1. Sydney Culture Walks app
  2. 100 Voices - 1978 Mardi Gras: It was a riot
  3. The first Mardi Gras: 40 years on
  4. PridePOD




Sydney Culture Walks app

A once hidden community bursts into vibrant and visible life.


PHG have collaborated with City of Sydney to develop a new LGBTIQ history walk for their free Sydney Culture Walks app. A walk along Oxford Street that takes in the history of drag shows, discos, protests, parties and even a queer bushranger.


The Golden Mile

Walk through a rich history of parties and protests, synonymous with LGBTIQ life in Sydney.

This self-guided walking tour of Oxford Street has been developed in partnership with Pride History Group.

Archivist, historian and activist Robert French has been leading LGBTIQ history walks in Sydney for nearly 30 years and we are grateful for his advice and guidance in the development of this tour.

The Pride History Group has a collection of over 100 oral history interviews that bear witness to the queering of Sydney. An overview is available online at 100 Voices.

To download the app via iTunes and Google Play, please visit Sydney Culture Walks app



 1978 Mardi Gras: It was a riot


The first Mardi Gras (24th June 1978) was an attempt to get the bar goers involved in an open display of homosexuality and ended in a riot with police.

"The 78ers" are pushed down Oxford Street by police. The lead sound truck is taken by police and the parade spontaneously moves to Kings Cross. The crowd grows to 2000 and subsequently 53 are arrested, some seriously beaten by police.

People involved with the next few parades feared impending police arrests but eventually changing social attitudes saw the mardi gras increasingly embraced by the wider population. Today it is a hugely popular display of LGBTIQ identity and struggle.

Activists dreamed up the idea of a street party in Oxford Street to engage “apolitical” gays in the bars. Police violence on the night to break up the street party, changed the history of Sydney’s lesbian and gay community.

Ron Austin and Peter Murphy explain the logic of a “street party”. 

Diane Minnis gives some background to the first Mardi Gras.

Robyn Plaister describes the events at College (sic “Collins”) Street.

Peter Murphy and Terry Batterham relate what happened after this.

Stuart Round talks about Darlinghurst Road.

John Greenway tells what happened to the unbanked cash from CAMP, and Chris Pearce describes the night in the cells.

Terry Goulden assesses the fallout.


Is this you Miss Plaister? © Daily Telegraph Source: from Digby Duncan’s Scrapbook, Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

The first Mardi Gras: 40 years on

Forty years on, we’re still arguing about what happened at the first Mardi Gras. Who was there and what were they trying to do? Why did 53 of them end up in the Darlo clink? Why do they still expect apologies?

John Witte and Gavin Harris claim that when the cops confiscated their flat back, the revelers repeated defied their directions. Then when Inspector Millar told his men that the revelers were taking part in an unauthorised procession, the heavy-handed cops went for it.

Read the evidence and have your say.



Gavin Harris and John Witte have collaborated on a number of research projects for the 40th anniversary of the first mardi gras parade including research for the ABC telemovie, "Riot". This Q & A format we thought would be a good introduction to the main topics discussed when people talk about the first parade.

We will also be using the KXACF web site to publish a more comprehensive story of the night sometime in February 2018. This article originally appeared at https://kxacf.org.au/the-first-mardi-gras-40-years-on/



ABC TV - Telemovie "Riot" Trailer - February 25

Inspired by actual events during Australia’s 1970s Gay Rights Movement, Riot explores the origins of the activism that led to the world's first Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. #RiotABC


Listen to our series of history podcasts. Hear from historians and members of our community describe what it was like to socialise in the 1950s and 60s, the first Gay Mardi Gras in 1978, and much more. 

These first hand accounts promise to bring Sydney’s vibrant LGBTIQ history alive for younger generations.

Visit: pridePOD on SoundCloud

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Meetings are held every third Monday, each month, at 6.30pm.

Members and visitors are invited to our meetings at St Helens Community Centre, 184 Glebe Point Road, Glebe (yellow meeting rooms next to Benledi)

Pride History is a volunteer community group dedicated to researching, writing about and recording memories of Sydney's LGBTI history.

We welcome participation from individuals wishing to tell their story.

If you would like to be involved and help us to record and preserve Sydney's LGBTI histories, please contact us.


Meetings are held every third Monday, each month, at 6.30pm.

Members and visitors are invited to our meetings at St Helens Community Centre, 184 Glebe Point Road, Glebe (yellow meeting rooms next to Benledi)

Jeremy Fisher

(Arena September 1973)

We assembled at the Town Hall.THEY were there already. We were due to go at 10.00 but THEY didn't want us to go down George Street to Martin Place. We spoke with them. We pleaded, we said we'd keep to the footpaths. "We're being good queers" we said "We'll lick your boots on the beats tonight, only just let us march to­day, down George Street." No way, they said. They were laying wreaths in Martin Plaza, and they didn't want any filthy poofs and dykes desecrating their sacred ground. "Up Park Street" they said, "What are you doing out of your closets? Get to the Park and out of our hair."

