney’s Kings Cross, ‘The Glittering Mile’. David Low’s classic narration says it all: Kings Cross is a ‘glittering mile of dreams, delusions, hopes and headaches, where life comes out of an espresso machine and you can have it any way you like it.’

In some ways, Kings Cross, described as Sin City, hasn’t changed at all. One Sydney alderman wants to clean it up, another says it’s worth a million dollars a year the way it is.

American singer Wayne Newton, the so-called King of Las Vegas, has just flown in and is seen rehearsing for his opening night at the Silver Spade Room at the Chevron Hotel. He’s singing Danke Schön — ‘Thank you for all the joy and pain.’

Outside, the people celebrate the bohemian way of life and complain about the weirdos who congregate there. A dancer at the Pink Pussycat tells a reporter, ‘Well, you get a lot of creeps around here, I know that. You get pestered walking from one club to another.’ A New Zealander and his mates perform an impromptu haka outside one strip club.

Dancing girls. Another voiceover demonstrates the way women were portrayed in the media in the ’60s: ‘If it’s company you’re after, there are plenty of girls at the Cross. The place is full of girls, coming and going. It’s hard to understand what keeps them busy all night long.’ And another: ‘You can be catered for at places where the girls are provided to please you, but you mustn’t touch.’

The manager at the Pink Pussycat, ‘Last Card Louie’, says, ‘I’ve seen the (striptease) show 39,000 times. It’s just one of those things. I don’t know what to think about it, to tell you the truth.’

Another sign that some things never change is the ‘frequently heard demand around the Cross’ for more police … and for more police on the beat. One resident even keeps a diary of all the crimes that she hears and sees from her flat.

An interviewer speaks to the infamous ‘witch of Kings Cross’, Rosaleen Norton, at the Apollyon Lounge, a cafe that she used to frequent.

The excerpt ends with an all-male revue. The narration reads: ‘A few years ago an all-male revue like Les Girls would have been out of the question in Sydney, as it would in most places where people like the differences between the sexes to be clear and obvious. Today, it’s part of the Kings Cross scene.’ And now years later, it still is … with the Gay Mardi Gras now one of the highlights of Sydney’s social calendar.

The Glittering Mile is a fascinating stroll down memory lane … looking at Kings Cross as it really was in 1964.

Australian TV advertisement for women’s underwear: Bonds Cotton Tails (1965)

Very camp 1960s Australian TV advertisement for Bonds Cotton Tails, a brand of women’s underwear. Three women break into a dance routine, in the theatre, the office and in a library.

Australian ABC TV: Four Corners (May 1965): ‘Man Enough’

The entire 1965 ‘Four Corners’ segment on men and masculinity, entitled ‘Man Enough’. Attitudes to changing ideas of masculinity in Australia in the 1960s.

Mavis Bramston Show: Male Fashion Show (1965)

Gay innuendos galore in this very funny skit from Australia. Features Miriam Karlin, Gordon Chater, Barry Creyton and Ronnie Stevens. From episode 34 (1965) of the Mavis Bramston Show.

Mavis Bramston Show: Down Under Cleopatra (1965)

Very funny high camp humour from the classic 60s Australian humour show. Features Miriam Karlin, Gordon Chater, Barry Creyton and Carol Raye. From episode 26 (1965) of the Mavis Bramston Show. The skit was recorded live.

7 Days: Love Is Love : Lesbians (1966)

The entire groundbreaking Australian documentary on lesbians, presented by Anne Deveson, first broadcast in February 1966. Amongst those interviewed are Dawn O’Donnell (off camera at the beginning of the documentary) and psychiatrist Dr Neil McConaghy (the Australian ‘expert’ in aversion therapy). Some women are interviewed in shadow or close-up to disguise their identity. Women speak about being discriminated against when applying for jobs because of their sexuality. Dr Neil McConaghy is interviewed about his shock therapy work to change sexual orientation. Surprisingly Dr McConaghy says that homosexuality might be of benefit to society as creative traits or traits of non-conformity might give society as a whole the ability to survive.

