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To read any of the obituaries of the people listed, click on their name and you will be taken to the particular item.

Addam Stobbs
Alan Brotherton
Alan Rosendorff
Allister Sparks
Anthony Foster
Anthony Smith
Beatrice Faust
Bill Leslie
Brenda Humble
Brian McGahen
Cecil Williams
Connie Kurtz
Dave Sargent
David Cooper
David Hudson
David Ritchie
Del Martin
Dorothy Porter
Doug Ireland
Ellen Kuzwayo
Gary Simes
Gary Stonehouse
George Weinberg
Graham Carbery
Hal Bramson
Helen Suzman
Helen Whitechurch
Henry Collier
Ian MacNeill
Ian Purcell
Irene Breugel
James Spence
Janet Weinberg
Jeffrey Saynor
Jim Hyde
John Foxall
John Storey
John Vergona
Jose Julio Sarria
Julia Britton
Julie Daley
Kate Doolan
Kendall Curtis Lovett
Ken McClelland
Kerrie Le Gore
Kitty Fischer
Lance Gowland
Larry Kramer
Lesley Hall
Levinia Crooks
Lex Watson
Lola Lindley
Marie Fisher
Masha Zeleznikow
Miriam Makeba
Nadine Gordimer
Noel Hunter
Norman Rothfield
Pauline Lipson
Paul O'Grady
Peter Bonsall-Boone
Peter Collard - our beloved Sister Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, aka Sister Nun-Buoy
Peter McGregor
Peter Short
Peter Trebilco
Philip Lidbury
Ralph McLean
Richard James
Richard Neville
Roberta Perkins
Robert Ariss
Ron Austin
Ron Muncaster
Ron Owen
Sara Elkas
Sasha Soldatow
Simon Nkoli
Steve Gallagher
Tony Maynard
Val Eastwood
Walter Hillbrick


Photo by permission of the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives, 9 January 2010.

An 'outrageous' figure of the 1950s

January 6, 2010

17-8-1927 - 10-12-2009


VAL Eastwood, a well-known figure in the bohemian demi-monde of 1950s Melbourne, who experienced a second spell of fame after she gave an interview in 1995 in which she discussed her life as a lesbian and an entrepreneur, has died of cancer in Brentwood Nursing Home, Geelong. She was 82.

Eastwood was still at school when she sneaked off to work with a green grocer at Elsternwick Market before and after school, on Friday nights and weekends. At 14 she got a civilian job in the wartime army.

At 17, her pluck and initiative led her to buy into the Betty Lee Dancing Academy - she was, in fact, the third in a series of Betty Lees - and then to modelling for Manton's department store and to a job in the Tivoli Theatre.

She lived in a flat above the Tivoli, which made her everyone's best friend. Then she leased space in Swanston Street opposite the Town Hall, and opened a cafe, where her friends whiled away their time.

Soon she had expanded over two floors; it was the first of many cafes that she operated over the years and her loyal clientele followed her to Cafe 31 in St Kilda, Cafe Ad Lib in South Yarra, and Val's Restaurant in Glenferrie Road, where camp Melbourne and middle-class Hawthorn rubbed shoulders throughout the 1970s.

But it is the original Val's in Swanston Street in the early 1950s, with its blue carpet, mauve chairs, raffia lampshades, coloured globes, and a grand piano, that many remember fondly. Welsh rarebit, spaghetti and brewed coffee went with live music - a trio during the week - a concert on Sunday nights, small plays and performances, or Frank Thring reciting a racy poem or two.

Above all, Val's was a haven, accommodating of its diverse clientele, from artists, dancers, actors and theatregoers, to political activists, bodgies and widgies and university students (especially after university authorities declared the place out of bounds).

It was one of the few places that welcomed gay women and ''camp'' men as they were described at the time. By insisting that people had a right to be themselves and to relax with others of their kind, she flew in the face of social norms, and she was much loved for it.Eastwood's courage - she used the word ''outrageous'' to describe herself sometimes - was always on display. From the age of 17, when she met her first girlfriend, she accepted her lesbianism as ''a natural thing … an emotional thing … just one of those things that happened'', and got on with her life. She dressed, as they said, mannishly. On special occasions she wore stylishly cut suits; with a silver-topped cane and a homburg, she was hard to miss in the 1950s.

In the 1960s, she wrote short stories; some were published. Just before her death, the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives published her accumulated works as The Travelling Mind of Val Eastwood. It is a tribute to her from the community that she had done so much to foster.

Eastwood is survived by her nephew Rodney, niece Leslie, great nieces Meg and Lexie, great-nephew Thomas, and Jude Murphy, who cared for her and her animals in the last nine months of her life.

Graham Willett is president of the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives.

Steve Gallagher

This obituary by Alan Brotherton appeared in Talkabout #167 April-June 2010:

Stephen Gallagher, who died on 21 March 2010, was one of the founders and leaders of NSW's movement of people with HIV. His contribution to HIV prevention and improving the lives of people with HIV was immense, yet largely invisible to those not close to 'the sector'.

Stephen led from the middle, influencing, arguing, innovating - he was present in most major debates and decisions, yet kept out of the limelight. This wasn't the result of a cautious or shy personality - he was intelligent, sharp and fearlessly outspoken in his critiques and analysis. But his moments of grandness and extraordinary eloquence hid a genuine modesty, as well as immense personal loyalty and a commitment to making the lives of PLHIV ones of strength and dignity. Never one for mawkish sincerity and largely hostile to recognition and praise of his work, he was usually too busy engaging with the next challenge to be bothered dwelling on recent achievements.

There were many. Under his leadership at thcQueensland AIDS Council and at ACON, original and thoughtful work was produced, including the first campaigns in Queensland to address disclosure and serodiscordance, and important work challenging treatment myths and empowering people to make informed choices.

Stephen took personal risks, appearing on television and in the media as a person with HIV and refusing always to play the supplicant or victim. He was, like many early PL.HlVactivists, a self-made scientist with a natural curiosity and great respect for the work of clinicians - a respect which proved well founded, as he battled both AIDS and emphysema, getting by on one functioning lung and denied the relief of fully lying down for over five years.Stephen treated his increasing frailness less as a challenge or loss than an irritating impediment to a full social life. In the process, he generated treatment algorithms that sorely tested the skills of his clinicians. He spoke in wonder of their ability to find ways back out of St Vincent's for him. Living, as he tried to help others to do, to the fullest extent possible, he went on entertaining, redecorating, partying and nurturing a lush sub-tropical garden on his balcony.

But there were losses. He loved to travel and mourned the inability to ever again return to India, his mother's homeland and his own spiritual home. He dealt with this creatively, replacing long-haul travel with excursions to Sydney's various restaurant enclaves - Cabramatta. Kingsford, Petersham. His enthusiasm and delight gave a new gloss to places many Sydneysiders take for granted.

Despite his highly visible illness and the portable oxygen tank he was obliged to carry, he always presented with full confidence, and he was always treated with respect and consideration. It probably never occurred to him to take any credit for what seemed such ready acceptance of a visibly ill and stylishly gay man in places far from the inner city. But I like to think this was more than a response to his charm and grace, and in some way a reward for his courage, tenacity and commitment over so many yean.

James Spence

Addam Stobbs

Addam interviewed Mannie on 15 May 2010, and on 16 June 2010 we had the sad, sudden and tragic news that Addam had died suddenly. The interview is below this sentence.

15 MAY 2010

The following is an interview of Mannie De Saxe by Addam Stobbs in his radio programme "Allegro Non Troppo" on Joy Radio in Melbourne about Fairfield, SPAIDS, political activism. This was one of Addam's last interviews as he tragically died one month later on 16 June 2010

This obituary is from Michael Barnett aka MikeyBear

News just in that a person who has been a staple in the gay community for at least the past 14 years that I’ve known him has just died. This is a shock and complete surprise. Addam Stobbs. Bitch to the stars. Gone.

I loved Addam. He was one of the nicest-to-your-face people I have ever met. But he *was* a nice person. He made me laugh. Just listening to him talk, on the radio, on a microphone at Midsumma, in the street, on the phone, at Club 80, wherever. He was a lovely, callous, direct person with a huge heart.

The world needs more bitches like Addam Stobbs.

I’ll miss you sweetie.


Michael has the following picture galleries with photos of Addam:

Go to: and look for the gallery.

Also on Michael's Facebook account in his photo galleries:

Norman Rothfield

Obituary in The Age newspaper:

'Peacenik' who never gave up ideals

June 12, 2010


26-1-1912 - 4-6-2010

NORMAN Rothfield, whose name was part of the political vocabulary of three generations of Jews and others in the labour and peace movements in Australia, has died of pneumonia at St Vincent's Hospital. He was 98.

Rothfield played a key early role in promoting political support for the fledgling state of Israel from 1948, yet later was an equally committed supporter of the establishment of a Palestinian state. He was also prominent in the nuclear disarmament and Vietnam Moratorium movements.

As a consistent "peacenik" he attracted fire from both Left and Right within the Jewish community, but this, he said, ''always happens when you stick your head above the parapet''. He remained a tireless campaigner in a community whose leadership was often intolerant of views critical of the policies of the Israeli government.

He was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. At age 22, Rothfield became a Labour councillor in the London borough of Marylebone. He married Evelyn (nee Dell) in 1934, and in 1939 they migrated to Australia.

In 1941 he joined the Australian Labor Party, and the following year he became an executive member of the Jewish Council to Combat Fascism and Anti-Semitism. In 1947 he was appointed president of the council, and chairman of the public relations committee, of the Victorian Jewish Board of Deputies.

It was in that period that he and Evelyn played a key role in backing Israel. Up to the late 1950s he was a manufacturer of women's garments, then built low-cost flats. Also from the late '50s to the '70s, he was active in the ALP and in the peace movement and gave regular talks on international relations and on social issues on Radio 3KZ's Labour Hour. He also campaigned against nuclear weapons, was active in the Vietnam Moratorium movement, and addressed audiences at schools, universities and lunchtime factory meetings.