We left late. We started to go down George Street, They formed a blockade. Ho-ho­-homosexual, we cried. Poofter bashers, we shouted. Let us go! Some of us started to run across to Farmers or whatever mon­strous building is over from the Town Hall. They kicked one or two of us then. I was hiding in the crowd. I was scared. Every­one was frightened, fear made us carry on. Fear of what would happen if we didn't succeed.

We compromised then. We raced up Park Street. In and out of the traffic, waving our ban­ners' and our pink triangles. We remembered the other dead of Auschwitz. The ones who had no Jerusalem to hope for, no Arabs to agress. The crowds were astonished. "Fuck! they yelled in disbelief. Fuck, they said, these poofs and dykes are out of the bars and closets. Christ, they said (and they could pray to him though we couldn't), look how many of the queers there really are. About 200 of us. Not many. But enough. At the intersection of Park and Pitt we turned towards the left. We were aiming for the Plaza. We were holding hands, all of us. We were dancing in the middle of the street. We were handing out leaflets to the crowds, and people from the crowds were coming to join us. People were coming out — coming out to pick up the pink triangles, wear the most hor­rible symbols of oppression. Then THEY hit us.

THEY'd set up a blockade at the next intersection. I was in the conclusion of the stream. Not in the forefront, but supporting, as with everyone else marching. They were bashing a cameraman there. Someone said he was from 'Tribune'. If it was his camera I saw the copper kicking, if it was him I saw thrown in the back of a police car, thenI'm ready to witness for him.He needs a new camera, anyway. And a lesbian needs a new arm.They broke her arm. Wrenched her into a car, three or four of them, jumping onto her, as she attempted to proclaim her sexuality. Oh yes, this is all emotional, has no syntax, doesn't even make sense. But nor did their actions!

In the Plaza we were quiet for amoment or two. Respecting the homosexual dead. Duncan for one. The unknown deed. Then they came. So many of them. They drove their paddy wagons into the pink granite surrounding the Cenotaph. They forced, pushed us, beat us up onto the steps of the GPO. It was as though we were standing before a firing squad. And they were ready to murder us.

The carnage started suddenly, almost without warning. It was rapid, it was brutal. Four or five leapt onto Paul Foss, who was lamenting our tragedy over a megaphone. It was like Catch 22. Helphim help him, we cried. Help who, help who? Help the homosexual, help the homosexual, we cried. But I am the homosexual! Then help him, help him.

A man in a trench coat be­gan pointing out people he didn't like. A burly sergeant knocked down a little girl. The girl's guardian punched him a couple of times. She told him what she thought of him. So he turned to au innocent looker on and arrested him. That's oftensive behaviour! Listening to a cop being insulted. They grab­bed Chris.He couldn't struggle. How can you struggle with six of the brutes gripping you. One of them squeezing your balls, another with his fist in your mouth. Your arms and legs pinioned by 12 arms, the octo­pus of the law. I was pushed right back onto the verandah of the GPO. People were scream­ing. Six of them charged by me standing on my foot; they were after someone.They punched him to the around. Pulled his hair, kicked him.I loved him so much, then, suffering for all of us, I felt sick, I clutched Giovanni and said "Stay out of it. What can we do? If you move then they'll turn on you." But they didn't arrest him. He was safe, held by his lover. I ran to offer my comfort. What can you say then? Everybody knows how it feels.

And they were intoTerry Rolfe. Five of them again. "Help him" a girl sobbed. How? As with Judas, they would have turned on me. The girl was hysterical ''You bullies" she screamed. "What's he done to you? What have any of us done? Leave us alone! Leave him alone, you pigs." And I held onto her, for we were all feeling so alone. They grabbed some 18 of us altogether. 17 to pay bail. One of us was only 16. What do we do against so manyof them,all charging at us, punching out. They went insane! We weren't violent. We weren't aggressive. We were just angry, and we are more angry now.

We set off up Martin Place and along Elizabeth Street to Hyde Park. We ran, to get ahead of them. They had the paddy wagons when we got to Hyde Park. They grouped round us and a Black Maria pulled, up. We were goingto have a poetry readingthere. But they'd dragged away our poets. They charged them with assault and offensive behaviour. It's offen­sive to scream. "But I'm homo­sexual, God dammit, and you can't take that away from me," as they kick you in the groin, break your arm. chop you in the ribs,. It’s assault to run from five enormous policemen readyto run you down, smash your face into the pavement.

It was a tough march, a rough, violent, intense and not very pretty demonstration. But it was evidence that we had come of age. We could resist so much, even if they attempted to crush us. It's along struggle, but we'remakingit, and one dayit might be worth all the effort. But to those of us who cried while we marched it came home to us, came home in a way we'd never appreciated before. You hate us. You really hate us, you know.

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