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Retrace the queer history of Yarra

Queer-ways: Retracing Yarra's Queer Footprints celebrates the 40th Anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Victoria.

Explore the queer history of the City of Yarra’s rainbow communities, guided by voices and music from the local queer community.

Beginning at the mural of some of Melbourne’s queer history, listen as Queer-ways team LUCIANO and George Keats take you on a spoken journey and introduce you to locations of queer significance throughout the City of Yarra. Follow us, as in retracing our communities' footprints, you will be joined by the voices of local LGBTQIA+ people, who share stories from their own queer experiences.


By retracing queer footprints, we can step into a future where all of our histories are celebrated and acknowledged.

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To start your journey retracing Yarra’s queer footprints, click on the buttons below

Victorian History Award Winner


The Victorian Community History Awards are presented by Public Record Office Victoria in partnership with the Royal Historical Society of Victoria to recognise the contributions made by Victorians in the sharing and preservation of the state’s history. The Victorian Community History Awards are supported by the Andrews Labor Government.

Queer-ways: Retracing Yarra's Queer Footprints has been awarded the 2022 Local History Project Award. This award recognises activities that enhance access and awareness of records of significance to local communities.

The judges noted"Queer-ways combines heritage and story-telling in self-guided walks that capture hidden history in the City of Yarra. Discussing tangible and intangible heritage, the project illuminates and contests mainstream narratives. Queerways charts milestone locations in the history of the city’s LBGTQI+ community, acknowledging that this history is a long one. The project is comprehensive and attractively packaged, with excellent design and navigation, and with a range of voices included. The facility for the general public to add further suggestions of sites of significance makes the project inclusive to all and allows participation and pathways to more knowledge."

The Mural


Video produced by Sean Ruse for Midsumma

The video features music by Jennifer Loveless

 The Retracing Queer Footprints mural is a timeline of some of Melbourne’s Queer History.  The mural gives context to the audio locations of significance and important events covered in the audio tours so that listeners can understand the political and social changes that have impacted the LGBTQIA+ community through time.  

The mural does not share the whole story of Queer History but is a summary of some of the LGBTQIA+ community’s significant events.  It's also not the end of our history as queer people continue to shape our city, just as they have throughout our history.

The mural is explained during the walking tours. If you would prefer to read about the illustrations separately, please do so below. 

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Australia’s first recorded queer marriage (although unknown at the time) took place at Saint Francis’ Church in the CBD.


Edward de Lacy Evans, who is considered one of Australia's first documented transgender people, and their bride Mary Delahunty married in 1856.


Bill Edwards (born Marion Edwards) and his wife Lucy Minehan, who also married at St Francis Church a century after Edward and Mary.




In the 1950s Val Eastwood, a lesbian entrepreneur and trailblazer in Melbourne's cafe culture opened Val's Coffee Lounge on Swanston Street, a meeting place for creatives in both the heterosexual and queer community. She would go on to open other venues in Melbourne - Ad Lib in Toorak Rd, South Yarra, Café 31 in St Kilda (close to what is now the Victorian Pride Centre)  and Val's Restaurant on Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn. 


This depiction of Val was based on a painted portrait of her that hung in her city coffee lounge.




In 1964, the Debating Union of Melbourne University held a debate on the legalisation of homosexuality - this event is often cited as an integral discussion in changing attitudes towards decriminalisation. The Australian reported that the final vote was in favour of decriminalisation 281 to 98, although these figures are debated. The debate got the ball rolling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Victoria, various public figures from academia and even the church publicly stated their support of decriminalisation following reports of the debate.




Opening in 1969, The Mae West Club was one of Melbourne’s first queer-owned and operated venues that offered public drag shows. Robert Cameron, who often performed on the small stage in drag as Giselle, opened the very narrow club so that Melbourne Queens finally had a stage to perform.


Many of the performers went on to become early members of Melbourne’s Les Girls Review, the Mae West Club closing in early 1972 when Cameron also joined them.

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Graffiti protests were a regular activity by the Gay Liberation and Radicalesbian activists. In 1972, one of the first explicit lesbian slogans ‘Lesbians Are Lovely’ was written in Fitzroy. The lesbian community repainted it every time it was cleaned off, solidifying the graffiti as an iconic phrase in the queer community for years to come.



