Sydney luminaries Ita Buttrose and Michael Kirby want the city’s first queer memorial and museum to be established in the historic former Darlinghurst police station, once used as a lockup for gay men in the 1970s and ’80s.
The City of Sydney council on Monday night approved nearly $300,000 in start-up funding for Qtopia Sydney, the non-profit organization supported by Buttrose and Kirby that has been advocating for an LGBTQI+ museum.
Their preferred site at Taylor Square is now owned by NSW Health and used as administration offices, but Qtopia is lobbying Health Minister Brad Hazzard to transform the site into a place that commemorates the city’s queer history, which has historically been centered on Oxford Street.
Former High Court Justice Michael Kirby said the museum would become a “wonderful new addition to the Australian museum scene”, with events, theatre, community celebrations, insightful talks and exhibitions.
“Deepening your understanding of LGBT-related issues and increasing awareness and education goes a long way on us moving forward as one nation, where everyone is celebrated and included,” he said.
Buttrose, chair of the ABC, said it was important to acknowledge the achievements of LGBTQIA+ people, as well as extend people’s education about the queer community and the violence and discrimination many still face.
“Together, we can do more to support inclusivity in Australia,” she said. “The LGBTQIA+ community should be represented with colour, passion and diversity, and it’s important that we have a permanent place where we can celebrate this wonderful community and its history.”
Qtopia wants to commemorate the 1980s AIDS crisis by reproducing a room from the AIDS ward at nearby St Vincent’s Hospital. It would also be an entertainment venue with a theater that provides educational talks during the day and artistic performances by queer artists at night, as well as a cafe or bar.
Schools and corporate groups could visit for education purposes, there would be a regular schedule of temporary exhibitions, and the museum would be pitched as a major tourist destination.