One of the catalysts of the Gay Liberation movement in Australia was the publication of Dennis Altman’s book Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation in 1971.
Altman, an Australian academic and gay activist, had been in New York in the 1960s researching the emergent gay liberation movement there. The book had a significant impact both overseas and in Australia.
Gay Liberation began in Sydney in 1971, to where Altman had by this time returned, as a small sub-group of CAMP (Campaign Against Moral Persecution). Disagreements between the Gay Lib group and the rest of CAMP led to a very public separation announced by Dennis Altman at a Sexual Liberation forum at Sydney University in January 1972. Shortly after this announcement Gay Liberation groups were established independently in Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra and Newcastle, with the Melbourne group forming in February 1972 following a visit by Altman. Rodney Thorpe recalls the formation of the group, following Altman’s visit
…we had dinner in a Greek restaurant in Drummond St, and discussed Gay Liberation and we set up a meeting which was going to be for the next night, and we had the first meeting of Gay Liberation.
That first Melbourne meeting included activists such as Thorpe, Julian Desailly, Peter McEwan, Sasha Soldatow, Jeffrey Hill, Rex Rohmer and Jude Munro, many of whom were Melbourne University students. These students decided to establish a Gay Liberation Club at the university to take advantage of support from the Student Union. Smaller groups were subsequently formed at Monash and La Trobe Universities.