Victoria is home to Australia’s longest-running support and social group for the transgender community. The inaugural meeting took place in 1975 at a member’s home. Seahorse Victoria was formed with just 12 members but quickly grew and continues as a social support space for all people who identify themselves as transgender. 



The 1979 closure of the Woolshed - a popular gay venue underneath the Hotel Australia - was punctuated with the arrest of Terry Stokes and Darren Turner. The men, who had kissed each other goodnight outside of the venue, were arrested and later charged with offensive behaviour in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court. 
In protest of the charges, a kiss-in was held in Collins street outside of the Hotel Australia but no arrests were made, to the dismay of the hotel staff. 



Mandate was Melbourne’s first exclusively gay disco. Mandate was opened by Ken Payne in 1980, following the 1980 vote for the legalisation of homosexuality. It was mostly a club catering to men, although Tuesday nights was a night for women called Club 31.




1980 also saw the beginning of the GayDay parties.  Ran by The Alternative Lifestyle Organisation known as ALSO) - which held events such as Raw Hide (later Red Raw) and Winter Daze. GayDay was held to celebrate the decriminalisation of homosexuality.


The event was publicly promoted as a gay event and held in public at the Junction Oval, differing from their previous less publicly promoted events. Gay Day was held from 1980 to 1985.



On the 1st of March 1981, the decriminalisation of homosexual sex between men came into effect. 

First introduced by Labor MP Barry Jones in 1975 after the decriminalisation of homosexuality in South Australia, Jones used a Private Member Bill to advocate for reform. In 1976 the Homosexual Law Reform Coalition was created and drew great publicity and support.

It took until the 18th of December 1980 for the decriminalisation of homosexual sex between men to pass parliament, with opposition from Liberal MPs, MPs crossing the floor and the addition of amendments slowing its progress. These initial amendments by the Liberal party were repealed in 1985 by the Labor Government to decriminalize all homosexual sex acts.



In 1982, Ralph McLean became Australia’s first openly gay elected official in what was the City of Fitzroy and in 1984, Australia’s first openly gay Mayor. 


An important figure in Australia and what is now the City of Yarra’s history, he is remembered for advocating for gay rights, social justice and championing the arts. Ralph is pictured alongside a life-size bronze statue of a man in a lion costume named ‘Courage’ that was installed in 2014 on Napier Street, Fitzroy, honouring Ralph’s legacy. 



The first case of AIDS in Melbourne was treated at Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital in April 1984. Patient numbers at Fairfield Hospital would increase to over 10,000 a year during the 1980s, the hospital one of the main sites for the treatment and care of AIDS patients.

In 1985, the construction of a garden in the bushland behind the hospital began.  The garden, which was an idea of one of the care teams of the AIDS ward was constructed through the support of Thorne Harbour Health (previously the Victorian Aids Council) and fundraising from across the rainbow community. The site was intended for use by patients at Fairfield, however, ashes of patients have been scattered at the site and various memorial plaques had been installed. 




The Inaugural Midsumma was held in 1989 running over ten days and nights. The festival featured events such as a Street Party, Sports carnival, Theatre, Cabaret and film festivals. The first Midsumma closed with one of ALSO's Red Raw parties in West Melbourne.


Midsumma has continued to grow and is now Victoria's premier gay and lesbian arts and culture festival, presenting an annual community celebration and encouraging the development of innovative artistic content and a unique cultural experience.




The former Star Hotel played host to many parts of the LGBTQIA+ community.


The Star Hotel held the first OutBlack event in 1995. OutBlack is Australia’s longest-running Aboriginal and Torres Strait GLTBIQ & Sistergirls group, started as space for social support and solidarity for queers in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, with their first Drag Show being in September 1997.

The Star Hotel was also an important place for the Drag King community of Melbourne, hosting King Victoria which welcomed everyone that wanted to celebrate their butch/masculine energy. 

