Today, 10 September 2020, is a special anniversary – on this day 50 years ago, a foundation stone was laid for what we today call our LGBTQI+ communities, in the form of a newspaper article which helped open plenty of closet doors.
Established in Sydney in July 1970, the Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP Inc) was one of the first political homosexual organisations in Australia. It was created to strive for social change and law reform – helping to challenge the perception of gays and lesbians at the time as ‘sick’ or ‘criminal’ or ‘sinful’. It sparked friendship networks and a ‘phone-a-friend’ counselling service, encouraging its members to come out and live freely, if it was possible for them to do so.
Pictured here with our giant CAMP letters on Oxford Street today are some CAMP Inc. members – Dr Ian Black, Robyn Plaister, Peter de Waal and Robyn Kennedy.
CAMP Inc. began with a small group of courageous people. In the early days with homosexuality still illegal and homophobia rife, it took guts to ‘come out’ in the media. “John Ware is a homosexual who is tired of being furtive about it,” said the Australian newspaper dated Thursday 10 September 1970. Titled ‘Homosexuals form group aimed at ending aura of mystique, secrecy,’ the article was accompanied by a large photo of John on page 3. You can see the article here as a PDF.
“CAMP Inc. isn’t seeking a cure for homosexuality – there isn’t one,” said John in the article. “The typical homosexual is the man living next door to you, whom you might know for years until you began to guess the truth."
He added: "We want to see open discussion of everything about homosexuals, including the mystique about what they do, and hopefully this will remove some of the sordid nature forced on these people."
Soon after CAMP’s formation in Sydney, it spread nationwide with branches in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth. A few people, including Peter Bonsall-Boone and his partner Peter de Waal, became 1970 CAMP Inc foundation members after reading the newspaper article.
On its 50-year anniversary in 2020, we salute the CAMP pioneers who opened up the closet doors, helped pave the way for law reform, and laid the foundations for the LGBTQI+ rights movement that continues and endures.