There’s even a review of the documentary from the Sydney Morning Herald, 20 Feb. 1966, online.

Graham Kennedy in ‘In Melbourne Tonight’ (1967): Romans and Christians

Humourous skit with gay innuendo featuring Graham Kennedy, Bert Newton, Philip Brady & Patti Newton.

Mavis Bramston Show: Ballet Dancing Footballers (1960s)

From the classic Australian 1960s comedy show, The Mavis Bramston Show, a sketch sending up a newspaper article saying that footballers should practise ballet. Ronnie Stevens and Ron Frazer act quite camp and effeminate.

Mavis Bramston Show: ‘Swing with Sue Breaker’ (1968). Ron Frazer in drag

Cast member Ron Frazer dresses in drag as a parody of Australian TV fitness expert Sue Becker.

The Mavis Bramston Show ceased production in 1968, the year this skit was filmed.

Nylex Moccasin Furniture: Australian TV Advertisement featuring Frank Thring (1969)

‘Word Association Game’ TV advertisement featuring the gay Frank Thring.


Australian film ‘The Naked Bunyip’ (1970): Homosexuality

A portrait of homosexuality in the late 1960s in Australia. A lesbian couple and a middle aged gay man who is a wharfie in Melbourne are interviewed about their lives and being homosexual. An introduction tells us that homosexuality was not tolerated in Australia at that time. A doctor is interviewed citing homosexuality as a social problem. A married man is interviewed off camera by this doctor who talks about his homosexuality. The wharfie has a rather dismal view of homosexuality in general. Interesting to see how he dresses in the late 60s fashions complete with lovebeads, lipstick and mascara. Aussie ‘ockers’ are interviewed in a pub about their attitudes to homosexuality, which is generally quite negative. Aussie mateship is discussed. John Button (later Senator John Button) gives his opinion on homosexuality. Homosexuality in prisons is discussed by the wharfie.

Australian film ‘The Naked Bunyip’ (1970): Edna Everage is interviewed about sex

Graeme Blundell interviews Edna Everage about her sex life in her suburban Melbourne home.

This is one of Edna Everage’s earlier appearances on film, before she became much better known internationally later in the 1970s.

The Naked Bunyip is about a shy young man who is hired by an ad agency to conduct a survey on sex in Australia. The somewhat clueless young man investigates homosexuality, transvestites, prostitution, and strip clubs along with every other variant on the ‘norm’. While doing his interviews he meets celebrities, self-proclaimed sex experts, prostitutes, female impersonators, pop stars, actors, and legislators as well as self-appointed morals guardians.

Excerpt from Australian film ‘The Set’ (1970)

In this clip, the main character Paul (Sean McEuan), meets Kandy (Ken Johnson), a drag queen, and is then surprised to learn that she is really a man. Meanwhile Theo (Tracy Lee) tries to pick Paul up.

The Set is a 1970 Australian drama film directed by Frank Brittain. It tells the story of an artist in the amoral world of Sydney’s arty high society and has nudity and an attempted suicide. The film depicts homosexuality in Australia, and was the first feature film in Australia to have homosexuality as a main theme.

A great period piece from the late Sixties. Depicting life amongst the arty ‘set’ in Sydney in 1969, the film features celebrated Sydney drag queen ‘Candy’ (Ken Johnson). Ex-Mavis Bramston Show star, Hazel Philips. The camp theatre director character played by Michael Charnley is based on Robert Helpman. The film has a number of fun, campy moments, which helps make it a gem in Australian gay film history . The Australian tabloid press sensationalised the scandalous ‘nude’ scene by Hazel Philips in the swimming pool, rather than any depiction of homosexual relationships. Reporters broke the story in early 1969, during filming, about a year before theatrical release. Hazel Philips was quoted as saying that if Vanessa Redgrave was game enough to appear nude in a film, she’d like to try it too. The soundtrack includes some groovy sixties lounge music by Sven Libaek. There was apparently a vinyl disc made of it. The Australian National Film & Sound Archive hold a copy of the film.

