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Queer Liberation - Vernon Tile Vamaua

To mark the 50th anniversary of the formation of the first Gay Liberation Front groups in New Zealand in 1972, the International Socialist Organisation Te Whanganui-a-Tara branch invited activist Vernon Tile Vamaua to talk about the early years of queer liberation. Due to time constraints, Vernon didn't present his full talk - but it can be downloaded in full as a pdf document.

Vernon draws on Brent Coutts' 1972: a year in focus book. A special thank you to Brent for his research, and to Vernon and the International Socialist Organisation for allowing this event to be recorded and shared.

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Slide Details

  • 10:15 - Society for Human Rights (SHR, 1924-1925), Mattachine Society (1951-1961) and the Mattachine Society of Washington (MSW, 1961-early 1970s)
  • 14:24 - The psychedelic flower power generation free love philosophy - sexual and social liberation, Vietnam War protests, Women's Liberation movement, Anti-racist groups formed – Nga Tamatoa and Polynesian Panthers, HART – stop all sporting contact with South Africa and the 1973 Springbok tour Organisation to Halt Military Service, Save Lake Manapouri campaign, Opposition to Halt Military Service (OHMS) - opposition to conscription and war by a campaign of civil disobedience, Progressive Youth Movement, Little Red School Book and the “Hair” musical touring New Zealand - nudity and homosexuality
  • 19:10 - Auckland Gay Liberation Front Manifesto sections: Family, School, Church, The Media, Employment, The Law, Psychiatry, Self Oppression, And Now Liberation, Aims
  • 19:56 - Auckland Gay Liberation Front Manifesto - Immediate Demands: 1 - End all discrimination against gay people, 2 - All people have the right to sexual self-determination, 3 - We shall oppose all oppression against gay people and support full civil rights, 4 - We shall provide counselling services, legal services and medical services for gay people and raise their consciousness about their own identity.
  • 31:20 - First two office holders in Gay Liberation Front Wellington: President Donal Raethel and Vice-President Laurie Marque.
  • 33:40 - Key people in Gay Liberation Front Christchurch: Robin Duff, Lindsay Taylor, Chris Hignett, Paul Maling, John Wooles and Mike Waghorne
  • 35:28 - First National Gay Liberation Conference in Auckland (26 August 1972). Sessions included Organisation, Action, Media and Publicity, Guerrilla Theatre, Graphics and Printing, Counselling, Communes, Social Function of Gay Liberation
  • 36:15 - Key individuals in Gay Liberation Front. Auckland: Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Malcolm McAllister, Dick Morrison, Janet Roth, Caterina de Nave, Sharon Alston, David Russell, Paul Kells, John Demouth, Graeme Underhill, Ben van Prehn, Nigel Baumber. Wellington: Donal Raethel, Laurie Marquet, Michael Ross, Barry Neels, Robert Lansdown, Bill Evans, Rae Dellaca. Christchurch: Robin Duff, Lindsay Taylor, Chris Hignett, Paul Maling, John Wooles, Mike Waghorne
  • 43:05 - Two books in Vernon's library: Homosexual: oppression and liberation by Dennis Altman and Out of the closets: voices of gay liberation edited by Karla Jay and Allen Young


This summary commemorates the 50th anniversary of the formation of the first Gay Liberation Front groups in New Zealand. Vernon Tile Vamaua, an activist and member of the Socialist Action League, presents a historical overview of the early years of queer liberation in New Zealand, with a focus on the dynamic and transformative 1970s.

Vamaua's talk, delivered in the Kirk building at Victoria University of Wellington, details the courageous efforts of queer individuals in New Zealand who, in 1972, initiated public activism to fight for the elimination of discrimination against the queer community, and to advocate for equality, sexual, and personal freedoms. This activism was notably fueled by the inspiration from international movements such as the US Civil Rights movement, anti-colonial struggles, feminist movements, and Stonewall, among others.

The initial efforts of the Gay Liberation Front in New Zealand included crafting a manifesto based on the London Gay Liberation Front manifesto, demanding support for the queer community, challenging legal inequalities and societal attitudes, and striving for larger social changes. Vamaua highlighted pivotal early actions undertaken in Auckland that were characterized by their diversity and significance – a gay day happening, a protest marriage application at a births, deaths, and marriages office (a "zap" action), the first public march to the US Consulate, and a celebration during the Queen's birthday weekend.

Vamaua also recounts the establishment of similar groups in Wellington and Christchurch, stressing the utilization of university facilities as vital locations for organization and activism. In Wellington, debates over financial accountability led to a formal structure, while in Christchurch, key members galvanized the community through home meetings. The first national Gay Liberation Conference in Auckland in 1972 marked another significant moment, where the pink triangle symbol was adopted as a symbol of solidarity.

Vamaua underscores the presence of the leftist movement within the queer liberation movement, with organizations such as the International Socialist Organisation and Socialist Action League playing influential roles. The legacy of Bret Coutts' work in gay community history, particularly capturing the seminal events of 1972, is acknowledged for preserving this critical moment in queer activism.

Personal reflections on Vamaua's background provide context for their activism, discussing their interracial family, progressive upbringing, and early engagement with queer politics and advocacy. Highlighted is Vamaua's deep involvement in regional gay rights organizing, as well as the political strategies that contributed to the shift in the approach of the homosexual law reform campaign from lobbying to mass action.

The audio concludes with a recognition of the importance of preserving the institutional knowledge and history of the queer community and an acknowledgement of the contribution of individuals who courageously challenge authority and refuse to be bystanders.

This summary is created using Generative AI. Although it is based on the recording's transcription, it may contain errors or omissions. Click here to learn more about how this summary was created.

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Record date:28th June 2022
Location:Kirk building, Wellington
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Archive:The master recording is archived at the Alexander Turnbull Library (OHDL-004673).