LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer) Oral History Project
Rainbow Voices Hunter is a team of volunteers collecting, preserving and making accessible the memories of the lives, community and politics of the lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender and intersex communities of Newcastle and the area bounded by Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Cessnock, Singleton, Muswellbrook, Scone, Merriwa, Dungog, Gloucester, Great Lakes, Taree and Port Stephens.
Rainbow Voices Hunter has recorded interviews tracing peoples experiences in the Hunter LGBTQI community and you'll soon be able to hear those interviews on this page. Check back with us soon!
Andrew and Bill Whitbread-Brown
Bill Whitbread-Brown grew up in Cessnock. Watching the 1970s television show, Number 96 Bill realised that like the character, Don Finlayson, he too was gay. He worked in banking and nursing in Cessnock and the Central Coast and remembers long drives to Newcastle's gay and lesbian venues in the 1970s and 1980s.
He met Andrew in 1989 and moved to Newcastle. They were actively involved in many organisations and causes in the local LGBTIQ community during the 1990s, including support for people with HIV, the Hunter Lesbian and Gay Interagency and Rainbow Visions.
Andrew and Bill began a family together and in 1993 Andrew applied for family cover with his and Bill's health fund NIB. When NIB refused to provide family health cover, a two-year battle followed through the Anti-Discrimination Board, the Equal Opportunities Tribunal and the Supreme Court.
They were supported by the local LGBTIQ community and the NSW Attorney General, Jeff Shaw and their final victory has had consequences nation-wide.
Lorraine (Laurie) Bell
Lorraine (Laurie) Bell worked as a bar manager at the Star Hotel from the early 70s to 1979 and came to work there from a factory in Mayfield.
As a straight woman and inexperienced bar person there was a lot to learn. Laurie describes how the Star operated and how older camps, younger gays and lesbians, sailors, bikies, surfies and all levels of Newcastle society mixed.
When a ban on homosexuals was instigated by police in 1979, the gay performers and customers moved to venues like Pipers.
Kerry Edson went to local schools and then left to do a Secretarial course at Newcastle Technical College. She worked at Sorby's Hardware in Hamilton in the late 70s and fell in with the gay scene that was centred at the Star Hotel – its patrons, staff and performers such as Stella, Glenda and Dianne.
In 1980 Kerry moved to Sydney and a job in the Public Service and in her spare time immersed herself in the expanding gay nightclub scene -
Capriccios, Patchs, Stranded, the Exchange and the Albury, becoming friends with performers like Chris de Bonafin and the Mixed Company group.
A short holiday in London in the early 90s turned into a 16 year stay, much of that time spent working for the promotions company at the Heaven Nightclub. Kerry has now returned to Newcastle to live.
Emmett Renshaw was born in Wickham and grew up in post war Newcastle. He worked at various jobs as a teenager and when he left school worked at The Store and then the Stock and Station Agents in Scott Street. He was a member of the Jazz Club and socialised in a group considered by the locals as “weird”.
He talks about the life he left in Newcastle where homosexuals were expected to marry and have children. He moved to Sydney at the time just prior to Les Girls and describes life in Kings Cross in the early 1960s living in a house with the performer, Carmen.
Emmett left Australia in the early 1960s working on a Swedish ship and lived shortly in Sweden before moving to the UK. Much of his life was then spent working for aristocrats, heiresses and people in the film business before he set up a successful business in Italy.
Emmett has recently returned to Newcastle to live.