Excerpt from ‘The Adventures of Barry McKenzie’ (1972)

In London, Barry and Aunt Edna Everage meet relative Leslie and her partner Claude (a drag king), who are living in a lesbian relationship, unbeknownst to either of the two Australian travelers.

The Adventures of Barry McKenzie is a 1972 Australian film starring Barry Crocker, telling the story of an Australian ‘yobbo’ , Barry ‘Bazza’ McKenzie, who travels to England with his aunt Edna Everage (Barry Humphries) to advance his cultural education. Bazza is a young Aussie fond of beer, Bondi and beautiful ‘sheilas’. He settles in Earl’s Court, where his old friend Curly (Paul Bertram) has a flat. He gets drunk, is ripped off, insulted by pretentious Englishmen and exploited by record producers, religious charlatans and a BBC television producer (Peter Cook). He reluctantly leaves England under the orders of his aunt, after exposing himself on television. His final words on the plane home are, ‘I was just starting to like the Poms!’.

ABC TV ‘Chequerboard’ (1972): ‘This Just Happens to be Part of Me’: Gays and Lesbians

The entire groundbreaking Australian 1972 ABC documentary on gays and lesbians, the first to feature a gay male kiss on Australian television.

It features interviews with Peter de Waal, Peter Bonsall-Boone, Gaby Antolovich and Sue Wills.

In 1972 Peter Bonsall Boone (Bon) and his partner Peter de Waal ‘came out’ on Chequerboard. Their open revelations on life as a homosexual couple were a television first in Australia, however it was their brief kiss hello that caused the most stir in public reaction, a pivotal moment as the first male to male kiss on Australian television. Peter and Bon agreed to appear on the original Chequerboard series as a political statement, yet even they could not have imagined the wide reaching ramifications of their daring actions. The first reaction was from Bon’s employer, who sacked him from his job at a church in Mosman on Sydney’s North Shore after the show went to air. Having started off as simply another couple on television, they became the focal point of gay rights activism and have spent their life after Chequerboard campaigning relentlessly.

Adventure Island (1972): a lifesize doll causes havoc in Diddley-Dum-Diddley

Adventure Island is an Australian television series for children which screened on the ABC from 11 September 1967 to 22 December 1972 (repeats of the 1969-1972 episodes ran from 1973-1976). It was jointly created by Godfrey Philipp, who produced the series, and openly gay actor-writer John Michael Howson, who also co-starred in the show.

Australian TV drama ‘Number 96’ (1972): Don comes out as gay to Bev (Abigail)

The first openly gay character on Australian TV. Don comes out as gay to Bev (Abigail), who is in love with him.

Cast member Abigail was the show’s first breakout star. As the story progressed, her character Bev fell in love with her law-student neighbour Don (Joe Hasham), not realising that he was gay. He was forced to confess all when she attempted to seduce him. Traumatised by Don’s revelation, Bev locked herself away in her flat. Her flatmate attempted to talk her out of her disappointment.

Number 96 was the legendary Australian serial set in a Sydney block of flats that combined melodramatic storylines, larger-than-life high-camp characters, large doses of comedy and – most famously – sex.

The series was set in a four storey apartment block at the fictional address of 96 Lindsay Street, in inner suburban Paddington. The building consisted of six flats – two on each level. They sat above a ground floor delicatessen and a chemist shop, each with its own flat.

Storylines examined the lives of the various residents and the shopkeepers. The deli, along with a nearby pub and laundrette (as well as the busy stairwell), provided central locations for the various characters to mix and congregate.

