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The 1996 Winter Pride March and Gay and Lesbian Rights Rally
Photograph: Supplied/City of Sydney | The 1996 Winter Pride March and Gay and Lesbian Rights Rally

Sydney is getting its own permanent LGBTQIA+ history museum with $300,000 in council backing

The former Darlinghurst police station, once used as a lockup for gay men, has been pegged as the location

Alannah Maher
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Alannah Maher
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Sydney has a rich and diverse LGBTQIA+ history, and while there is always room for improvement, our city is one of the most queer-inclusive communities not just in Australia but around the world. With Sydney WorldPride celebrations set to take over the city with a super-sized version of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in 2023, “one of the largest events hosted in Sydney since the Olympic Games”, it would only make sense for Sydney to have its own permanent monument and gathering place to rival the Victorian Pride Centre in Melbourne.

And soon, we will. Yesterday, marking International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, lord mayor Clover Moore announced that the City of Sydney Council unanimously voted to provide nearly $300,000 in seed-funding for the Qtopia Sydney Queer Museum. Trailblazing Sydneysiders Ita Buttrose and Michael Kirby are also throwing their support behind Qtopia.

The former Darlinghurst Police Station at Taylor Square has been pegged as the desired site for the new museum, as it was once used as a lockup for gay men in the 1970s and ’80s, including the violent arrests of peaceful gay and lesbian protestors in 1978 which led to the creation of the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in 1979. ⁠

The preferred site is now owned by NSW Health and is being used as administration offices, but Qtopia and the council are lobbying health minister Brad Hazzard to transform the site into a queer memorial.

The old Darlinghurst Police StationPhotograph: Wikimedia Commons | The old Darlinghurst Police Station

“While this building contributed to injustices suffered by many LGBTIQA+ people, transforming it into a significant community resource will support the healing of past injustices, address past wrongs, and celebrate the community’s resilience,” said the lord mayor.

“Museums and cultural spaces play a central role in how we remember the past and interpret the present. Qtopia will be a place to celebrate the glamour, confetti and outrageous fun of parades and parties, but also to reflect on hard-fought gains and unite in the ongoing fight for equality.”

Qtopia Sydney is a not-for-profit group formed with the aim of providing a safe and inclusive space that will celebrate, remember, educate and increase awareness of the rich history of our LGBTQIA+ community. It is made up of people with experience and expertise in newspaper and magazine publishing, marketing, public relations and crisis communication, LGBTQIA+ history and culture, HIV and AIDS education, museum curation, strategic engagement, trans* and First Nations issues. The council’s grant of $283,500 will provide short-term funds to establish the museum until it attracts further funding.

Plans for the memorial include a reproduction of a room from the AIDS ward at nearby St Vincent’s Hospital to commemorate the 1980s AIDS crisis, a regular schedule of temporary exhibitions, an entertainment venue with a theatre that hosts educational talks during the day and artistic performances at night, and a café or bar. We are so ready for this. 

Want to celebrate now? Check out the best queer pubs and clubs in Sydney.

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