In 1998 he and Evelyn were both awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for promoting peace and human rights.

Rothfield's interest in Israel never waned. He understood early that Israel could not live in peace if the Palestinians did not have their own state, and in 1974 established the journal Paths to Peace, which campaigned vigorously for a negotiated settlement to the Middle East conflict.

In 1984, in response to a feeling that the Jewish community was not satisfactorily dealing with the Palestinian issue and in keeping with his progressive views, he became a founding member of the Australian Jewish Democratic Society, and was active in it almost to his last day.

He mentored younger people, with his infectious enthusiasm, boyish good humour, generous spirit and persuasive ability always to the fore.

Rothfield also funded many projects, from indigenous land rights to peace efforts between Jews and Arabs in Australia. One such project was the Jewish-Arab-Muslim women's group Salaam/Shalom.

A great believer in physical activity, he was an avid skier and tennis player, and played his last game five days before he died.

Rothfield's work brought him into contact with many political leaders, ranging from Ben Chifley and Arthur Calwell to Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin. He liked to recall one of the highlights of his ''peacenik'' career in Jerusalem in 1979 when he was participating in an international peace symposium attended by many international thinkers and statesmen.

He attended a press conference called by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in Jerusalem and asked Sadat if he felt that he was any closer to reconciling the needs of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. Sadat replied: "I am sure that the process we started through my visit here will enable us to solve all the problems."

Rothfield received his early education at a yeshiva (Jewish religious school) but that only served to turn him into an atheist. In his 1998 book The Trial of God, he recalled how, at the end of World War II, King George VI addressed the British people and thanked God for the Allied victory and for peace. Rothfield reflected on the misery and suffering of those who survived the death camps and who saw millions of their relatives perish, and asked: ''Why are we saying, 'Thank you'? If God brought peace, could he not have ended the suffering earlier?"

He was not given to displays of emotion, but when Evelyn, his wife of 72 years, died in 2006, he was visibly shaken. In his last years he started learning piano, Evelyn's musical instrument of choice; he had had no musical training since boyhood.

In his 1997 political memoir, Many Paths to Peace, Rothfield wrote optimistically about improvements in human behaviour, pointing out that the past 50 years had seen the virtual end of colonialism and of slavery. He strongly believed that a peaceful and more humane world was possible: all that was needed was enough people to want it and to do something to achieve it. Enough people, in fact, like himself.

He is survived by his sons Robin, David and Jonathan, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Steve Brook, a Melbourne writer, was assisted by Robin and David Rothfield. All are members of the Australian Jewish Democratic Society.

Ralph McLean

(Photo from Outrage, September 1985)

Obituary in The Age newspaper:

Act of political bravery: Australia's first openly gay mayor

January 31, 2011


26-3-1957 - 25-12-2010

WHEN he made political history in 1984, Ralph McLean observed the moment with a quip to show he didn't take himself too seriously, and a hopeful peek at a future when his groundbreaking claim on prominence would not raise an eyebrow.

"I really think it's an accident that I'm a political novelty. Hopefully the day is not too far off when it won't be a story," McLean said on the eve of his becoming Australia's first openly gay mayor, also telling The Age: "I'll walk out that door and come in that one in drag."

McLean, who has died, aged 53, at St Vincent's Hospital after collapsing at his home in Fitzroy from liver failure, was referring to the mayoral robes of Fitzroy, which he donned on August 8, 1984 when he was just 27.

That was one highlight of a life that blended a passion for politics with an abiding love for the arts - the latter an affection that was returned by the Victorian theatre community he served in various roles over two decades, including influential roles on community television and radio.

"He was a gentle, loving, unassuming man," said Liz Jones, the artistic director and chief executive officer of La Mama Theatre in Carlton, which honoured McLean with its Apricot Tree Award last year. It also hosted his funeral in its courtyard on December 30.

He was born Malcolm Ross McLean in Kilmore, where his parents owned a pie shop. He stood out from a very young age - there seemed little doubt the life to come would draw attention. The theatre attracts eccentrics, and Mclean was certainly that.

"You could see all that when he was young," his older brother Don recalled. "He was just a dear little fellow, he had this catalogue of idiosyncrasies. He lived in his own little world. He chose not to speak until he was three. But once he started, he didn't stop. He would invent his own puppet shows. When he was 11 he got a cassette recorder and he would tape conversations, all of that stuff was part of what he ended up doing."

McLean was a big fan of watching the popular 1970s sport of roller derby - formation roller skating - an enthusiasm that gave him his adopted first name, taken in honour of the sport's superstar Ralphie Valladares. When he was in his early 20s, he changed his name by deed poll to make the nickname permanent.

If his artistic bent was obvious early, so was his enthusiasm for politics. He was politically conscious from the age of about 11. A defining moment came when he was 18, with the 1975 dismissal of Gough Whitlam's Labor government.

McLean was doing an arts degree at Melbourne University, where he was secretary of the Student Representative Council, and he also spent three years as a research officer for the Australian Union of Students. Living in Fitzroy, he rose through the ranks of the local ALP branch. He was elected to Fitzroy Council in 1982, and was the party's choice for the mayoralty in 1984. It was then that he made the decision - extraordinary for the times - to come out. Homosexuality had been decriminalised in Victoria four years earlier. McLean had told his family he was gay in 1979. When he rose to political prominence, it seemed a natural thing to do publicly.

McLean himself told The Age in 1984: "People in the gay community are pleased about it. It's recognition not just of me but of someone who is gay."

If that act of political bravery gave McLean his place in the history books, it was his devotion to the theatre that won him a permanent place in the affections of the Victorian arts community.

His CV was extensive: chairman of the Melbourne Fringe Festival board from 1986 to 1991, and a board member until 1998; chairman of Channel 31 for four years; director-producer of the Channel 31 program YARTZ; theatre reviewer for 15 years on the Triple R Sitelines program.

La Mama's Jones said the theatre community owed McLean a particular debt for his television work, through which he had created an invaluable archive of material, including hours of interviews with playwrights, directors and actors.

McLean also worked as a healthcare consultant for many years, including a period as executive director of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations.

He was found at his home by his brother, who hadn't been able to get in touch with him. It was not know how long he'd been there. He spent 32 days in hospital, including 12 in intensive care and died on Christmas Day after his liver had been reduced to functioning at only 10 per cent towards the end.

McLean is survived by his brother, Don, and his sister Margaret.

Neil McMahon is a freelance writer based in Melbourne.

Brenda Humble

1 OCTOBER 1933 - 19 MAY 2011 - aged 77

The above two photos were taken at Brenda's house in July 2002 by Kendall Lovett

Brenda Humble Obituary online

(Brenda Humble obit – Australian Financial Review – 020611)

Activist artist: Juanita’s portraitist remembered

By Terry Ingram

Brenda Elizabeth Humble, who died last month at the age of 77, had a large following through Eva Breuer Gallery in Sydney. She was a close friend of Breuer, who died more than a year ago.

Humble, a community and environmental activist, was a core member of a group of committed women artists and art lovers, mostly of an older generation, who contributed greatly to the Sydney art scene.. She won the 1982 Portia Geach Prize for her portrait of Virginia Hall, had 16 solo exhibitions, and is represented in many private and corporate collections.

Her most public work was a product of her activism – a poster she designed titled Who Killed Juanita.

She was very active in securing green bans on development in Kings Cross in the 1970s.

A memorial gathering will be held at the Long Room, Redfern Oval, on June 5 2011

Peter Collard - Sister Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

24 DECEMBER 1952 - 24 OCTOBER 2011 - aged 58

These two photos were taken at the Reflection Area Dedication Ceremony in May 2001

This photo was taken by Phillip Whitefield at the 34th planting in 2008

The Blessing of the Trees has been a tradition since the beginning of SPAIDS on 15 May 1994. There was a standard format for the Blessing which was sung, but that has been changed in recent years to a different format to accommodate those amongst us who don't sing very well!! This was the Blessing prepared by Sister Mary Mary Quite Contrary for the 36th SPAIDS Tree Planting on 31 July 2011. The Blessing was read out by MMQC himself.

SPAIDS Blessing


Hello & intros

Good morning to all. Welcome to the Sydney Park AIDS Memorial planting on landthat was traditionally under the custodianship of the Gadigal people of the EoraNation. We are Sisters from the Order of Perpetual Indulgence. My name isSrMMQC. And these are ...(introductions followed)

Weather Report

We have arranged some wet weather to soften the ground, and a nice warm springday for the planting. We hope you find today's conditions acceptable. Lunch isavailable down the hill with the other groups. You can all get back to your plantingafter our brief blessing.

OPI Guardians

The OPI has taken an interest in this project from the beginning, not just becauseSaint Kendall the Constant and his consort Mannie are the driving force behind it. Wekeep an eye on it, and the goings-on here. The Council, local Police area commanderand others know this through the activities of The Beat Project and the ABD. So we hope that it will be a safe place for all to enjoy.

Loved ones lost

Today we are here to plant trees in memory of loved ones lost. AIDS has taken manyfrom us, and we build these groves to be a living reminder of their lives. Plantingthese trees, and watching them grow gives us a chance to reflect on them. TheReflection Space here -> is somewhere we can come to meditate in peacefulsurroundings. So the growing trees reinforce our memories, and keep them fresh - notfaded.

incense people

We bless you all with incense for your attendance and support. We hope yourmuddied hands and knees will wash clean, and that the pains in your backs will bebrief. A special extra whif of incense goes to Mannie & Ken for their hard work inestablishing these groves.

incense trees

We bless the trees with incense in the hope that they will grow tall and strong. Wehope they will provide a haven for wildlife, and that birdsong will lift our spirits here.

This is our own obituary because we haven't yet had any official one from any organisation such as the Order of Perpetual Indulgence.


I (Mannie De Saxe) met Peter Collard at his flat in Randwick in April 1988.

