Homosexuality is the "greatest menace" facing Australia. Those were the words of the NSW Police Commissioner in 1958. Police agents rounded up gay men on the streets of Sydney and sent them to Cooma gaol, which the government boasted was only homosexual prison in the world. Meanwhile, an inquiry was launched into the "causes and treatment" of homosexuality and its subjects were found in the cells of Cooma gaol. This innovative historical documentary will unlock the archives and shed new light on our past, from the criminalisation of homosexuality, to gay aversion therapy using drugs and electric shocks, to the surviving practice of gay conversion therapy.
A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing
The story of Australia's gay prison is little known and risks being lost to the rubbish bin of history. Governments have never acknowledged the historical wrongs of the prison, let alone apologised for them. This documentary will uncover and preserve this story before it's too late.
What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?
This documentary will bring awareness to a largely forgotten part of Australian history, helping us understand what the LGBTQI community has overcome historically and the struggle still ahead to end gay conversion therapy. The project is aligned with the objectives of many community and philanthropic organisations working in this space.
What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?
We hope the project will heighten understanding of the historical criminalisation of homosexuality in Australia, and how present day gay conversion therapy has roots in 20th century psychiatric treatment of homosexuality. We hope the project will build momentum towards a government apology for the treatment of gay prisoners at Cooma gaol and at other facilities. We hope that exposing the secrets of past governments and the intrinsic homophobia that has been entrenched within many institutions since the inception of gay aversion therapy will go some way towards criminalising modern day gay conversion therapy everywhere. We would like to see a world in which the practice is eradicated for good.
How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?
The project will seek ways to support and promote existing campaigns against gay conversion therapy and work collaboratively with community organisations to build a campaign for a government apology for historic treatment of gay prisoners. We aim to make historical archives related to this history more accessible to the public through an online platform. Working with specialist educational resource content creators we also hope to develop materials that can be utilised in school curriculums.
How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?
We are working with some of Australia's most respected LGBTIQ+ historians and activists who are advising us on how to maximise the impact of the film.
Audience Engagement and Social Impact
What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?
We will encourage viewers to support the campaign for a government apology for the historical treatment of the LGBTIQ+ community in the prison system.
Measurement and Evaluation
What is the projects indicators for success?
The impact will be measured by the public response to the film and increased journalistic and academic attention around the subject. Ultimately, success will be measure by a government acknowledgement of and apology for this history.