Australian TV drama ‘Number 96’ (1974) featuring Carlotta

Arnold comes on to Robin (Carlotta), not knowing that ‘she’ is really a ‘he’. Carlotta was a famous Australian drag queen who had performed in the Sydney revue ‘Les Girls’.

Australian TV drama ‘The Box’ (1974): gay & lesbian characters

Some clips featuring lesbian and gay characters in the 1970s Australian TV series ‘The Box’.

Camp television producer Lee Whiteman (Paul Karo) arrives at the TV channel’s offices to meet Paul Donovan (George Mallaby).

Australian TV’s first-ever lesbian kiss between Judy Nunn and Helen Hemingway happens straight after a racy centerfold shot with Ken James.

The Box was Crawford Productions’ answer to Number 96 and was the prolific production company’s first soap opera. With its taboo-breaking stories and nude glimpses, The Box quickly emerged as a worthy rival to its predecessor in the sex, sin and shock stakes.

Set in the ‘fictional’ Melbourne television station UCV-12, The Box examined the lives of the studio executives, on air personalities, studio crew members, and office staff. Within the cast of characters many were said to be based on well known industry figures of the day, and the series featured many self referential elements.

The Paul Hogan Show (1974) featuring Jeff Duff & Kush

Short clip featuring the bisexual Jeff Duff interacting with Paul Hogan and performing the song ‘Easy Street’ with his band Kush. Longer version with timecode here.

The Paul Hogan Show (1974) featuring Rex Mossip as a gender bender

Rex Mossip, well-known ‘ocker’ Australian sports commentator, camps it up.

Australian TV drama ‘Homicide’ (1975): ‘Why All the Fuss’

A gay man gets murdered by a guy he picks up in a bar. Police capture and prosecute him and his accomplice. One of the earliest police ‘cop shows’ in Australia to deal with homosexuality. From episode 475, broadcast July 1975.

Excerpt from Australian film ‘The Getting of Wisdom’ (1976): schoolgirl lesbian romance

Schoolgirl Laura (Susannah Fowle) and her romantic affections towards a fellow schoolgirl.

‘The Getting of Wisdom’ is a schoolgirl drama about an intelligent, artistic, shy, awkward country-girl who enters an exclusive girls’ school. Set in the 1890s, the film follows her struggle for acceptance, conformity, romance, friendship and achievement over the next four years.

Australian TV drama ‘Cop Shop’ (1977) eps 1 & 2: gay bashings

Detective Tom Foster engages in gay bashing. His son comes out to him in a dramatic turn of events. Excerpts from episodes 1 & 2.

The Naked Vicar Show (1977): sexuality sketch

An amusing sexually ambiguous skit featuring Noelene Brown and Kevin Golsby.

Australian TV game show ‘Blankety Blanks’ (1977): a ‘Cyril’ question

Many questions were quotations of a fictional effeminate character named Cyril, and would begin ‘Cyril said…’ with the quotation recited by Kennedy in a stereotypical gay male voice (Cyril was Kennedy’s middle name).

Blankety Blanks was a popular Australian game show based on the American game show Match Game. It was hosted by Graham Kennedy on Network Ten. It ran from 1977 to 1978.

Regular panellists were Ugly Dave Gray, Noeline Brown, Carol Raye and Stuart Wagstaff. Other panellists included Noel Ferrier, Belinda Giblin, Abigail, Nick Tate, Tommy Hanlon Junior, Dawn Lake, Jon English, Wendy Blacklock, Barry Creyton, Peta Toppano, Mark Holden, Delvene Delaney and John Paul Young.

Blankety Blanks had a two-season run from 1977 to 1978. It was screened at a rate of five, thirty-minute episodes each week, striped across an early evening timeslot. It was broadcast at 7.30 PM in 1977, and at 7.00 PM in 1978.

Kennedy won a TV Week Gold Logie Award in 1978 for Most Popular Personality on Australian Television.