I had been to my first demo as a gay man when, at the age of 61, I discovered that there was to be a gathering outside the British Consulate at Circular Quay in April 1988 to protest Margaret Thatcher's introduction of clause 28 into the British Parliament. This clause was as homophobic as they come. It was an attempt to stop any mention of homosexuality in schools and also an attempt to prevent gay teachers being employed in government schools. It was a vicious attack and was so outrageous in its discrimination and vilification that it needed to be protested as much as possible and wherever possible.

At this demonstration I was informed that it was being held by a group called Gay Solidarity which held regular meetings at members' homes because they didn't have enough money to have their own premises.

The meeting to which I was invited - my first ever meeting to a specifically gay event - was to be held at Peter Collard's flat. Coincidentally, at that meeting I met Kendall Lovett, my partner, and the rest, as they say, is history!

Peter Collard became a very good friend and over the years he demonstrated what true friendship meant when we established the Sydney Park AIDS Memorial Groves on 15 May 1994. Peter must have come to every tree planting from then on up to and including the last one on 31 July 2011.

Peter's other persona was Sister Mary Mary Quite Contrary and it was in his Sisterly capacity that MMQC, as he was fondly known, mustered members of the Order of Perpetual Indulgence to come to tree plantings and do a "Blessing of the Trees" at every event.

Peter was an ongoing member of Lesbian and Gay Solidarity as the group became in 1992 after changing its name from Gay Solidarity, and contributed items to the LGS newsletter when possible.

Some time in 1995 the pope was to visit Sydney and the Sisters of the Order of Perpetual Indulgence organised a few demonstrations along the route of his visit. The photos below were from the Oxford Street, Darlinghurst demo and was where the popemobile was to travel.

Peter set up our web site in 1999 and taught me how to upload items to our pages and we are eternally grateful for all the hard work he did over the years to help us in whatever way he could.

Peter's life was complicated by the fact that he had a Thai partner who subsequently died of AIDS, leaving a grieving Peter and a son and other relatives in Thailand.

This photo was sent to us by Peter on one of his last trips to Thailand during 2011

In fact Peter was due to spend November 2011 in Thailand when he seems to have been found dead in his flat in Randwick about 24 October 2011.

We still have no information about his death, but we are profoundly saddened and affected by his death at the very young age of mid-fifties!

We will ensure that trees are planted for Peter in the Groves which he came to love so much.

We will miss you Peter!

Thefollowing item was on page 9 of the newsletter of the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Board issue "Equal Time Number 83 Summer 2011:

Alan Rosendorff

(From The Age newspaper 22 November 2011)


29-1-1953 – 6-11-2011

A fighter for dignity in life and death


Obituary by Gerry Carman

Alan Rosendorff, who book-ended his active life with work against the evils of apartheid in South Africa, and for the terminally ill to have the choice of dying with dignity in Australia, has died of cancer at home in South Caulfield (Melbourne). He was 58.

An advocate for law reform, particularly legalised euthanasia, his campaign earlier this year to make palliative care and end-of-life more controlled and less arbitrary came within three votes of being carried in State Parliament.

Rosendorff’s interest in legalized euthanasia began when he started providing legal advice to the Dying With Dignity advocacy group – well before he was diagnosed with aggressive cancer in April 2009.

In fact, he was indelibly marked by the value of a peaceful death as a teenager – when his first dog, Jimmy, was gently put down by the vet who had cared for him since he was a pup. As he recalled: “The vet laid him down on his table and said ‘I’m sorry old soldier, I’v known you for 15 years, but it’s time to go.’ He died painlessly and comfortably with the vet talking to him the whole time. It left such an impression on me.”

As his own terminal illness intensified – Rosendorff had a tumour removed from his oesophagus and suffered the effects of chemotherapy, including a heart attack – he redoubled his advocacy even as the cancer spread to his stomach and lungs. He lobbied and met with state and federal MPs and had conversations with Premier Ted Baillieu in an attempt to create certainty in the law and to provide sufferers with a choice.

Greens MP Colleen Hartland used the stratagem of introducing a motion in the Parliament at the end of last month that sought an investigation into voluntary euthanasia by the Victorian Law Reform Commission, but it was opposed by government MPs in the upper house; the motion had the unanimous support of Labor.

Rosendorff’s campaign earlier created a stir when the former chief minister of the Northern Territory, Marshall Peron (who sponsored short-lived voluntary euthanasia laws in the NT) attacked Baillieu’s stand on the matter. Peron said the premier’s statement that the issue was divisive and should be tackled on a national level was “a weak excuse for inaction.”

Born in Bloemfontein to Madge and Bobby Rosendorff, he and his older sister Margaret were part of one of the oldest Jewish families who had arrived in South Africa from Germany in the early 1800s. The first wave were bankers and both his father and grandfather were lawyers; the family set up the first synagogue in Bloemfontein, the capital of the Orange Free State, and were involved in running boxing in South Africa.

He was educated at Christian Brothers College and went on to Grey College, where his father and grandfather had also attended, before studying law at Witwatersrand University. He studied and was proficient in a number of African languages, including Zulu and Sotho, besides Afrikaans and English, and became heavily involved in the anti-apartheid movement. He also swam freestyle and butterfly for his state.

After qualifying as a lawyer, he soon established himself as a partner with Douglas Gibson, who went on to be leader of the opposition in the Free State from 1977 to 1986, and is now the country’s ambassador to Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos. Gibson was prominent in the anti-apartheid movement and Rosendorff complemented his work with tireless campaigning.

He did pro bono work for black South Africans, especially those confronted by laws used when they attempted to buy homes in white neighbourhoods. When he could no longer envisage a future for himself and his family in South Africa under the apartheid regime, he and his first wife, Terry, who he had met at university and married in 1976, decided to immigrate to Australia with their two young children.

In 1986, at the age of 33, he arrived with his family in Melbourne, and found work with the legal firm Baker & McKenzie, while also studying part time at Melbourne University to gain Australian qualification.

In 1993, he set up his own law practice, Rosendorff Lawyers, which was thriving when he was diagnosed with cancer 16 years later. After his operation and chemo treatment, he returned to work and competed in several ocean swims, having maintained his early love of swimming with regular swims at various venues.

While disappointing, the narrowness of the recent vote in the Legislative Council gave Rosendorff hope in his final days that the tide was turning, and that efforts to win approval for voluntary euthanasia in Victoria would eventually succeed.

He is survived by his second wife Ofra, children Dina and Mark and their partners, his grandson Amos, his beloved dogs Monty (pictured) and Milly, his step-children Dani, Natalie and Elliot, and step-granddaughter, Layla.

Dina Rosendorff contributed to this tribute.

Ian MacNeill

1946 - 27 NOVEMBER 2011 - AGED 65

In 1996 Ian interviewed Mannie De Saxe and Ken Lovett for an article in the Sydney Star Observer. Here is the link to Ian's article:


The Editor of ART MONTHLY AUSTRALIA, Deborah Clark, and the author of the article on Brian Finemore in ART MONTHLY AUSTRALIA September 2005 No.183, Ian MacNeill, have both given permission for the article to be reproduced in full here on our web pages:


Ian having dinner at Murphy Grove, Preston in 2007.

Ian in his flat which he so proudly bought after living for so many years in rented accommodation. It was small but he made it as comfortable as possible and he was able to entertain a few friends at a time. This photo was taken in 2006.

Ian was very closely associated with Laurin McKinnon and Gary Dunne at gay-ebooks and for many years before that with writing and publishing. Here is a tribute to Ian on the gay -ebooks web site:

Ian MacNeill Remembered

Ian's very close friend Gavin Harris was requested by Ian to speak at his wake - but for only two minutes!! - very Ian indeed! and here is Gavin's obituary as published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 13 December 2011:


Noel Hunter

Photo taken by Ken Lovett in 1995 - Noel Hunter, Margaret Shields, Mannie De Saxe - Coogee at the scattering of the ashes of Ron Owen

NOEL HUNTER - 7 JUNE 1929-8 APRIL 2012 - AGED 83

Since we moved to Melbourne in 2001, our contacts with Noel were the occasional phone calls and our visits to Sydney for tree planting once a year, so it was with extreme shock and sorrow that we received our copy of MAGazine from the ACON MAG group on 15 May 2012 with the news of Noel's death.

We will be posting our own obituary shortly, but until then, here is one from the Sydney Morning Herald:


Late of Chippendale,
a Northern Rivers man.

Passed away peacefully on April 8, 2012

Adored partner of Jock Blair (deceased). Greatly loved brother of James and Hector. Noel will be sorely missed by sisters-in-law Sue McIntosh and Judith Hunter. Nephews and nieces James Brock, Briony, Sam and Clarissa, Thomas and Jordan, Lachlan and Lily, along with Mark, Deborah, Sandra, Brett and John and all their families.

No doubt the many organisations and friends gathered along his life will also find a gap with Noel's passing.

His family particularly wishes to thank many visitors from M.A.G.S, MANKIND and the Prostate Cancer Support Group. You have been amazing!

The life of this amazing man will be celebrated in a service at Christ Church St Laurence, 812 George St Haymarket on Friday (April 13 2012) at 10.30am.

All welcome.
In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to St Vincents Sacred Heart Hospice.

Published in The Sydney Morning Herald on April 11, 2012

Julia Britton

JULIA BRITTON - 27 JUNE 1914 - 5 NOVEMBER 2012 - AGED 98
Playwright blossomed late

From the Sydney Morning Herald, November 28, 2012

By Marc Opitz


27-06-14 — 05-11-2012

JULIA Britton, a noted and prolific playwright has died in Adelaide. She was 98.Possessed of a dynamic imagination, sharp wit, talent and a vivacious personality, Britton was a challenging and versatile writer whose output was prolific.

Born Hilda Hartt in Romiley, Cheshire, she was educated at Withington Girls School and graduated from the University of Manchester. Six years later she emigrated to Cape Town to take up a job teaching Latin and Greek at a girls school. In Cape Town she met her husband, composer-musician Philip Britton, who she married in 1939. There also she became one of South Africa's first female journalists, working on the Cape Argus, and soon afterwards began to write plays, her passion for writing having found a brilliant musical collaborator in her husband. The couple moved to Natal where they wrote and produced intimate revues and two full-length musical plays, Golden Country and Jersey Lily. In 1967 they emigrated to Adelaide where Britton taught classics at Adelaide University.

