Anneke Deutsch audio interview, 2016
Anneke Deutsch Way Back When - Consulting Historians
Anneke Deutsch was living in Thornbury, a northern suburb of Melbourne, in 1990 when she decided she wanted to move somewhere more rural to build the sculpture studio she had always wanted. ‘But the country wasn’t a very friendly place for lesbians and gays at that time,’ she recalls.
Daylesford, however, was one place that was developing a reputation as a more welcoming and open place, thanks largely to the town’s annual Women’s Ball. The Women’s Ball was held at the Daylesford Town Hall and attracted women from all over Melbourne. While it was predominately lesbian women who attended, the balls were open to women who might be questioning their sexuality, and women who were bisexual. After securing a job in Ballarat as a prosthetist, Anneke made the move to Daylesford, where she felt she could have both the studio she had dreamed of and a supportive community.
Anneke first moved to a shared lesbian household in Eganstown, which became known as ‘RMB cup of tea’, after a teapot and cup that one of the housemates had permanently glued to the mailbox. Because she was still initially travelling back to Melbourne on weekends and Wednesdays to spend time with her partner, Anneke didn’t want to rent a whole house for herself, and she was keen to connect with her new community. This share house was well known in the local community. With between five and six permanent residents, ‘RMB cup of tea’ was a place where friendship circles intersected and various dykes with links to any of the residents would drop by for a cup of tea and a chat. Anneke found herself tapped into a wide network of the Daylesford lesbian community and formed connections to women who she would later work with to organise events, such as the Women’s Ball and LesFest.
Anneke found connections with her new community through other avenues as well. One of the early meeting spots was Jack’s, a dinner held upstairs at local venue Alpha Galleria on a Friday night. Jack’s was a private gathering for local gays and lesbians, and visitors from out of town (who were gay or lesbian) were also welcomed. These dinners created an environment in which community was nurtured in an informal way. Another community hub was Doublenut Café, run by Marcel, a gay man from Switzerland. On the weekends, a local lesbian couple, Jacqui and Julie ran a café out of the premises. Anneke and her long term partner, Linda, celebrated their 10th anniversary there in 1997. By 2007, they were comfortable enough in their local community to celebrate their 20th at the local pub. The venue for their 30th isn’t yet decided, almost every possibility is now lesbian-friendly.
Daylesford’s main street in the early 1990s still reflected that of a small country town. There was a milk bar, a small supermarket, green grocer and drapers. A sign of things changing was the addition of a chocolate shop ‘Sweet Decadence’, started by Anah Holland Moore, who was the driving force behind the Women’s Ball. ‘Sweet Decadence’ was a lesbian and gay-friendly café and a meeting place that was the first in a wave of lesbian and gay-friendly businesses to be established in the town.
In 1997, Anneke was part of a group of gay and lesbian men and women from Daylesford who hired a bus to take them to Pride 1997 in Melbourne. Their purpose was to hand out flyers and lanyards advertising the upcoming inaugural Chill Out Festival in Daylesford.
The same year, Anneke was one of a group of women from Daylesford who agreed to organise and host the next LesFest, ‘a festival for lesbian women to get together, to organise politically, to have fun and to know they are not alone’. Over 300 women attended LesFest 1998, a festival held at Rutherford Park. There was music, workshops, conferences, amazon games, and plenty of nude swimming. Most of the attendees came from Melbourne and other cities across Australia, but the Daylesford lesbian community was heavily involved. Despite the theft of a banner at the last minute by some Smeaton locals, the festival was a huge success.
Anneke has seen the Daylesford community grow over the years she has lived there. While more accepting than other country towns, Anneke feels that the establishment and success of ChillOut, has made Daylesford even more open and welcoming for the gay and lesbian community: ‘That was one of its purposes really ... to make it an open event to say come along and see what lesbian and gay life was like.’ Today, according to Anneke, the lesbian and gay community is so actively part of the mainstream community in Daylesford that people might visit Daylesford because they have heard it’s such a lesbian and gay friendly place, but not in fact meet any during their visit. Social networking events like Jack’s no longer exist, and social circles are smaller and more private.
Anneke benefitted from the feminist lesbian movement of the 1970s, but forming her lesbian identity in the 1980’s, she still experienced prejudice, discrimination and fear. In Daylesford she found a supportive, loving and accepting community. Anneke acknowledges that her ideas and expectations of community have changed over the years. It used to be about people supporting each other – people who have lived shared experiences and understand the psychological pain and challenges of living a double life in and out of the closet. Today, Anneke’s main concerns are how to support and find support in the lesbian community as ageing becomes an issue. With more than half the lesbian community single, and many living alone and without children, life is throwing up new challenges as they grow older.
There were about 5 women living there at the time, 5 or 6 ... and Sal Cooper was living there and she’d been an art student ... and she put her aluminium tea pot and her cup and saucer onto the pitched roof of our letterbox out the front. We had a forest of letterboxes out the front because it was a corner where people lived out in the bush behind and they would come and get their mail there. So ours was called RnB Cup of Tea as a result of Sal’s teapot. Mail would get addressed to us at ‘RnB Cup of Tea, Eganstown’ and it would arrive.
Ok, I think it was the 1997 one which might have been the South Australian one I’m not sure, where a group of us from Daylesford agree to take on the organisation of a LesFest Conference in Daylesford. So we booked out a venue in the Ballarat direction – Ballarat/Smeaton direction called Rutherford Park. It was a live-in, it had options for a number of motel rooms, an option for camping, a big dam for swimming, fire pit and I think it was about 7-10 days and we had lesbian musicians, we had workshops and conference topics, we had the amazon games which was stupid games like wheelchair races and racing across the dam in tractor tires. First one across got prizes. So it was a lot of fun, ... a lot of nakedness, swimming in the dam because we had the site all to ourselves. We had probably I think around 300 come to that. And that was one of the years we were able to advertise in Lesbiana – because there was lesbian press then – and reach a lot of women.
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Education Daylesford Stories Education Kit
This education resource links to relevant learning outcomes in the Level 9 and Level 10 AusVELs curriculum. It utilises a range of primary sources including audio profiles, short films and images; inquiry and research-based activities as well as group work and critical discussion.