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Our Queer History Museum | 50s and early 1900s

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The Laws and Notable Events (Early 1900s)
1924 – NSW reduces the punishment for male acts of homosexuality from life in prison
to 14 years.
1935 – TAS introduces law making it illegal for men to crossdress between sunset and
1949 – VIC reduces the punishment for male acts of homosexuality from death penalty
to 20 years.

The Laws and Notable Events (1950s)
1952 – The first edition of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders) includes homosexuality as a mental disorder. Psychologists and
psychiatrists would treat homosexuality with behavioural therapy, aversion therapy,
electric shock treatment or lobotomy.

What is the DSM?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the Handbook used by
medical professionals around the world to diagnose mental disorders and brainrelated
conditions. The book contains descriptions, symptoms and other criteria for
diagnosing mental health disorders.

Safe Places
In the 1950s and 60s, it was still controversial and illegal to be homosexual, but of
course this didn’t stop LGBT+ people from existing. The queer community in Australia
had ways to find each other. Gay men in particular, had known locations called ‘beats’
where they would go to meet up for sex or just social connection. The Le Guide Gris
was an international gay travel guide, first published by the Mattachine Society (an
organisation for homosexual rights founded in Los Angeles) in 1958. There were 9
editions of Le Guide Gris and they included locations such as bars, nightclubs,
saunas, beats, hotels and other establishments. The Australian part of the guide
listed a number of Melbourne locations – the Prince of Wales Hotel, Fitzroy Gardens,
Hamburger Maxim and Bucchi’s Continental Baths.

Bucchis’s Continental Baths
Michael Bucchi established the gym and sauna in 1957 on Collins Street, Melbourne,
originally calling it California Health Studio, but eventually changing the name to
Bucchi’s Continental Baths. The gym and sauna was a safe place for gay men but the
clientele included men of any sexual orientation. According to Bucchi, some men
came to the sauna to have sex with other men, but others just wanted to use the gym,
and there was never any friction between the different groups of patrons. In the late
70s, Bucchi had to move his business around the corner to Elizabeth Street, but
eventually had to close down.

Val’s Coffee Lounge
Val Eastwood opened a coffee shop on Swanston Street, Melbourne in 1951. Her
business grew so rapidly that she had to expand the cafe to a second floor of the
building. Each floor of the cafe could seat 80 people and they were packed every
night. The cafe was decorated with blue carpet, mauve chairs, raffia lampshades and
a grand piano, while the walls were decorated with murals by artist Veni Stephens.
Val prepared exotic food and her father brewed the coffee. There was live music all
through the week, as well as small plays and poetry readings, and a concert every
Sunday night. Val was openly a lesbian and dressed in very masculine clothes. Her
cafe was a known safe place for LGBT+ people and anyone who felt like an outsider.

The Lampshade Shop
The Lampshade shop could be found in Adelaide in the 1950s, under ownership of
Bert Hines. Hines made and sold lampshades and artificial flowers. At night however,
Bert Hines was also known as Big Bertha, and he would host drag parties in the
residence above his shop, bringing in crowds of at least 15 people. Although one night,
the police were alerted to the drag parties and gatecrashed The Lampshade Shop. They
had no evidence of any criminal activity, so the police intimidated the dressed-up men
until they confessed. 10 men were sent to prison, and the newspapers ruined

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