Daylesford Stories: Acceptance of Difference
Daylesford Stories: acceptance of difference, filmed and produced in 2016.
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Way Back When - Consulting Historians Tiny Empire Collective
Daylesford is an intriguing place. One that is often instantly recognised for being a gay friendly town. We spoke to a number of people about Daylesford, their experiences of it, and why they think that it has emerged as an LGBTIQ hub in regional Victoria.
This short film represents the beginning of trying to record and capture the lived history of Daylesford and the surrounding areas. There are many many stories to be recorded, many more perspectives to be reflected.
♪ Emotive Music ♪
(Voice of Anne-Marie Banting)
There was something about Daylesford that made me feel extremely comfortable, welcomed and at home.
(Voice of Sarah Lang) There's a real energy here that a lot of people are drawn to. It's never been anything else other than completely friendly and open to people of all walks of life.
(Title on screen) Daylesford Stories: Acceptance of Difference
Sarah Lang: The traditional life of growing up and meeting a man and going and getting married just wasn't for me. I just knew that I didn't fit in. And I was desperately trying to find somewhere where I, you know, sort of felt at home. So it would have been in the mid 90s I moved here for the first time.
Anne-Marie Banting: We started coming up here as a family for some rest and downtime. And every time I crested the hill going in from Ballan into Daylesford, my shoulders would drop and I felt at home.
Bruce Rolfe: The first time I came up here was in 1990. I'd moved from country Queensland and I had been very unhappy living in the country but always wanted to live in the country, but found it very lonely and isolated.
Anneke Deutsch: The country wasn't a very friendly place for lesbians and gays at that time. But I knew from the Women's Balls, they were called Women's Balls but they were really lesbian balls, that Daylesford was a place that was more welcoming.
(Text on screen) Buy why was Daylesford more welcoming than other country towns? What made it so friendly?
♪ Uplifting Music ♪
(Text on screen) The foundations were laid in the 1980s with the commencement of Women's Balls and other social activities. They were initially run by self-proclaimed radical lesbian feminist and Daylesford resident Anah Holland-Moore.
Anah Holland-Moore: We started socially. We had a big gathering called Summer Fair Summer Fair, and of course me with my, you know, naïve hat on as well as my political hat, I enrolled the CWA to do the Devonshire teas, so you know, all the women's groups in Daylesford who were very much the blue rinse set. And of course hundreds of sort of, I suppose, ghetto dykes and you know crew cuts and balds and you know, and the poor old women, they just could not believe what was going on.
We had a dance that Saturday night at the Town Hall and that's what started the Women's Balls. So every year we had the Daylesford Women's Ball.
Sarah Lang: There would be all, interesting people there and it was a really fascinating culture. But it was still quite, it was a very small community back then.
Anah Holland-Moore: It was a women's town to start with, not so much gay and lesbian as it is now. It was all the lezzos and the women.
(Text on screen) Daylesford had an energy. The soil was rich with gold, minerals and healing waters. Miners, farmers, migrants and later artists flocked to the area.
♪ Uptempo Music ♪
(Text on screen) 1980s Daylesford, dotted with old-world buildings, had an understated charm. But somehow, land remained cheap. All of this, alongside the quiet but strong radical feminist lesbian presence, meant that by the 1990s, Daylesford was on its way to becoming a haven for lesbian women and gay men.
Sarah Lang: There was quite a few nights and quite a few quite public events that were known as being gay friendly.
Anneke Deutsch: There was Jack's on a Friday night which was I think organised through Springs Connection. It was upstairs at the Alpha Gallery and that was a Friday night dinner and any local lesbians and gays were welcome and any visiting lesbian and gays were welcome. So it was kind of a way to encourage community and connection for those who were coming up for a weekend from Melbourne.
Sarah Lang: You know it was gay friendly and so you did, you would come over here because even if you weren't out yet you could sort of just hang around other people that you knew were gay.
(Text on screen) A group of lesbian and gay business owners banded together to form Springs Connection in the early 1990s, a network to support and promote their businesses. In 1997 Springs Connection decided to host a relaxing, game-filled 'chill-out' day. From these humble beginnings, ChillOut Festival was born.
Anneke Deutsch: I find it difficult to remember whether we were comfortable walking hand in hand in the main street. But, I think increasingly, there was acceptance and I think ChillOut did a lot for that.
Sarah Lang: It's the largest regional, gay regional festival in Australia. It's certainly the largest festival this town puts on - brings the most people into the town...ever.
Anne-Marie Banting: The whole community comes out and embraces it, and all the shop owners, they all put the flag out, everybody is included.
Sarah Lang: It's one of those, sort of, I guess what everyone would like to have in every community, in that it really doesn't matter whether you're gay or straight.
(Text on screen) But what is community? What does it look like? And what does it feel like?
♪ Emotive Music ♪
Anneke Deutsch: Historically it's more support during a time when you can't be out. Being with others who know what it's like to make that choice between being out and being true to who you are and facing the insults and ostracism and probably sometimes physical assault.
Or, the psychological damage of being in the closet and living two lives. One life where people know who you are and then perhaps work or everywhere else you live where it's a complete secret. And that takes its toll. So I think having community means that you can be with others who have experienced that same thing.
Sarah Lang: In the time when I was coming out it was really difficult, so I looked at my community as my family, and they were the family that I chose.
Bruce Rolfe: I think the fact that there is a large gay population, they are very accepting, they are very experienced with gay people and therefore somebody like me who comes in and wants to run some livestock, I'm not a freak show.
Anne-Marie Banting: Our community here in Daylesford is very accepting. I've never had an issue. I've never had a problem. And that's not just our GLBTIQ community, it's everyone that fits, for us.
Sarah Lang: It's lovely to live in a community where being gay doesn't have any negative results at all. We just live like one big happy family.
Daylesford Stories: What's in a Name
Dr Gweneth Wisewould
So who was the first gay in the village?
Early Lesbian and Gay Daylesford
Daylesford Heritage Images
Story education resources
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.