Early GLWA History by Lance Haines

GLWA was originally known as the Homosexual Community Welfare Service (HCWS). ‘Homosexual’ was used for a number of reasons – it was an inclusive word at a time when the distinctions between gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people had not become as clearly defined as they are today. At the time The Courier-Mail newspaper would not print the words ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ in the HCWS advertisement for the counselling line.

The HCWS was founded in the context of social change – the passing of the old and the unfolding of the new. The CAMP Club in George Street had offered a telephone contact line for a number of years previously. However, by 1983 the club had become almost defunct with just one or two people still involved. The Bjelke-Petersen State Government had only just relaxed its Gestapo-style fear tactics and welfare and other community groups were beginning to become more vocal in their criticisms and in social action. The first wave of news and information about the Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV disease in the USA had passed (1981) and rekindled an interest in issues in the gay men’s community.

The Women’s Health Centre (with Carol Lowe) had already established itself as a powerful proponent of women’s issues and critic of the government. The radicalism of the Pride Collective with its strong ties with University of Queensland student groups was quite alive and active and this was to have a profound effect three years later during the National Conference on Homosexuality.

I was a gay activist and telephone counsellor recently arrived from Western Australia via the Tweed Valley when I came into contact with Brian Day who was already working with the Pride Collective. We both discovered we had similar passions for change in terms of increasing the amount of support being offered to gay and lesbian people in the wider community.

I made contact with a lesbian woman who worked for Social Security in the Valley and as fate would have it, she asked me if I would see a young lesbian woman for counselling. The young woman had told her father she was having a relationship with a woman. This had led to her father bashing her, the brother and his mate raping her under the house and she was now homeless. My naive suggestion was that she phone the gay and lesbian counselling service to speak to a lesbian counsellor (protocols and sensitivity for the young woman being taken into account) only to be told that no such group existed.

The rest is history. Brian and I started training with fifteen people who paid $15 for a sixteen weeks’ training course early in 1984. Access to a telephone was organised through Rev. Ivor Holmans and the Metropolitan Community Church. There were 25 active counsellors by the end of 1986. Annie Lazarus and Lou Rozensteins (of Women’s House) coordinated the counselling line rosters. Discussions at meetings focused on expanding the service to encompass more active education and welfare strategies in the community as well as debating a constitution for incorporation under the relevant Queensland Act of Parliament.

Maintaining the autonomy of the group under pressure from the Queensland AIDS Council and other groups was paramount at the time. Incorporating an openly gay and lesbian group was still not an easy matter in Queensland at that time. Gay sex was illegal (homosexual acts between consenting adult males was not decriminalised until 1990) and counsellors were very conscious that the telephone might be monitored by the police. We were not “being paranoid” when we took every precaution to maintain confidentiality and to ensure the safety of each counsellor at the end of a night on-line.

The line had the support of the Free Business Association (FBA and subsequently the Gay and Lesbian Business Network) in covering advertising costs. Ian McDonald, the treasurer, was a vital link in providing a bridge to the FBA and other financial support from the community. Many of the original counsellors went on to fill important roles in the community – with lesbian groups, in HIV / AIDS education and research and in establishing other services here and in other Australian states. People involved in the counselling service were important in supporting the Queensland AIDS Council when it was first formed.

I designed the HCWS pink triangle emblem on my kitchen table from “alchemical” symbols late one night in 1986.

The outer inverted triangle is the universal symbol of gay pride (from the Nazi’s use of the pink triangle to brand homosexuals in concentration camps). It is also the mystical symbol for earth’s physical activity and the double outer line binds or ‘fixes’ the energy. The open triangle at its centre represents the ‘spirit’ or ‘higher guidance’ and the pink of this triangle represents unconditional love without judgement. The three outer inverted triangles represent the levels of human experience: body, intellect and feeling/emoting as the direct concerns of counselling therapy.

Finally the large dark triangles represent the holistic strength of contacts and networks in the community. The smaller triangles make up a mosaic of individuals symbolising that where there is perfection there is also, equally imperfection. All are linked and part of the whole. The symbol carries with it concepts that are still working decades later!

When HCWS started it was the beginning of a new phase of gay and lesbian history in Queensland. That it has remained distinct from and independent of other groups is a credit to the commitment of its members in providing a service that meets the diverse needs of a broad spectrum of human individuals in the community.