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At the 1998 Midsumma Festival Pride March the Lesbians and Gays for Reconciliation raised their 'Stick with Wik' Banner, demonstrating solidarity with Indigenous Australians and particularly the Wik peoples of Queensland in their claim in the High Court of Australia for native title rights to country on the Cape York Peninsula

Following the Native Title Amendment Act of 1998, the group aimed to bring the awareness of LGBTQIA+ communities to issues facing First Nations people, to encourage recognition of the injustices of the past and to “create an inclusive future which recognises the benefits of cultural, racial and sexual diversity”.

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In 2008, Tony Briffa became the first openly intersex elected official anywhere in the world. Briffa’s election to the Hobsons Bay City Council, and later to the role of mayor, brought public attention, increasing the visibility and understanding of intersex people in the greater community.




Painted in 2014, Fitzroy's rainbow crossing at the corner of Gertrude and Smith Street was installed to welcome delegates to the International AIDS Conference held in Melbourne that year.


The crossing has become a permanent feature and its preservation a symbol of the City of Yarra’s ongoing connection and acknowledgment of the LGBTQIA+ community's history in the city. 




In 2017, Australia celebrated the passing of the Marriage Amendment Act after ​​62% of respondents had voted “Yes” in the nationwide postal vote.


In Victoria, the Trades hall was the home base of the 2016 Marriage Equality Campaign and also the location of the celebratory street party after marriage equality was approved. The union movement had been an invested supporter of marriage equality and the equal rights of workers.



Opening in 2021, The Victorian Pride Centre is the first purpose-built centre for Australia's LGBTQIA+ communities. The Centre serves as a hub for LGBTQIA+ groups and organisations to share ideas and resources and to further their work in supporting equality, diversity and inclusion across the state.



2021 also saw the appointment of Todd Fernando as Australia’s first queer and Indigenous Commissioner for LGBTQIA+ Communities.


Victoria became the first state in Australia to have a Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities, previously known as the Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality from 2015, to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse, intersex and queer Victorians continue to have a strong voice to advocate for their rights and wellbeing.

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And finally, we come to the Melbourne Pride 2022, a celebration to commemorate Victorian LQBTQIA+ history and the 40th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality. A street party with performances and activations down Gertrude, Smith and Peel Street, as well as a series of activities across the state including regional communities over the entire summer.

This is not the whole story of Queer History, but a summary of some of our community’s significant events.  It's also not the end of our history, but we hope by retracing the footsteps of queer forebearers, we can step into a future where all of our histories are celebrated.

Audio Tours

The Retracing Queer Footprints audio tours introduce you to locations of significance you may not know before or take you on a walk down memory lane. 

During the tours, LUCIANO and Georgia Keats are joined by community voices such as Angela Bailey from the Australian Queer Archives, Bryan Andy from OutBlack, John Hall from Thorne Harbour Health, Bumpy Favell from Kings Victoria, Sally Goldner AM and; James McKenzie from 3CR. You can expect to hear moving stories of community, connection, celebration and loss from across the LGBTQIA+ community.

To retrace queer footprints, start the tours by clicking the play buttons below.  For the best experience, follow the instructions and match your pace to the music.  

Video produced by Daniel Trevarthen from Yarra Libraries



This walking tour begins at our Little Smith Street mural before leading you down the rainbow footpath and up Smith Street.


LUCIANO and Georgia Keats guide you through places of queer significance in the west of Yarra joined by community voices such as John Hall (Thorne Harbour Health), Angela Bailey (AQuA), Richard Watts (Q+A), Sally Goldner (3CR) and James McKenzie (3CR). During the tour, you will listen to music produced by Maize Wallin and Jennifer Loveless.

The tour ends at the corner of Victoria Street and Wellington Street, allowing you to return to the mural and begin the Retracing Queer Footprints - East walking tour.  

To explore the tour path, click on the "download map" button, to begin retracing queer footprints, press play. 



This walking tour begins at our Little Smith Street mural before leading you down the rainbow footpath and up Smith Street.


LUCIANO and Georgia Keats guide you through places of queer significance in the east of Yarra joined by community voices such as Bryan Andy (OutBlack), Brett Lasham (The Laird), Bumpy Favell (Kings Victoria) and Jesse Dean (Kong's Kings). During the tour, you will listen to music produced by Jennifer Loveless.

