Sydney GLBTI Pioneer Names Project Launch

(12.30pm, Stonewall Hotel)

Thank you Robert, and good afternoon everyone.

It's great to be with you today for the launch of another innovative Pride History Group project - the Sydney GLBTI Pioneer Names Project. And a very warm welcome to all the GLBTI pioneers who are with us today.

This project is a worthy continuation of your efforts to preserve and promote Sydney's GLBTI history.

You have used books, conferences and the Internet to raise awareness and understanding. The detailed chronology on your website enables people anywhere in the world to find out what happened when in gay and lesbian Sydney. Your 100 Voices project enables us to listen to many of the people who helped make Sydney's GLBTI history.

You have achieved all this while relying on a small group of dedicated volunteers - with some financial help from the City of Sydney and other sources.

As Robert has explained, this latest project will recognise the many lesbians and gay men who were so courageously active in the early years of the gay and lesbian movement in Sydney.

Too often historians focus on a few individuals, creating the impression that they alone were responsible for everything that's ever happened. This is really a continuation of the 19th century "great men of history idea" - and an idea that assumes that only men can make history. We now know that this is not true - that history is shaped by many people, from many backgrounds, making many significant and different contributions.

This is the strength of the Pioneer Names Project. It will remind us that many people contributed to the growth of the gay and lesbian movement, and that their contributions were extremely diverse.

There were the people who were the frontline activists. But there were also people who established and published newspapers, created and broadcast radio programs, produced and performed in plays with gay and lesbian themes, wrote books which told gay and lesbian stories, and even formed choirs which sang songs with gay and lesbian messages.

The Pioneer Names Project will record the names of the people who did all this and more.

Before I launch the Project, I want to acknowledge Robert's work in initiating it. I also want to acknowledge Robert's extraordinary contribution to the gay and lesbian community over the past 30 or more years, through his extensive involvement with many GLBTI organisations including the first Gay Rights Lobby, the AIDS Council of NSW and most recently the Pride History Group. Robert has been involved in the most significant issues to face the community - achieving homosexual law reform, and meeting the challenge of HIV and AIDS.

Throughout this Robert has also worked tirelessly to ensure the community doesn't forget its past - helping organise conferences, writing history columns for the Star Observer, being the guide for the annual Mardi Gras history walks and through his research and writings.

Robert has told me that this event is something of a "swan song" for him - he plans to stand down as Pride History Group President and retire from its Executive next month. But he will continue to be involved in the Group and the Pioneer Names Project. So thank you Robert, from all of us.

So now I formally launch the Pioneer Names Project.