Two contestants, including a returning champion, competed. The contestants were always a man and a woman – at no point did two people of the same gender compete. The object was to match the answers of the six celebrity panellists to fill-in-the-blank statements.

Kennedy’s risqué brand of humour often nudged the boundaries of contemporary Australian broadcasting standards. Peter Rhys-Davies was the crew member behind the show’s sets pulling the lever that uncovered the correct answers on the board. In one running gag he was dubbed ‘Peter the Phantom Puller’ by Kennedy. To reveal each answer in turn, Kennedy would call out ‘Peter could you have a pull’, ‘Pull it Peter!’, etc.

In one episode Kennedy came on with a prepared list of ‘rude’ words which were deemed acceptable to be spoken on-air. Throughout the episode, he would suddenly launch into a chant of ‘wee poo bum, wee poo bum!’

‘Prisoner’: Karen moves in (1979)

From the very first episode of ‘Prisoner’: Karen (Peta Toppano) arrives at Wentworth Prison and is shown to her cell by Vera. She soon finds out that she shares a cell with Franky, who has no qualms about showing Karen her lesbian tendencies. Karen asks to change cells, but with no luck.

‘Prisoner’: Franky in solitary confinement (1979)

Prison dyke Franky is visited in solitary confinement by the screw Vera. Franky has a nickname for her, ‘Vinegar tits’.

‘Prisoner’: Doreen moves cells (1979)

Prison dyke Franky gets very upset when Vera announces that her lover Doreen has to move from Franky’s cell to another.


The Sydney Story (1980): Sydney’s ‘Gay Golden Mile’

Features Sydney’s golden gay mile, Oxford Street, and some of the bars. Includes interview with drag queen Cindy Pastel. Also includes footage taken at ‘The Ship Inn’ at Circular Quay and some of the drinkers there.

A television documentary on the cultural life of Sydney from the beginning of white settlement, but focusing on the contemporary entertainment industry. Includes short interviews of celebrities and footage of Sydney’s nightlife, including the ‘gay mile’ in Oxford Street.

ABC ‘Four Corners’ (1982): ‘Sydney, Golden City of the Gays’

Looks at gay life in Sydney in the early 80s when homosexual sex between men was still illegal in New South Wales. Reporter Jack Pizzey interviews a number of gay men and lesbians in Sydney at the time. Sydney has become the gay mecca of the South Pacific.

Sydney’s gay guide book of the day listed 61 gay groups and social clubs. Features radio show ‘Gay Waves’, Campaign magazine, and gay hotels, discos and restaurants of the day. Interviews muscular athletes going to the Gay Games in San Francisco. Talks to men of the day about coming out and their first experiences of gay life in Sydney. Takes the temperature of societal attitudes to homosexuality at the time.

Features lesbian band ‘Stray Dags’ playing at a Sydney Town Hall. A lesbian is interviewed about her coming out experiences with her family. Conservative politician Jim Cameron is interviewed about what he would do if a child of his turned out to be gay. He answers ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ and to seek therapy.

Shows the legal situation at the time in each Australian state. South Australia was the first state to legalise homosexuality. Don Dunstan is shown backing the New South Wales campaign for legalisation. Homosexuality in the animal kingdom is cited. The maximum sentence for homosexual sex between consenting adults in New South Wales was double than that for heterosexual rape.

Gays demonstrate and petition the public in Blacktown against MP John Aquilina’s stance on homosexuality (saying no one in NSW wants the law changed to legalise homosexuality), and confront him with a petition. The group includes Garry Wotherspoon and Fabian Lo Schiavo.

Controversial footage is shown of a beat (toilet block) in Green Park, Darlinghurst, where men go to seek sex with each other. A Catholic priest from Sydney’s North Shore was inadvertently captured on camera visiting the toilet and later sued the ABC. Psychologist Bob Hay is interviewed about seeking casual anonymous sex in public toilets. Hay confronts the interviewer on public displays of sexuality.