The tour ends at the Clifton Hill Interchange, connecting you to the Retracing Queer Footprints - Fairfield walking tour.  

To explore the tour path, click on the "download map" button, to begin retracing queer footprints, press play



This audio tour focuses on what was the Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital, the main site for the treatment and research of HIV/AIDS in Victoria.


LUCIANO and Georgia Keats guide you through the hospital grounds (which are now Melbourne Polytechnic)  joined by John Hall from Thorne Harbour Health and HIV Clinical Nurse consultant Judy Frecker who worked at the hospital until its closure. John and Judy will be sharing stories from their time at the hospital working as a volunteer and a nurse respectively in the treatment of HIV/AIDS and their memories of special moments during this time. During the tour, you will listen to music produced by Maize Wallin.

The tour ends in the AIDS Memorial Garden, allowing listeners to contemplate the importance of these sites.

To explore the tour path, click on the "download map" button, to begin retracing queer footprints, press play






Maize Wallin 

IG: @maizewallin

Victorian College of the Arts (BFA) educated, Melbourne based composer, sound designer, and audio programmer working across indie games and big budget AAA.

Their focus is in 3D spatialised audio, and dynamic music, using cutting edge techniques to create unique outcomes. Maize lectures consults in Australia and around the world on these topics, and is strongly engaged in the game development community, and in activism and representation within it.

Maize's work has been exhibited extensively in prominent galleries and museums around the world, such as Arts Centre Melbourne, Fort Delta and the Ian Potter Museum of Art.

Maize is co-founder of Australia's national trade union for games workers, and continues to be an active organiser.

Maize co-founded Nonbinary.Zone, an advocacy group and community of nonbinary people. Maize is on the Making Space (initiative for marginalised genders) board of directors, representing the field of audio in videogames, and also drawing on their non-binary community. Their community work also extends to conference and event organisation.


Jen Loveless


Jennifer Loveless 


IG: @jenniferloveless


Jennifer Loveless is a palpable force behind the decks, a take-notice producer, and an all around stand-out talent with over a decade of experience under her belt.  


The Toronto-native is a diverse selector who found her love of club music through its most fundamental element; dance.


She’s spent the past decade headlining parties across Australia, playing major festivals and queer raves, and supporting international heavy hitters like DJ Sprinkles, Ben UFO, Steffi , Wata Igarashi and more. Her releases have received praise from Laurent Garnier, Bill Brewster, Extrawelt, Bandcamp, and Resident Advisor, including a review from Andrew Ryce who described her sophomore EP, Water as “ …The kind of career-making EP that most artists could only hope for their second-ever record to sound like.” 

Further Reading

If you enjoyed the stories featured or want to do more research about any of the events mentioned in our walking tours, we encourage you to refer to the following books and reports.

A History of LGBTIQ+ Victoria in 100 Places & Objects

Graham Willett, Angela Bailey, Timothy W. Jones, Sarah Rood

Available Online

Under the Red Ribbon: Thirty Years of the Victorian Aids Council
Fiona Poulton, Lucy Bracey, Katherine Sheedy
Available at Hares and Hyenas

After Homosexual: The Legacies of Gay Liberation
Mark Pendleton
Available at Hares and Hyenas

Secret Histories of Queer Melbourne

Graham Willett, Wayne Murdoch and Daniel Marshall

Available at Hares & Hyenas or order online at Australian Queer Archives

Closets are for Clothes: a History of Gay Australia
Rachel Cook
Available at Hares and Hyenas

A Spanner in the Works: The Extraordinary Story of Alice Anderson and Australia's All-Girl Garage
Loretta Smith
Available at Hares and Hyenas

For more history walks, we recommend the Australian Queer Archives Queer History walks and the Thorne Harbour Health’s AIDS Memorial Garden Walking Tour, both presented yearly as part of the Midsumma Festival.

To learn more stories from queer history, explore the content of Rainbow History class on TikTok and Instagram 


Queer-ways: Retracing Yarra's Queer Footprints has been made possible through the support of

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