The idea of a National Summer Offensive for Gay Rights in both Australia and New Zealand came out of the 1979 National Homosexual Conference in Melbourne. It aimed to build on the growing activism that had been triggered by the police attack on Sydney’s first Mardi Gras in 1978.
Events were undertaken in a number of cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. These included six public forums, a one-day lesbian convention, the production of multilingual leaflets and a ‘gay information’ kit that addressed misconceptions about lesbians and gay men.
It culminated in a series of actions on Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd March. Once again, these were incredibly diverse. Police harassment was highlighted in Perth where activists picketed a beat (‘cottage’ in the UK; ‘tearoom’ in the USA) to highlight surveillance and intimidation. Similarly, activists in Adelaide picketed the city’s police headquarters, again demanding an end to police harassment but also seeking a proper investigation into the 1972 murder of Dr George Duncan at a well-known cruising spot.
Most cities saw protest marches – some silent, some quite the opposite – and these were followed by rallies, picnics, concerts and dances. Efforts to form alliances with other political movements had mixed results: in Perth a speaker from the Australian Labor Party assured the crowd that they would raise homosexual law reform by the end of the year. In Adelaide, gays who had supported a rally against unemployment on 22nd March were denied the opportunity to speak from the platform, despite previous assurances from the organisers. The Adelaide activists did, however, get some consolation: media coverage of the unemployment rally focused largely on the LGBT contingent.