After her husband's death, she returned to writing for the theatre. Decades of shelved ideas, scenes, characters and plots were released in a flood of vibrant new plays, establishing her as one of Australia's most prolific writers of the 1990s.

In 1982 Britton won the Awgie Monte Miller award for her play Exits and Entrances. She was appointed playwright-in-residence at the Stage Company, a position that led to the production of her most acclaimed play, Miles Franklin and the Rainbow's End. A popular and critical success, the production was invited to the San Antonio Festival in Texas for a short season, where it was met with equal acclaim. The play was later revived at Melbourne's Playbox Theatre and has since returned, at La Mama in 1992 and at Melbourne's Theatreworks by Fly-On-The-Wall Theatre in 2000, followed by Perth's The Blue Room as part of the inaugural WA Fringe Festival.

She was introduced to young director Robert Chuter by a friend, the director Malcolm Robertson, in 1988. Chuter soon became her long-time collaborator, confidant and close friend. Their unusual partnership created many site-specific shows, starting with the legendary Loving Friends, which played to sell-out audiences at the historic Elsternwick mansion Rippon Lea. The success of that play, dramatising the lives of the Bloomsbury set, spawned a sequel, An Indian Summer, a year later, which also proved enormously popular. The ability to visualise new plays and complete them in an extraordinarily short time, without the need for editing, was the badge of her seemingly boundless creativity and massive output.

In 1995, Britton and Chuter unleashed their notorious adaptation of Lady Chatterley's Lover, again at Rippon Lea, which remains the production for which Britton is probably best known. Daring, frank and faithful to the novel, the 1999 Perth season, produced by Peter Holmes a Court, met with opposition from the Christian Democrats, whose unsuccessful attempt to get the production closed down only added to its appeal and popularity. The season also received an unwelcome but otherwise flattering visit from plain-clothed police who, expecting to close down the show from the inside, instead stayed to watch the production in its entirety. Controversy aside, the play again was hugely successful and received additional high-profile seasons in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide.

The duo's outdoor seasons at Rippon Lea continued with popular adaptations of Seven Little Australians, Anne of Green Gables, Little Lord Fauntleroy, Women In Love and the maverick reproduction of Melbourne's 1920 ball for the visiting Prince of Wales - I Danced with a Girl who Danced with the Prince of Wales.

Britton and Chuter continued their controversial trail, with the 2001 premiere of The Singing Forest, a jaw-dropping three-hour epic about the journeys of three Holocaust protagonists struggling to survive the horrors of Auschwitz. By contrast, the theatrical site-specific romp Five-Minute Call - in which the audience was moved through the various bars and rooms of Melbourne's The Butterfly Club - used Britton's gift for quirky comedy.

In 2009 The Dream Children had its premiere at the La Mama Courthouse, and later that year production started on a feature film adaptation. The film, directed by Chuter, is due for release next year.

Her debut productions in England, with which she travelled at the age of 92, Oblomov's Dream at Jermyn Street Theatre and Fresh Pleasures at the Pleasance Theatre, were greeted with mixed reviews. Britton's personal life and the lead-up to the production of Fresh Pleasures were recorded in Rob George's Screen Australia documentary Fearless, which has been screened worldwide.

Undeterred by age, Britton's ideas and views were modern and progressive. In addition to her enormous output of plays, music theatre, poetry and screenplays, her nurturing and encouragement of emerging actors, directors, artists and musicians, supported a new generation. Her wit, wilfulness, vision, ideas, storytelling and great generosity will be missed.

Britton is survived by two daughters, Louise and Stephanie, her son Simon, three grandchildren, Eugene, Francesca, Alex, and a great-grandchild, India-Rose.She also leaves behind her many beloved colleagues, friends and cohorts who will not forget her - she was unforgettable.

Anthony Smith

The following item was in Melbourne Community Voice on 5 DECEMBER 2012:

Sexuality advocate and researcher remembered

"So much of his ideas and spirit flow through my work," said Dennis Altman of his partner of 22 years Anthony Smith.

Internationally recognised sexuality researcher Professor Anthony Smith passed away last month. Originally trained in zoology Smith re-directed his attention to sexual health and sexuality research, joining La Trobe University’s Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society and was chief investigator on the 2002 Australian Study of Health and Relationships – often called the Australian ‘Kinsey’.

In the 19990s he was president of the Northern Territory AIDS Council and vice-president of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations. In 2007 he became chair of ARCSHS, working there as deputy director until his death.

Smith was the partner of fellow La Trobe academic and gay rights pioneer Dennis Altman.

“I lived with Anthony for 22 years, and to all intents and purposes we were a married couple – except we didn’t pretend monogamy, and we rejected any sort of marriage ceremony,” Altman told MCV.

“So much of his ideas and spirit flow through my work over the past two decades, he was always my sternest critic, that I realise I am a different person to the one who met him at an AFAO workshop in Sydney in April 1990. What really helped at the end was that at no point in all our dealings with the medical world was my status as his next of kin ever questioned, the folk at St Vincents, like our friends and colleagues, knew ours was a life partnership, now sadly over.”

Bill Leslie

27 APRIL 1934 - 3 DECEMBER 2012

The following obituary is from the APHEDA - Union Aid Abroad web pages:

Vale Bill Leslie
04 December 2012

The staff, partners and friends of Union Aid Abroad–APHEDA are saddened to hear of the death of Bill Leslie on Monday, December 3rd 2012. Bill was a member of APHEDA's very first Committee of Manaqement and worked for APHEDA on overseas projects.

Born in Mudgee in 1934, Bill attended Fort St. High and Sydney Teachers College and in the 1950s taught at Bellingen Central School.

Bill left teaching and became a Federation organiser. Bill was a life member of the NSW Teachers Federation and a former Assistant General Secretary of the Australian Teachers Federation.

Following his retirement, Bill worked for APHEDA in the Middle East, teaching English as a Second Langauge in an Arab school in Haifa in the late 1980s. Bill also worked for APHEDA in New Caledonia and the Philippines.

Bill was 78 years old and he will be fondly remembered for his commitment to education, GLBT rights and HIV issues. Our thoughts and condolences go out to Bill's family and friends.

Contact Details:
Peter Jennings, Executive Officer, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA
Ph: (02) 9264 9343
Fax: (02) 9261 1118

This photo was taken by Ken Davis in August 2012 in the house where Ken now lives and which was previously Bill's house, and who had also worked closely with Bill and was a very good friend over many years:

Jose Julio Sarria

Courage & Optimism: 'Nellie Queen' José Julio Sarria

22 December 1922 - 19 August 2013 - Aged 90
By Karen Ocamb | August 21, 2013

There’s a haunting line in Mart Crowley’s 1968 iconic, acerbically comedic play The Boys in the Band—“If only we didn’t hate ourselves so much. … If only we could just not hate ourselves quite so very much,” says Michael. In the documentary The Celluloid Closet, Crowley explained that the play and subsequent movie revealed the masochistic closeted fear and biting camp among the gathering of gay friends: "The self-deprecating humor was born out of a low self-esteem, from a sense of what the times told you about yourself."

Unbeknownst to many in the gay and straight communities 'shocked' by what they believed was almost a cinéma vérité of gay life, not all gay people were closeted self-haters. In fact, courageous optimist José Julio Sarria spent his life using humor, camp and song as tools of activism, and he became popular enough to become the first openly gay person in the country to run for elected office in 1961—years before The Boys in the Band and Stonewall.

Jose Julio Sarria—a proud openly gay Latino, drag queen and community activist—died quietly at his home in New Mexico on Monday, Aug. 19. He was 91.

Perhaps Sarria has not been as revered by succeeding generations as his pre-Stonewall 1950s-60s peers because he challenged society’s attitudes while sometimes wearing a dress. But as the "Empress José I, The Widow Norton,” Sarria founded and presided over the International Court System, a gay and lesbian community organization that became second only to Rev. Troy Perry’s Metropolitan Community Church in grassroots size and scope.

Sarria’s powerful story of service and inspirational activism deserves to be told alongside the stories of Harry Hay and Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, among the other notable LGBT pioneers.

The Early Years

Sarria was born in San Francisco on Dec. 22, 1922, as the only child of the unmarried Julio Sarria and Maria Delores Maldonado of Colombia He was raised by another family as his mother worked as a live-in maid. According to Vern L. Bullough in his short biography of Sarris in Before Stonewall, "Jose’s mother tolerated his early cross-dressing and encouraged his artistic development by having him take lessons in dancing, violin and voice, and the young boy had dreams of becoming an opera star."

Sarria joined the military immediately after graduating from high school following the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Since he was under five feel tall and weighed roughly 90 pounds, he was rejected by the Navy and Marines. But he devised a scheme to get his way—he agreed to have sex with an Army major recruiter in exchange for his enlistment papers. In short order, Sarria was assigned to cooking classes, eventually becoming an aide to a high-ranking officer before being promoted and transferred to occupied Germany, where he operated the officer’s dining hall. According to Bullough, Sarria “also became an expert in dealing with the black market and throwing parties. Although there was a lot of gossip about his possible sexual orientation, he was accepted by most of his colleagues.”

Sarria left the Army in 1945 with the rank of Staff Sargent. He enrolled in college and worked as a waiter at a San Francisco bar in North Beach called the Black Cat that catered to an underground Bohemian crowd—“from actors to anarchists, including a significant number of gays, prostitutes, writers and others,” Bullough writes. Homosexuality was a crime, and 'homos' were widely stigmatized as 'perverts' and 'deviants.' Gay conservative Hal Call frequented the bar with his lover, Jack. “We were always weary and on the lookout. With hands, arms and elbows on the bar at all times. We were afraid a cop would come in and sweep the place out as they did on occasion,” Call told Bullough.