A gay commitment ceremony at the Metropolitan Community Church is shown. The Catholic position on homosexuality in New South Wales is given via an interview with president of the Catholic Institute of Sydney, Dr John Hill. He says that the gay movement is wanting too much too soon and is a threat to Australian society.

Robert French is interviewed about what conservative political forces are standing in the way of gay law reform in New South Wales. He is not happy with Premier Wran’s slowness in attending to law reform. Gay Liberation Choir. Finally a gay freedom march through Sydney’s CBD is shown.

Channel 10 News (5 Feb 1983): Sydney gay demo against police raids on Club 80

Gay demo and march in 1983 against police raids on the sex-on-premises venue ‘Club 80’ in Sydney.


Australian current affairs programme ‘The 7.30 Report’ (1995): ‘Gay Brains’

Is being gay in your genes? Gay men’s brains are different from those of heterosexual men, claims Professor Roger Gorski of the University of California, who visited Australia in 1995. Gay men have a smaller hypothalamus (a part of the brain which controls ‘sex typical behaviour’) than heterosexual men, says the research.

It is feared the discovery of a gay gene might lead to screening for the gay gene in unborn babies and then having a foetus with the gay gene aborted. A lack of exposure to masculine hormones in the womb might predispose a man to be gay.


Australian current affairs show ‘Foreign Correspondent’ (22 August 2006): ‘The Ex-Gay Industry’

The American ex-gay movement believes it can turn gay people straight. It’s becoming increasingly powerful and has Australia in its sights. They believe homosexuality is unnatural, preventable and curable.

The report looks at Richard Cohen, one of America’s leading conversion therapists, and his conversion techniques. It also looks at ‘Focus on the Family’, a right-wing Christian organisation with radio and TV channels. It has an ‘ex-gay’ wing which travels around the country trying to convert gays to heterosexuality. They are making a lot of money out of this via selling books, cassettes etc.

Wayne Besen is one of conversion therapy’s fiercest critics, describing it as dangerous and laughable. He says that reparative therapy works for no one and is destructive. The ex-gay movement has a political agenda and wishes to pass anti-gay laws.

Rev Mel White speaks about his story and conversion therapy experiences. He now trains young people in techniques on how to confront the religious right.

Love in Action is a programme designed to take in people to change their sexuality. One former client describes it as a cult, with very strict rules.

Lastly the programme interviews some gay cowboys in Texas. Two gay cowboys ride off into the sunset with the theme to Brokeback Mountain.

Australian Gay and Lesbian Marriage Equality Rally (3 December 2011): interviews with Dr Kerryn Phelps and Rodney Croome

Interviews with Dr Kerryn Phelps and Rodney Croome at the Australian Gay and Lesbian Marriage Equality Rally in Sydney, 3 December 2011, outside the Darling Harbour Convention Centre, where the Australian Labor Party held its national conference and voted to give MPs a conscience vote on the issue of gay marriage. The conference also voted to change the Australian Labor Party’s policy platform on the legal definition of marriage to extend it to same-sex couples.

Australian Gay and Lesbian Rally for Marriage Equality (3 December 2011)

A historic rally, held on the occasion of the 2011 ALP National Conference. This video follows the Australian Gay and Lesbian Marriage Equality Rally from Hyde Park In Sydney where Senator Sarah Hanson Young and Clover Moore address the crowd, through Sydney’s CBD to Darling Harbour, where the ALP conference is taking place. At Darling Harbour, Dr Kerryn Phelps, Shelley Argent of PFLAG, Rodney Croome, Labor MP Mark Butler, Sally McManus, Senator Doug Cameron and Get Up’s Simon Sheikh address the 10,000 strong crowd. Finally the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir sings for the assembled masses.

The Australian Labor Party voted to give MPs a conscience vote on the issue of gay marriage. The conference also voted to change the Australian Labor Party’s policy platform on the legal definition of marriage to extend it to same-sex couples.