1989: Coming together

1989 saw two new gatherings for Australia’s lesbians and gay men.

In Melbourne, the first Midsumma festival was organised. Intended as an answer to the Mardi Gras cultural festival, Midsumma attracted participants on a large scale.

It ran over ten days and almost as many nights. Street party, sports carnival, theatre, cabaret and film festival. A G&L studies conference; a history walk … there was something for everybody. There was even an awards night. (The Archives wasn’t nominated then either. Not that we’re bitter or anything.) Having fun was only one of the goals. Communication, launching new groups, raising our profile in the wider world, even health education – all were touted as the festival’s goals. All that was missing was the parade. Keen to avoid comparisons with that northern event, this had to wait till 1996. And even then, it was the work of Pride March, an independent organisation.

Meanwhile, in Adelaide, an event billed as the first national lesbian feminist conference since 1973’s famous Radicalesbian Sorrento event was held.  Some 400 lesbians gathered to debate, discuss and learn. Some were a bit disconcerted by the prevalence of feminist spirituality. More action, less introspection, they thought. For them there were lesbian history (Australian and international), violence between women, Jewish lesbian activism, issues of ageing. And for everybody, craft shows, entertainment, cups of tea and long raves over lunch and into the night.

Coming together was in the air in the late 1980s.