An Entertainer Is Born

According to his biography on the Imperial Court’s website, Sarria started his famed career as an entertainer by accident. At one point when he was serving drinks, the Black Cat’s piano player started playing “Carmen” by Bizet, and Sarria chimed in with his high C tenor. A star opera singer and female impersonator was born.

But it was also the time of McCarthyism and police harassments and arrests intensified. The Imperial Court bio reports:“Against this oppression, José gave the city's gay community hope with a dash of laughter. His impromptu arias would contain lyrics that would warn people of police entrapment schemes if he learned of them. He also coined some of the first known statements to instill gay pride with such slogans as: "There is nothing wrong with being gay, the crime is getting caught" or "United we stand, divided they will pick us off one by one."

Perhaps his true signature piece, however, was a tune with which he would nightly to close the bar via a sing-along with the bar's patrons. Together they would sing "God Save Us Nelly Queens." Sometimes José would lead the bar's patrons and drag entertainers to the nearby jail to serenade the gay people being held there.

The Black Cat's fame and José's morale-boosting campaigns eventually led the police to attempt to close the bar in 1949 on the grounds that it attracted gay people. The owners and clients, however, sued and in a decision by the California Supreme Court, the justices issued a ruling that a bar could not be closed simply due to the clients it attracted.”

One night after a fight during an estrangement with his lover, Sarris went out alone and was arrested in the men’s room at the St. Francis hotel by a vice squad office he knew. Since he made no overtures, he believed the bust was a setup resulting in a conviction and heavy fine. It also ruined any chance of him getting a teaching credential, so he left college. Bullough writes, “Feeling he was labeled a homosexual and a queen, he decided that he would be “the best goddamn queen that ever was!”

The "Best Goddamn Queen" Runs for Office

And that sparked his activism. Working with advice from attorney Melvin Belli, Sarria figured out a way to circumvent the law that prohibited men from wearing women’s clothing “with an intent to deceive”—a law enforced with glee minutes after Halloween was over. He had all gays wearing dresses don a tag that said, “I am a boy,” thus ending the police practice.

As a proud and prominent queen, Sarria also started pushing for gay rights. In 1960, he founded the League for Civil Education to educate people about homosexuality. To get attention for that cause—and after a spate of oppressive police raids on gay bars—Sarria decided to run for political office to show that it could be done. Hal Call helped fund his campaign. “[H]e collected enough signatures to qualify and run for city supervisor in the fall elections,” write Dudley Clendinen & Adam Nagourney in Out for Good. “Although it is not certain that the general city electorate was aware of Sarria’s sexual politics, his candidacy was the sensation of the homosexual community.”

In Behind the Mask of the Mattachine, James Sears features Sarria explaining the importance of grassroots activism to conservative friend Hall Call:

"I was saying, 'Gay is good and be proud of what you are!' Hal said, 'You know, José, you're attacking the problem wrong.' He said, ‘You should be talking to the educators, the professional persons.' And, I told him that the professional person was not getting arrested....It's not the educated man that we have to heal. We have to heal the little one on the street. They're the ones that need the change and are gonna to (sic) fight to make the change!

"Call was a great strategist. Sarria got away with it since he was in the entertainment business,” gay activist Cliff Anchor told Sears.

Sarria got 5,600 votes and came in 9th in a field of 32 candidates in 1961, running citywide before the re-districting that created supervisorial districts that enabled Harvey Milk to win in 1977. According to the Bay Area Reporter:

"But Mr. Sarria really shook up San Francisco's political establishment in 1961 when he decided to run for supervisor. It was the first time an out gay person had run for elective office. The reaction was swift. During his bid Mr. Sarria had to threaten to sue the local Democratic Party after it tried to keep him from running as a Democratic candidate.

The Democrats relented, but fearful that Mr. Sarria could win one of the six seats up for grabs that fall, party leaders recruited two-dozen people to enter the race. Mr. Sarria ended up in ninth place on Election Night.

Last year during a celebration honoring Mr. Sarria by the current board, gay Supervisor David Campos offered him an apology.

"I am sorry the city government didn't treat you well and the police harassed you," Campos told Mr. Sarria, who had come to the ornate board chambers for the commendation. "The city that didn't treat you well at that time loves you and honors you today."

Mr. Sarria said at the time that he believed it was a mistake for him not to run in the following election as he likely would have won. Winning, however, wasn't his goal at the time.

"I wanted to prove I, as a citizen of San Francisco, had the right to help govern the city," Mr. Sarria said. "Once I achieved that, I moved on to the next problem. I think I made a mistake. Had I run again, I would have won."

Sarria was the first person to back Harvey Milk’s campaign.

The Birth of an Empress

The Black Cat closed after a series of police raids in 1963, along with several other bars, bringing the total of gay and lesbian bars down to 18 in 1964 from a high of 30 bars in 1963. But instead of folding up their sparkling tents and going back into the closet, Sarria and the bar owners formed the Tavern Guild in 1965 and started throwing a huge drag event known as the Beaux Arts Ball.

According to the Imperial Court website:

“At its third Ball at the Winterland Ballroom, over 500 lesbians and gay men bravely crossed police lines, braved floodlights and the flashing lights of police photographers to attend this ball. During it, José was named the Queen of the Ball.

Soon José considered - “why be a queen when he could be an empress?” So, he proclaimed himself the Empress of San Francisco. Later, to further enhance this title, Sarria drew upon the legend of the Emperor Joshua Abraham Norton, the fabulously eccentric 19th century San Franciscan miner and rice baron who gained and lost at least one fortune. During his lifetime, Emperor Norton dressed finely and proclaimed himself the Emperor of the United States and Canada, Protector of Mexico. Heir in spirit, if not by law, to this extraordinary man, Sarria named himself the Widow Norton and began annual pilgrimages to Norton's grave in nearly Colma where he, accompanied by the Emperors of San Francisco, drag queens and members of the gay community, would pay their respects with flowers to Sarria's departed "spouse." For the past 30 years José’s annual pilgrimage to Joshua’s gravesite is full with fanfare, pomp and camp and attended by people from all walks of life from throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.”

From that, the Sarria developed bylaws and lines of succession and the Imperial Court just grew and grew. Over 30 years, the Court spread to nearly 70 areas in the US, Mexico, and Canada and focused on raising funds for charity – especially HIV/AIDS. The Imperial Court website reports that the Imperial Court of Toronto “raised funds to buy body bags and a burial ground for a more dignified closure to the lives of poor people who died of HIV/AIDS in Tijuana, Mexico. Previous to the Court's help, these people's bodies were often tossed into trash heaps.”Sarria also co-founded the Society for Individual Rights in 1964, which also proved effective in delivering the gay vote. “SIR represented a new breed of homophile organization, one which was assertive and self-confident. Where earlier political bodies such as the Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis had been assimilationist out of necessity, SIR was liberationist out of righteousness. It was also more democratic and inclusive, and this new style would become a model for gay political organizations to follow,” writes Bill Brent. “One remarkable aspect of SIR, which seems obvious only in retrospect, was that it recognized the need to create a "community feeling." This was the first time that large numbers of gay men and women participated openly and freely in a gay political entity.”

While much attention and respect is paid to the drag queens and dykes of color who were sick and tired of being bullied by cops and fought back at the Stonewall Inn in 1969—and the gays who fought back against the ever-raiding LAPD at The Black Cat Tavern in Silver Lake in 1967—Jose Julio Sarria, an openly gay Latino drag queen and entertainer, sought the job of San Francisco Supervisor and received almost 6,000 votes in 1961! Later, SIR helped foster the feeling of and movement for gay liberation—the antidote to the closeted fear in The Boys in the Band.

God Save the Nellie Queen

In 2006, after a campaign led by San Diego City Commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez, San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty and the International Court Council, the City of San Francisco renamed a section of 16th Street in the Castro neighborhood as José Sarria Court—becoming the first openly gay citizen to have a city street named after him in San Francisco.

"San Francisco is recognized as the world's LGBT Mecca, and it's fitting that José Sarria is the first gay man to have a street named in his honor here," said former S.F. Supervisor Bevan Dufty. Sarria’s papers are collected at the LGBT Historic Society of San Francisco and the Smithsonian Institution.

San Diego City Commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez, Chief Executive Officer of the International Court Council of the USA, Canada and Mexico, told me by phone on Monday (FYI – the mixed pronouns are Nicole’s):

“Jose was such an historic figure – but to this day she is always left out of history – as if she was never there…..Jose always considered himself a gay man. He said he did not want to be remembered only as a man who wore dresses and he educated people….

In the 1960s, Rosa Parks said that she refused to move to the back of the bus that day because she was tired of being treated like a second class citizen. That’s why Jose ran for office – we were all tired of being treated like second class citizens! And remember – it wasn’t until 1976 that being gay was legal. You could be sent to a mental institution!....She wanted to be known for who she was: she was a proud Latino, a veteran and a drag queen. She was proud of who she was a human being and gay man – in her totality.”

Russell Roybal, First Imperial Grandson to Empress I Jose, The Widow Norton and Deputy Executive Director of External Relations of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said:

"Words cannot express what a tremendous loss I feel today on the passing of José Sarria. He is an icon of the LGBT community, a hero, a mentor and a friend. José brought laughter, camp and fun to all of our lives and to the struggle not just for gay and lesbian liberation, but for all people. His legacy as a gay Latino leader, activist and drag queen will live on for all of us who share his commitment to the communities from which we come."

Photo used with permission: Jose Sarria, Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mavis at the Empress Coronation, presenting a check from an anonymous donor to purchase uniforms for the first ever Gay and Lesbian Freedom Marching Band, San Francisco, photo Oct. 28, 1978 by

Stuart Milk, founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation and Harvey Milk’s nephew, said:

"José Sarria, founder of the International Court System showed us how to turn a night into a grand occasion and a grand occasion into a means of providing support. That support led so many who did not "fit in" to actually proudly stand out, together, creating a local sense of community and an international network that would raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for local and major charities. He paved the way for my uncle Harvey Milk to run for public office by being the first openly gay man to put his name on the 1961 ballot and was right there to support Harvey’s first campaign in 1973. José’s extraordinary life on this earth has come to an end. And the extraordinary good that he did lives on. For the International Court System he was a guardian and an inspiration. For anyone who felt like they were different he was a defender of our dreams. He taught us how to turn an idea into action, how to wear a tiara and how to laugh and ultimately he taught us how to lift up and nourish a marginalized community. We will forever keep José in our history books and in our hearts."

