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Hobart artwork will mark mass gay arrests

Public artworks are planned for Australia's Salamanca Place to mark gay rights arrests in 1988
Rodney Croome being arrested in 1988 during the Hobart gay rights protests..
Photo by Roger Lovell.

Public artworks are planned for Hobart, Australia’s Salamanca Place to mark the controversial arrest of gay rights activists in the area in 1988.

The artwork in Tasmania's state capital will be two LED light boxes, approximately 2m long and 20cm wide, and an interpretative sign. They will be installed on the pavement near the Parliament House lawns to commemorate the events.

In October 1988 a newly formed gay rights activist group set up a stall to gather signatures and to dispense information about the decriminalization of homosexuality to the public.

After receiving one complaint about the stall, Holbart City Council banned it and ordered that anyone supporting the stall to be arrested.

A massive 130 people were arrested defending the gay rights stall, which ultimately became the largest act of gay rights civil disobedience in Australian history.

The criminalization of homosexuality was finally overturned in Tasmanian in 1997, following the intervention of the United Nations and the federal government, becoming the last Australian state to decriminalize the law.

The installations are based on a concept by artist Justy Phillips, and one of the installations will include the words ‘In the wake of your courage I swim’, and the other the words ‘Forgive me for not holding you in my arms.’

Alderman John Freeman was the only councilor to vote against the artwork, which was unanimously endorsed by the council's planning committee despite complaints from a Christian group that the artwork will be ‘divisive.’

Rodney Croome, award winning Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian rights group spokesman and one of those arrested in October 1988 (see photo), has said: ‘Far from being “divisive” the artwork commemorates reconciliation, inclusion and tolerance, values which the overwhelming majority of Tasmanians hold dear.

‘The artwork is an important way to commemorate not just the arrests 24 years ago but also how far Tasmanian has come since then…It will be a symbol of how far we have come in being a more inclusive and tolerant society.’

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