Peter Allan Memorial Address

The Peter Allan Memorial Address was/is held each year to commemorate the long-time GLWA member and benefactor, the Rev. Peter Allan.

In 1993 a rather unusual volunteer joined GLWA and helped us with planning our future. He was Peter Allan, an Anglican priest who had been for years involved in the human rights movement. He was known to some of us a member of the Concerned Christians group established in the early 1980s to protest against some of the excesses of the Bjelke-Peterson era in Queensland. With them he took part in many street marches and other protests.

The Peter Allan Memorial Address was/is held each year in conjunction with the Annual General Meeting to commemorate the long-time GLWA member and benefactor, the Rev. Peter Allan. As with many volunteer organisations, some of our best intentions fall victim to the pressures of achieving a lot with very little and so the address has not been held in every year. HOWEVER the role that Rev. Allan played in the development of GLWA is nevertheless vital and so we remember him here on our website.

In 1993 a rather unusual volunteer joined GLWA and helped us with planning our future. He was Peter Allan, an Anglican priest who had been for years involved in the human rights movement. He was known to some of us a member of the Concerned Christians group established in the early 1980s to protest against some of the excesses of the Bjelke-Peterson era in Queensland. With them he took part in many street marches and other protests.

Peter studied for the priesthood in the early seventies and served the church first in the diocese of the Northern Territory where he saw first hand the plight of the Aboriginal people. Later when he served in parishes in Brisbane he turned his fine analytical mind to the support of unionists, the poor, the battlers and of other homosexual people like himself. He was described as a man that would not put up with bullshit. He saw bullshit, especially religious bullshit, as part of peoples oppression.

Peter joined GLWA in the late eighties and got involved in our future planning. He was particularly helpful in keeping us focussed on developing links with the gay and lesbian community and in improving our standing in the wider community. It was also he who first suggested that we produce a “professional” annual report and have prominent speakers at our annual general meeting.

However we were not able to have the benefit of his incisive mind for long. In late 1994 Peter died from AIDS related diseases. His funeral at St Mary’s Church at Kangaroo Point, which Peter had programmed himself, was an unusual affair; not least because of the inclusion of the song “The Red Flag”, written by Irishman Jim Connell in 1889 and most commonly associated with the communist workers movement in Russia.
In his will Peter left one-third of his estate to GLWA. To honour Peter’s contribution we established a special fund to take this money in the hope that it would form the basis for purchasing a community centre at some time in the future. In the mean time it has already provided us with the reserves to promote and guarantee the maintenance of premises to house the GLWA counselling service.

The History of GLWA through the eyes of Rev. Ivor Holmans

Early in 1984 Lance Haines approached the executive of the Free Business Association (the Gay and Lesbian Business Network) for permission to address a monthly dinner gathering at The University of Queensland. Lance had a notion, which was supported by others within the community, to form a counselling team which would offer support and referral and information services to the gay and lesbian community. There was a great need for an accountable service to which people could go regularly for help.

The first twelve-week telephone counselling course for volunteers was facilitated by Lance Haines, Brian Day and Peter North. The course dealt with issues which, until then, many of us had not even considered or been aware of. Subjects included gay and lesbian identity in the historical perspective, coming out, client and counselling issues, counselling skills. We were asked to consider how heterosexual and homosexual people differed, to identify tolerance and acceptance, and to develop pride in ourselves. We discussed strategies for political change and we looked at social myths. Those were just a few of the diverse subjects we studied.

For me it was an eye opener to discover how we as men treated women as subordinates. We men had the first demonstration of the extent of our patriatchal dominance. It was a great lesson for me who had always thought I treated all people with equality.

Twenty-one people volunteered for the first course and of these, three women and six men graduated in the sense that they went on line. By August 1991 there were twenty-eight active telephone counsellors. At the time of writing there are now forty nine. Only two of us from the original team are with the Association now.

GLWA has been known by two other names. First it was called the Brisbane Homosexual Counselling and Information Service. When it was incorporated the name was changed to the Homosexual Counselling and Welfare Service. The name was changed to the Gay and Lesbian Welfare Association during the 1990-91 financial year to acknowledge the Association’s lesbian participants.

At formation GLWA’s three objectives were to provide:
a telephone counselling service
a welfare service
to conduct research and promote education.

The Association has come a long way since its inception but has kept closely to the ideals determined when it was formed.