Wilson Cruz, GLAAD spokesperson, said:

"José Julio Sarria's passing today is an enormous loss. His work as a politician, humanitarian, and performer was unprecedented, and has rightfully earned him a place in history. He was an icon who stood his ground for himself and so many others when it was hardest to do so. During such a formative time for the LGBT and Latino communities it is crucial that we remember and honor the exceptional people like José for making our successes possible. He will forever reside in the hearts and minds of the LGBT and Latino communities and their allies. Thank you, José."

Speaker John A. Pérez of the California Assembly noted that Sarria had impact beyond California:

"José Sarria was a monumental figure in the LGBT Community whose contributions to our movement cannot be overstated. His trailblazing run for public office as an openly gay man laid the groundwork for LGBT Californians to run for public office proudly and openly. But José's refusal to be silenced or shamed back into the closet--in an era where LGBT People were routinely discriminated against--was the greatest contribution to our movement. José's courageous personal example of living life openly, with pride and dignity, gave so many others the courage and confidence they needed to do the same. José's death is a great loss for our community, and it's fitting that it drew to a close just days after an historic victory in the Supreme Court that could never have happened without brave souls like José Sarria leading the way for all of us."State Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco said:

“Today we lost a dear friend and fearless community leader who will forever hold a place in our hearts and history books as the first openly gay person in the nation to run for elected office. When José threw his hat into the ring for San Francisco Supervisor more than 50 years ago, he became one of the first to publically proclaim that there is no reason, constitutional or otherwise, to deny lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people first-class citizenship, respect and dignity under the law. Jose’s visionary and legendary leadership helped build the foundation for our successful, modern-day LGBT civil rights movement. His sly humor and wicked wit disarmed nearly every adversary."

Rodney A. Scott, President of Christopher Street West/ L.A. Pride, which honored the Imperial Court as Community Grand Marshall in 2010, CSW’s 40th anniversary and the 45th anniversary for the Imperial Court:

It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to one of the country’s most heroic LGBT pioneers, Jose Julio Sarria. As the founder International Court System in 1965, Jose and the Court set out to create a safe and celebratory opportunity for LGBT people to come together, have fun and to raise millions of dollars to fight for our justice, health and for full equality. As a community, all of us together, we owe Jose a great deal of gratitude for his leadership, courage, strength and tenacity. As a community, we must remember that we have a history and honor those like Jose, who have paved the way for all of us.”

In his bio on their website, the Imperial Court says of Sarria:

For over half a century, José, the one-time "Nightingale of Montgomery Street," has nurtured, protected and guided San Francisco and North America's gay communities through McCarthyism, the backlash against gay rights, AIDS, and even the occasional bad makeup job. He is truly a living hero and role model for all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people or anyone who admires courage and optimism against daunting odds.

José Julio Sarria will be buried in San Francisco. A memorial date is pending.

Here’s Jose Julio Sarria singing “God Save Us Nellie Queens”

Some further obits and notices about Jose Sarria's death and funeral notices


1952 – 17 JANUARY 1985

By David Menadue (unknown 1985 publication)

Dave Sargent died on 17 January 1985 aged 32 years. Born and bred in Auburn, New York, he came to Victoria with one of the first airlifts of American teachers in the 1970s.

I first came to know David when I worked with him on the Education Department’s children’s magazines in 1977. For all of us then, David was the innovator, the creative spirit who injected new ideas and approaches into the magazines he worked on. And he was the one with conviction, who thought deeply about his work and carried through his social concerns – issues like sexism, the disabled, migrant children – in his writing.

Later the gay community was to share his insights and intellect through the pages of Campaign (where he was editor for several years), Gay Information (where he was a founding member of the collective and a much-respected contributor), Gay Community News and Outrage. His encouragement to gay writers, through his co-editing of InVersions and Edge City, the first anthology of gay writers in Australia, will not be forgotten.

Nor will his contributions to film and film criticism. He was a film reviewer for the Sydney Morning Herald and Cinema Papers, lectured on film at a number of tertiary institutions and was recently arts administrator with the Sydney Film-makers Co-operative.

For me though, as undoubtedly for many others, David’s love of life and people will be his most enduring memory. Often when I visited Sydney over the last few years I soon found myself at some social function, barbecue or party at David’s. There was David’s genuine interest in my life and concerns, his warm, generous smile and that broad New York accent. I know he will be greatly missed by his friends and the gay community in general.


27 NOVEMBER 1954 - 19 OCTOBER 2013

Photographer unknown - photo from memorial service on Tuesday 29 October 2013 at Northcote Town Hall

Author: admin
Date: 22 October 2013

Lesley Hall was a staunch advocate for people with disabilities, nationally and abroad, and an early leader in the Australian Disability Rights Movement. She passed away on October 19, 2013. The following tribute, written by her brother Frank Bentick-Hall, provides an account of her human rights activism.

Vale Lesley Hall 27 November 1954 – 19 October 2013
It is with great sorrow and grief that I write to inform you that my sister Lesley Hall passed away this afternoon in the Austin Hospital, Heidelberg here in Melbourne following a suspected heart attack very late Thursday night 17 October 2013.

Lesley was a feminist and disability advocate with a life-long disability and has been involved with feminist issues since 1972 and since that time has worked in various jobs empowering low income, indigenous and people with disabilities in housing, accommodation, arts, human rights and disability rights.

Lesley trained and worked as a teacher and has worked in the Australian Public Service and a number of Community Organisations including the Victorian Council of Social Services (VCOSS), the Collective of Self Help Groups and Melbourne Workers Theatre. In 1981 she helped found the Disability Resources Centre and the Women with Disabilities Feminist Collective, she has worked for a number of disability advocacy organisations, including the Disability Resource Centre (DRC), Reinforce, Action for Community Living (ACL) and as a Project Officer with the Disability Section of the UN ESCAP in Bangkok.

In 1985 Lesley was employed by the Disability Resources Centre to investigate and report to the Australian Human Rights Commission on the Rights of Residents in Victorian Institutions. Her report ‘Free from this Place’ was presented to the AHRC in May 1985.

Lesley has attended numerous International Disability Conferences in Bahamas, Korea, Fiji, South Africa, India, Vanuatu, Geneva and Bangkok.

She has been a board member of DRC, ACL and Victorian Women with Disabilities Network and previously worked as an Arts & Cultural Development Officer at the City of Darebin where she promoted the inclusion of people with disabilities in all their artistic opportunities. She was a member of the Art of Difference 2009 Steering Committee and on the Board of Arts Access. She previously served on the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) disability advisory committee and the Victorian Disability Advisory Council (VDAC). She also represented VDAC on the Department of Human Services Industry Advisory Group.

In September 2008 she was employed as the CEO for the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations where she brought her experience, skills and long commitment to human rights for women, people with disabilities and indigenous people to the national and international work of AFDO.

Since joining AFDO Lesley has dramatically increased the policy involvement of People with Disabilities in Australian and International Disability issues. Her high level of policy development, organisational skills and ability to empower her team of staff, volunteers and Board members has lifted AFDO’s profile to it’s highest level ever as the peak organisation of people with disabilities. On behalf of AFDO she has represented and involved people with disabilities in the consultation, lobbying and campaign to achieve the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) with fantastic success.

Lesley was a truly exceptional woman

We were sent the link to Lesley Hall's obituary by the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives (ALGA) and wish to thank ALGA and The Australian Women's Register Blog for the information.


1946 - 26 OCTOBER 2013

Doug Ireland (1946 – 2013) 10 NOVEMBER 2013
By Thomas Harrison

This obtiuary was published in a US online journal/blog called the Jacobin

Thomas Harrison on the death of radical journalist and LGBTQ activist Doug Ireland.

Doug Ireland, radical journalist, blogger, passionate human rights and queer activist, and relentless scourge of the LGBT establishment, died in his East Village home on Oct. 26. Doug had lived with chronic pain for many years, suffering from diabetes, kidney disease, sciatica, and the debilitating effects of childhood polio. In recent years he was so ill that he was virtually confined to his apartment. Towards the end, even writing, his calling, had become extremely difficult.

Once, Doug’s writing – in US publications like the Nation, the Village Voice, New York magazine, his blog Direland, and in France’s Libération and the news website Bakchich – was easy to find. But in recent years, his voice was rarely heard outside of New York’s Gay City News, for which he continued to contribute reportage as international editor and political commentary until this year, and few younger radicals are likely to know about him.

This is a pity, because Doug’s voice – his scathing polemical style, the vast breadth of his knowledge – was exceptional. Doug was a tireless champion of the oppressed of all kinds, but especially of those who are punished for loving members of their own sex, wherever they might be. With his uncompromising internationalism and refusal to allow cultural differences to stand as an excuse for denying LGBT people their human rights, there are few on the Left quite like him.

Doug was always a libertarian socialist, who nevertheless had long-standing ties to progressives in the Democratic Party – going back to Allard Lowenstein, George McGovern and Bella Abzug, for whom he worked as a campaign manager, Doug hoped progressives might transform the party (a hope I didn’t share). But he was never an apologist for mainstream Democrats, including Obama; he never pulled punches in attacking their cynical amoralism. Ed Koch, he once wrote, was not a closet gay, but a “closet human being.”

Doug had a special loathing for Clinton. One of his last published pieces was “Should We Forgive Bill Clinton?” in Gay City News in March, after the former President wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post against the Defense of Marriage Act that he had signed into law in 1996.

Noting that the Post piece was timed to prepare for the kickoff of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign a week later, Doug wrote: “The truth is that an old and predatory libertine like Bill couldn’t have cared less if a guy or a gal wanted to marry a Volkswagen. He wasn’t a bigot himself — he just surfed on the bigotry of others like the opportunist he’s always been. And it is that opportunism that led him to write his op-ed piece against DOMA on behalf of his wife’s candidacy.”

