393 Darling Street, Balmain 1971C.A.M.P. NSW

In February 1971, Sydney’s first lesbian and gay political organisation, the Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP Inc), was founded (see note) in St John’s Church Hall, Balmain. The organisation was established by John Ware, Christabel Poll and their partners in July 1970 with the aim of educating the general public about homosexuality and alleviating the isolation and low self-esteem experienced by many homosexuals.  The new group found clubrooms at 393 Darling Street, Balmain, where they held meetings and parties.

The group’s political work focused initially on ‘coming out’ and John, Christabel and others gave media interviews in which they openly discussed their sexuality.  CAMP also held the first homosexual demonstration in Australia, protesting outside the Liberal Party HQ in Ash Street, Sydney, on 6 October 1971, (see note) in support of Tom Hughes, a candidate for pre-selection who supported homosexual law reform.  Further demonstrations in favour of law reform and attacking discrimination against homosexuals by psychiatrists, the church and others followed.

In 1972, following a decision to establish a constitution and office-bearers for the group, Sue Wills and Lex Watson were elected co-presidents and late next year, CAMP NSW moved into new clubrooms at 33a Glebe Point Road. In April 1973, CAMP established a telephone counselling service, Phone-a-Friend which, as the 1970s wore on, came to dominate the group’s work, after the political activists had hived off.  By the early 1980s, it had become the core of CAMP’s activities and a decision was taken to rename the group, the Gays Counselling Service.  In 1990, following another name change, it became the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service of NSW, and continues to operate in Bedford Street, Newtown to this day.


Sydney Gay Liberation

Late in 1971, a new political group – Sydney Gay Liberation – was formed.  Initially developing from a CAMP NSW consciousness-raising group and based in CAMP HQ, by mid-1972, Sydney Gay Liberation had moved into their own premises at 67 Glebe Point Road.  SGL worked to develop a distinct political agenda, based on an attempt to theorise about the social oppression of homosexuals.  Regarding themselves as more radical than CAMP, SGL advocated US-style ‘zaps’ or protests, and adopted a confrontational stance towards society, which was seen as oppressing gay people.



Lex Watson writes

(CAMP) was not founded in St John’s Church Hall. That was was its first public/open meeting.

The first demo was outside the HQ of the NSW Liberal Party and was against Jim Cameron, not in support of Tom Hughes who had certain baggage concerning the Vietnam War.

Ian Black remembers chairing CAMPs first meetings

Sue Wills recalls a night on the phones at CAMP

Ron Austin remembers getting involved in CAMP

Robyn Plaister remembers her first encounter with women's group in CAMP

Gary Schliemann remembers Gay Lib at 33a Glebe Point Road

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