Lesbian Spaces: Sydney, 1945-1978

Rebecca Jennings

Abstract

Asking ‘What is lesbian Sydney?’ and ‘Where is it?’, this article traces the shifting spaces and places of lesbian Sydney in the first decades after the Second World War. In the 1940s and 1950s, when camp bars were overwhelmingly male, lesbians enjoyed a very limited public presence in the city. Many women created lesbian spaces in isolation from a wider community, discreetly setting up house with a female partner and gradually building up a small network of lesbian friends. Groups of women met in each other’s homes or visited the parks and beaches around Sydney and the Central Coast for social excursions. By the 1960s, lesbians were beginning to carve out a more visible public space for themselves at wine bars and cabaret clubs in inner suburbs such as Kings Cross, Oxford Street and the city, and the commercial bar scene grew steadily through the 1970s. However, the influence of feminist and lesbian and gay politics in the 1970s also prompted a rethinking of lesbian spaces in Sydney, with well-known lesbian collective houses challenging older notions of private space and political venues such as Women’s House and CAMP NSW headquarters constituting new bases for lesbian community.

Keywords

Lesbian; Space

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