Doug reminded his readers that “there is a long list of vicious actions by President Clinton and his administration for which he owes LGBT people an unadulterated apology.” One of the items on this list was the Clinton administration’s use of “aid and trade blackmail targeting Third World countries to stop them from buying or manufacturing cheaper, generic versions of the AIDS-fighting drugs needed to prolong life… How many thousands died because Clinton, in his subservience to the greed of Big Pharma, engaged in this shameful arm-breaking? We’ll never know for sure – but their blood, too, is on Bill’s hands.”

Doug was a friend of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy (CPD), an antiwar and human rights advocacy group committed to radical democracy from below where I serve as co-director, and to the socialist journal New Politics, where I sit on the editorial board. In 1988, at a time when the CPD was heavily involved in defending democratic dissidents in the Soviet bloc, Doug reported for the Campaign’s newsletter on the persecution of gays in Eastern Europe:

Of all the taboos in Eastern Europe, none has been more cruel or dehumanizing than the official attitude toward homosexuality. If one of the very first acts of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution was to abolish the laws making homosexuality a crime, . . . Stalinism recriminalized homosexuality, and the theory that “fags are a product of capitalist decadence” has reigned malignantly in the Eastern bloc ever since, with anti-gay persecutions a favorite weapon of the political police throughout the bloc.

Doug’s understanding of Stalinism’s crimes, and of the whole history of the Left’s troubled relationship to alternative sexualities, was brilliantly expounded in his piece “Socialism and Gay Liberation: Back to the Future.” In it, he paid tribute to the courageous gay socialist pioneers – John Addington Symonds, Edward Carpenter, Oscar Wilde, and Magnus Hirschfeld. But he also described the vicious bigotry that was made official in the Stalin-era Communist movement and persisted long after Stalin’s death.

The great turning point, of course, was the birth of the post-Stonewall radical gay liberation movement in the United States – a movement, in Doug’s words, that was “against the State, which made us criminals; against the medical and psychiatric professions, which declared us sick; and against the cultural heterotyranny, which made us the target of disdain, ridicule, opprobrium, hate and violence.” He quoted the German filmmaker Rosa von Praunheim: “It is not the homosexual who is perverse, but the society in which he lives.” Like Doug, gay liberation saw itself as an integral, but never subordinate, part of all liberation struggles – feminist, antiwar, civil rights.

Doug’s broad vision of gay liberation contrasted sharply with the narrowly parochial LGBT organizations of today, which support and shower dollars on any politician of either party who is “good on gay issues,” no matter how reactionary he or she is on anything else. Since the late 1990s, the gay movement has become tamed and institutionalized, symbolized preeminently by the corporate-oriented Human Rights Campaign.

Doug never ceased railing against the established LGBT leadership for its political conservatism and for turning the movement into just another interest group, but he was especially critical of its near-indifference to the persecution of LGBT people in other countries. Doug called for the aggressive defense of gays under attack in Uganda, Russia, and Iraq, where they were being murdered by Shia death squads after a death-to-gays fatwa by Grand Ayatollah Sistani; the gay establishment was largely unmoved.

Doug’s reporting on the persecution of gays in Iran, including the public execution of men and boys, elicited criticism from several quarters, including the director of the LGBT Rights Program of Human Rights Watch. Critics objected that he was improperly imputing a Western-style “gay identity” to same-sexers in Muslim countries, and some insinuated he was providing political fodder for U.S. intervention against Iran.

But Doug continued to expose the homophobic criminality of Ahmadinejad and the Iranian theocrats. I don’t know if Doug would have seen it this way, but to me he was working in the great universalist tradition of the historic left, based on a single norm of human freedom and flourishing – a norm that justifies criticism of cultural traditions, wherever they might be, that support such practices as female subordination, racial and religious discrimination, and homophobia.

As Paul Schindler, the editor of Gay City News put it in an editorial defending Doug’s reporting, “Cultural sensitivity is of course an absolute requirement for effective human rights advocacy. But absolute cultural relativism is a recipe for inertia and defeat.”

In his New Politics piece, Doug insisted on the need “to begin a serious and radical rethinking of homosexualities and gender identities so as to understand at a deeper level why the fear and loathing of same-sex love and gender variants are so deeply engrained in society and culture.” Writing in 2009, he sensed “a hunger for a return to some of the earlier principles of sexual liberation for all with which our movement began, not just here but abroad.”

Doug is no longer with us, no longer able to make his own contribution to the revival of these principles. Let us hope, nevertheless, that they can be revived, for the sake of a truly liberated future.


Ron Owen --actor, director, filmmaker, graduate of R.A.D.A.

15 May 1932 -- 31 December 1994

By Kendall Lovett

On New Year's Day 1995, in the early morning I answered the 'phone in Newcastle to Ron's sister who told me that Ron had been found dead in the front garden of his home in Coogee the night before.

I had known Ron Owen since the late 1940s when he joined the Sydney Baptist Drama League which produced short christian plays based on biblical themes. The group rehearsed in the Central Baptist Church hall in George Street, Sydney. It presented the plays, usually by invitation, at various church halls in Sydney suburbs and a few NSW country towns between 1948-1951.

When I went to work in Melbourne in 1952 I lost touch with Ron until he came to London where I had been living and working since 1961.

In the interim, Ron had formed, along with Harold Bennett, the Australian Christian Theatre Guild which specialised in religious drama with country and inter-state tours. As well, he appeared in productions at Sydney's Ensemble, Independent, and Pocket Playhouse theatres in roles such as Bruce in "Come Back Little Sheba," Coney in "Home of the Brave," and Glen in "The Desperate Hours."

After directing several successful stage shows in Sydney he became involved in advertising as a television producer, before heading overseas where he had won a scholarship to The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London. On graduation he decided to remain in England. He worked in English repertory. His roles included The Tutor in "Five Finger Exercise," Bernard in "Death of a Salesman" and in lesser roles in other productions.

Before returning to Sydney to live and work at the end of the sixties, he appeared in the "Softly, Softly" BBC television series and several feature films including "Otley," the Tom Courtenay -- Romy Schnieder film.

I returned to Sydney at the end of 1967 and around Christmas 1968 Ron asked me to assist him in a stage show he was to present at the Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross. It was a novel presentation of the controversial poems of eighteenth century engraver, William Blake. Devised by Ron, the production --"Songs of Innocence and Experience" with music and interpretive dance, and featuring Sydney actress Judith Fisher with Ron himself-- opened on 31^st May 1969 at the Wayside Chapel and ran successfully throughout the month that followed.

In 1971, he suggested that I come and house-sit for him for possibly six months while he was in Melbourne as assistant to the director of "Conduct Unbecoming." I was very happy to do so because his house was in Woolloomooloo and a stone's throw from the centre of Sydney. Unfortunately, the play did not see out its full term at the Metro Theatre in Melbourne and closed in October 1971. Ron returned to Sydney and like most actors of that period relied on whatever his agent was able to secure for him and in between the part-time jobs he found himself.

A few days after he returned from Melbourne, he phoned me at work to tell me that the little house I had admired across the street from his was suddenly "to let." I wasted no time and a few days later I was ensconced and his neighbour and a resident there for the next 24 years.

Ron's special interest was filmmaking. To that end, he became an active member and strong advocate of the Sydney Film-makers Cooperative. He made several small ambitious though eccentric films but overall his interest remained more a hobby rather than a vocation. I think he would have made a good documentary maker but he wasn't interested. He was a mystic in more ways than one --conjecture, ambiguity, symbolism were a kind of undercurrent in the films he made.

The seventies were tumultuous years in many ways --politically, personally and sexually. In Woolloomooloo, we were fighting to keep it working class residential, its traditional role, rather than be swallowed up by the developer-spreading big business highrise extension of the city of Sydney.

It was the time of the resident action groups and their supporters the trade union green bans. It was at the same time the revolutionary Women's Movement and gay liberation and lesbian and gay rights groups. Some of us were wholly involved while others remained supportive when required while happily pursuing other interests and work. Ron was probably more inclined to the latter.

Nevertheless, we continued to be close friends and supportive of each other's projects. Geoff Friend's photograph above bears out our closeness. When I asked, Ron had no hesitation in carrying that cutout that I had made in the 1978 gay rights street march (15 July 1978) protesting against police brutality at the first Gay Mardi Gras in Kings Cross a few weeks prior. A work-related staff event outside Sydney had prevented me from joining the street protest.

Poster photo by Kendall Lovett

Around November1978, Ron became interested in a local gay theatre project based on a similar project in London which had already made its mark with a very successful production that dramatised some gay history for uncomprehending English theatre audiences. Ron along with a number of other like-minded gay men including fellow actor James Mellon felt that this was the right time for such theatre piece for Sydney. They set about putting together a 3-act "agitprop"style stage play entitled "Time Goes By" set in London in the 1890s, Berlin in the 1930s and Sydney in the 1970s culminating in the police bust of the 78 Gay Mardi Gras. (See the "casting" advertisement for the Gay Theatre Company.) The controversial third act, partly documentary, was eventually written by John Stapleton and Dennis Altman in collaboration. The play opened, called "As Time Goes By" successfully on Friday, 1st June 1979 at the Film-makers' theatre in William Street, Darlinghurst.

My friendship with Ron throughout the eighties tended to be of a social nature rather than very political. We shared a great number of mutual friends and, especially after Ron moved to Coogee, social activities with these friends kept our friendship very much alive and even into the 1990s.


Lex Watson - Gay Activist

29 January 1943 -- 6 May 2014

Another Obituary

Photo from the Sydney newspaper SX

Lex wasn’t always flavour-of-the-month with Sydney gay activist groups in the 70s and 80s. Nevertheless, he was certainly the “darling” of straight mass media journos, probably because he was the most quotable, accessible name in the gay movement to them as he was housed in the Department of Government at Sydney University and he had academic standing.

Like most of us though, Lex at times made unfortunate decisions and was not always prepared to accept that there were other better ways of reaching a conclusion.

He was looked upon by members of other gay groups as a lobbyist with access to parliamentary honchos for the Gay Rights Lobby (GRL) group. However, cracks had begun to appear in the “equality –nothing less” position of GRL.

Lex, prominent lobbyist and co-founder of the Gay Rights Lobby, “stormed out of one of its meetings when a motion he himself had put six weeks earlier was passed. The motion re-affirmed that equality before the Crimes Act was our (gay rights) minimum demand.” (Gay Solidarity Newsletter Number 7, Autumn 1982 ).

Following the demise of the Petersen Equality bill in the NSW Parliament, it had become obvious that leaving the heavy work and responsibility for organising the law reform campaign to one group wasn’t working and needed to be spread more evenly if there was to be a united gay movement. So, a series of informal discussions were held between the main forces interested in law repeal. They were the conservative gay media-dominated Gay Business Association, the gay rights oriented GRL and the gay liberation left (GSG and the ALP Gay Group).

The left insisted that the basis for any future campaign must be the re-affirmation of our minimum position as a minimum position. Politically, for the gay movement to demand less than equality, or to be seen negotiating for less, would be fundamental betrayal of the interests of gay people in NSW. We would be reinforcing our status of being second-class citizens. This position was accepted by the major groups and at a meeting of thirty gay organisations it formed the basis for the establishment of the Homosexual Law Reform Coalition with a nine person working group all elected at the same meeting. The working group was to be the forum in which political differences could be discussed and decided. HLRC was a step forward for an increasingly differentiated gay movement.

Soon after its formation the HLRC was confronted with the Unsworth Bill. Not only did this bogus bill fail to repeal Sections 79-81b of the Crimes Act, it updated the penalties and wording for related offences (public sex and ‘gross indecency’). The working group of HLRC realised the bill was unamendable in any meaningful way, unanimously decided to oppose it, in toto.

Lex, who, since his departure from GRL had refused to participate in the gay movement, together with Charlie Bowers, a member of the Deputy Premier’s staff , supported the bill. The Council of Civil Liberties, which had Lex on its Committee, re-affirmed its equality stance and noted that Unsworth’s Bill fell short of this. Organisations as diverse as the Boomerangs social group, Acceptance, MCC, Gay Counselling and Gay Community News Sydney Collective wrote to parliamentarians expressing their opposition. Persistent work on the streets by GSG and by the other active groups using the gay media, produced a surprisingly pleasing response from allegedly ‘apolitical’ gays. The real meaning of ‘no reform without repeal’ had been recognised and grasped in a way that had not been possible in the prior period of passive education. Not one NSW gay group supported the Unsworth sham.

In the end the bill was defeated, not because it was a travesty of democratic rights. The Lower House rejected Unsworth’s insult to gays because it was too radical. We didn’t win –Unsworth lost—but we had a substantial political mobilisation of ‘ordinary’ gays and politicised lobbyists into activists. It heightened general media interest and stimulated a political re-think in conservative gay groups like the Gay Business Association.

Since then, Lex certainly kept pace with the lesbian and gay political moves and continued in, particularly, his lobbying capacity and his law reform activities that proved, for instance, useful in achieving the political goals and objectives for HIV/AIDS.

Nevertheless, the rank and file did not find support on the street from many of the political lobbyists including Lex and fought openly to keep the public aware of their presence among them. While Lex and other academics involved themselves in places of influence inside, the gay movement outside kept the Australian public and the overseas lesbian and gay communities informed of our efforts and learning from theirs.

“Presence among them” were very much operative words for a lot of us. In many respects we were far from being just gay rights activist groups.

We were out and recognisable, rubbing shoulders with the wider community. Our lesbian and gay banners were to be seen in the turbulent 80s and 90s on the streets supporting Aboriginal issues, unionists’ May Days, women’s rights issues, Palm Sundays Peace marches, South African Anti-Apartheid demonstrations and Gulf War protests as well as ACT UP pickets where rank and file lesbians and gays were prepared to be counted. –Kendall Lovett.


Nadine Gordimer - Nobel Laureate

20 NOVEMBER 1923 -- 13 JULY 2014

Writer believed her literary duty was to fight South Africa's racial bigotry from within

From The Age newspaper, 19 July 2014

Nobel Prize-winning author Nadine Gordimer. Photo: AP

Nadine Gordimer
Nobel laureate

Nadine Gordimer, who has died aged 90, won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991 and was widely recognised as one of the finest writers in the English language, though her work remained constantly rooted in the political problems of her native South Africa.

She was born in Springs, outside Johannesburg, the daughter of Isidore Gordimer, a Latvian Jewish watchmaker, and his English wife Nan. Educated at the all-white Convent of our Lady of Mercy until the age of 10, she was then home-schooled after being diagnosed with a heart condition. By that time she had already begun writing poetry, and by 15 had published the first of some 100 short stories; more than 20 books would follow.

Though she had little formal education, Nadine read assiduously and at the age of 21 attended the University of Witwatersrand. Despite her restless mind, she remained confined within her white, middle-class, liberal environment.

It was this restricted social sphere that would frame both the strengths and the weaknesses of her literary work, for her characters would consistently highlight the limitations and corruptions of white South Africa while remaining firmly within its boundaries.

A brief early marriage to an orthodontist, Gerald Gavronsky, ended in 1952, leaving her a single mother. She reacted by joining the bohemian set in Johannesburg, where she would live for the rest of her life. Her first collection of short stories, The Soft Voice of the Serpent, was published in 1951 and her first novel, The Lying Days, was published in 1953.

An immediate success, it told the story of Helen Shaw, a white woman who deplores racial bigotry but remains passively inside her car during a race riot in Johannesburg. This kind of moral dilemma was to remain typical of Gordimer's work.

In 1954 she married her second husband, Reinhold Cassirer, an art dealer and refugee from Nazi Germany who actively supported her interest in black politics. Gordimer joined the African National Congress and became a messenger and chauffeur for the organisation.

In 1958 she published A World of Strangers, whose central character Toby Hood was largely based on the real-life English publisher Anthony Sampson, who edited the radical Drum magazine from 1951 to 1955. It was through her friendship with Sampson that Gordimer became acquainted with many leading black radicals, including Can Themba, Bloke Modisane and Nelson Mandela.

Her friendship with Mandela was to become of central importance in her life. Decades later, after his release, divorce from Winnie Mandela and the end of his political career, he would ask Nadine Gordimer to dinner. In the 1950s, however, the primary effect of her acquaintance with ANC dissidents was to radicalise both her writing and her thought.

The gravity of actual events soon began to overtake her fictional depictions. By 1960, the year of the Sharpeville massacre and the declaration of a state of emergency, she had made numerous friends in the ANC. But this world was collapsing. "It was an incredible time," she said, "when almost everyone I knew was in jail or fleeing."

Gordimer chose to speak out frequently, notably making speeches against censorship. In 1966 she wrote two articles on the arrest and trial of Bram Fischer, a leading white liberal. This was to resurface 13 years later when she would base a character in Burger's Daughter, one of her greatest books, on him.

At the time, however, her interest in his trial led to The Late Bourgeois World (1966), which was more explicitly linked to actual historical events than any of her previous novels. Deemed dangerous by the authorities, the novel was banned.

Her fifth novel, A Guest of Honour (1971), won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and, for once, was not set in South Africa but in an independent black African state. Nadine Gordimer always saw herself as an African novelist.

In 1974 she won the Booker Prize with what is widely regarded as one of her best works, The Conservationist. Unusually, its central character is male and an arch-conservative, whose struggle is for the possession of land against its black inheritors - a battle he is destined to lose.

On June 16 1976, 15,000 schoolchildren joined a protest which became known as the Soweto Revolt. Two children were to die, and Burger's Daughter (1979) was in large part Gordimer's response to this tragedy. "We whites… are solely responsible, whether we support white supremacy or, opposing, have failed to unseat it," Gordimer wrote. This book too was immediately banned in her home country.

Despite this oppression she was never tempted to go into exile, believing that it was her literary duty to fight apartheid from within.

Her novel of 1987, A Sport of Nature, was not her most successful, though its conclusion celebrates South Africa's gradual liberation from apartheid, so prefiguring the release, in 1990, of her old friend Nelson Mandela. She marked this event with My Son's Story. The themes of love, politics and personal and political betrayals are once again highlighted and the book was a worldwide success.

By the time of None to Accompany Me (1994), apartheid had crumbled. But Gordimer rejected the notion that South Africa had become a less interesting place. The book made the point that once former victims had gained positions of power, they often did not know how to deal with their newly-gained strength.

It was no surprise that Gordimer would eventually turn her sights on corruption and misrule under the ANC - the subject of her final novel No Time Like the Present (2012). "We were naive," she reflected after the book's publication, "because we focused on removing the apartheid government and never thought deeply enough about what would follow."

In 1991 she had become the first South African - and the third African ever - to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. She never ceased to express in print the problems of her country as she saw them - and to do so as truthfully as she could. "I have failed at many things," she said, " but I have never been afraid."

Reinhold Cassirer died in 2001. Nadine Gordimer is survived by a daughter of her first marriage and a son from her second.

Telegraph, London

Australian AIDS Quilt Web Site - Part 1 - Blocks 1 to 40

Australian AIDS Quilt Web Site - Part 2 - Blocks 41 to 80

Australian AIDS Quilt Web Site - Part 3 - Blocks 81 to 120

World AIDS Day Australia

HIV/AIDS ISSUES PART 5 (Quilt Displays)




Mannie has a personal web site: RED JOS: HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISM

Mannie's blogs may be accessed by clicking on to the following links:

MannieBlog (from 1 August 2003 to 31 December 2005)

Activist Kicks Backs - Blognow archive re-housed - 2005-2009

RED JOS BLOGSPOT (from January 2009 onwards)

This page was created on 8 January 2010 and updated 14 NOVEMBER 2020

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