22 Aug 1960


Activist Neil Costelloe is born on the West Coast. In the 1980s Costelloe fearlessly campaigned for homosexual law reform - taking part in many protests and rallies. He used his graphic design skills to create protest posters and appeared on television talking about homophobic bashings which were on the increase. Costelloe also planned and took part in smaller (but still powerful) actions prior to homosexual activity becoming legal. Costelloe's sister, Jayne, recalls how she saw him standing on a main street in Wellington openly kissing his boyfriend, "They were very out and very proud." After law reform passed in 1986, Costelloe moved to the United Kingdom where he lived until his death in 1990 from AIDS-related complications.

10 Sep 1960


Pioneering surgeon Harold Gillies dies. Gillies is widely considered the father of modern plastic surgery. Born in Dunedin in 1882 Gillies left New Zealand to study medicine in England. During WW1 he developed techniques that used grafted flaps of skin and transplanted rib bones. After the war he focussed his attention on gender affirming surgery. In 1946, he carried out one of the world’s first gender reassignment surgeries. The procedures he developed became the standard for the next 40 years.

31 Oct 1960


Darren Horn is born. Horn was one of the early organisers of the New Zealand AIDS Memorial Quilt. In 1992 he wrote "All the quilts speak of love, compassion and memories. Each is composed of recollection, sadness, acceptance and letting go. The quilts help us to learn and accept." In the early days of the global epidemic, Horn along with Peggy Dawson, provided light touch massage for people living with HIV and AIDS in Auckland. They created a quilt panel featuring large daisies, with each petal containing the name of someone they had worked with who had subsequently died. Poignantly, the last two petals were left blank and only completed after Horn's death in 1993. They commemorate his partner Stephen Maxted who died in May 1993, and Horn himself who died four months later.

1 Jan 1962


The newly amended Crimes Act 1961 comes into force, replacing the Crimes Act 1908. Penalties for male homosexual acts were reduced from whipping, flogging and life imprisonment with hard labour to prison terms of up to 7 years. Attorney-General Rex Mason had earlier proposed that homosexual acts be dealt with as indecent assaults (which would attract lesser penalties), but this was not adopted. Debate around homosexual law reform had been growing since the Wolfenden Report had been published in the United Kingdom five years earlier. In 1959, the Upper Hutt Leader newspaper ran a story saying "It would appear that New Zealand law is moving in the direction of the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee." Readers were invited to attend an upcoming public debate with the topic "That homosexuality between consenting males should remain a crime."

27 May 1962


The Dorian Society, the oldest documented homosexual organisation in New Zealand, is formed in Wellington. The Dorian was primarily (but not exclusively) a social group that allowed members to meet collectively in private and be themselves. This was a liberation, in a time when homosexual activity was an imprisonable offence and homosexuals could be legally discriminated against. On 27 May a group of sixteen men met to elect officers of the still unnamed group. Just over a week later on 6 June, the name was formalised and a draft constitution was written. Understandably there was no mention of homosexuality, but the aims were clear. Included in them: "To promote amongst its members an honest desire to serve the development of friendship, mutual respect, and tolerance in all its aspects" and to "provide entertainment for its members and activities of a cultural and social nature." The Dorian was a significant organisation and is still fondly remembered today. As Graham Wills, a former member, recently recalled "I met my second boyfriend at the Dorian. He was serving more than drinks."

1 Jan 1963


The Dorian Society forms a legal subcommittee to work towards homosexual law reform [date approximate].

5 Oct 1963


Writer James Courage dies in England. Born in Canterbury, New Zealand, he only made one trip back here in the mid 1930s. According to his niece Virginia Clegg, he came out to his mother and father during that visit, at which point "all hell broke loose and he never set foot in this country again." Author Christopher Burke credits Courage with writing New Zealand's first gay short story (Guest at the Wedding), and this country’s first gay novel (A Way of Love). The novel tells the story of a young man's relationship with an older man. It was banned in New Zealand in the early 1960s on the "grounds of indecency and because it lacked redeeming literary merit."

23 Jan 1964


Charles Aberhart was killed in Hagley Park. A group of six teenage boys had gone to the park that night "to belt up a queer." Using the youngest as bait they targeted a number of men before they approached Aberhart. He was found dead later that night by a passer-by. The following day the group were all charged with his manslaughter. They claimed that Aberhart had propositioned them. The jury subsequently acquitted all six teenagers. At the time there wasn't a lot of media coverage of the case or people standing up in defence of homosexuals. However some saw the judicial outcome as a gross injustice. It became one of the motivations for the establishment of the New Zealand Homosexual Law Reform Society in 1967.

22 Mar 1964


Norman "Old Sunshine" Gibson dies in New Plymouth. In the 1990s Gibson's daughter, Miriam Saphira, wrote about her father and his relationship with Roy Ayling. Both were soldiers in the First World War, sharing a trench together during the Battle of the Somme in France. Ayling later remarked to the renowned artist Toss Woollaston that "he had seen the younger [Gibson] while at the war, poised for a dive when they were swimming, and loved his beautiful body." In September 1916 Gibson was shot in the neck and evacuated to a field hospital. Ayling was distraught, a feeling captured in his poem titled Old Sunshine. It reads in part "Now that we are far apart, / Longing makes the hot tears start, / Who can ease my aching heart? / Old Sunshine." The love poem stands out proudly in the 1917 wartime publication New Zealand at the Front, written and illustrated in France by members of the New Zealand Division.

12 Aug 1965


Prolific Ngati Porou songwriter, composer and teacher Tuini Ngawai dies. Ngawai wrote over 200 waiata. One of her most famous, Arohaina mai, became the unofficial hymn of the 28th Maori Battalion.

9 Jan 1966


Carmen Rupe is arrested in Auckland for behaving in an offensive manner in a public place. The "offensive manner" was Rupe wearing female clothing in public. On the 24 January she appeared in court to challenge the charge. Justice McCarthy dismissed the case saying that he was "quite unable to find anything in our law which says that it is unlawful for a male to attire himself in female clothing." This was a watershed moment, as for many years people had been prosecuted for just that: back in 1925, Kenneth Dell faced a week of imprisonment for "behaving in a disorderly manner" in Queen Street. Dell, was hospitalised on the morning of his court appearance and was fined instead. And in 1929 George Grace, aged 18, was convicted and sentenced to 3-months imprisonment for "being disguised."

Feb 1967


Doreen Davis stands trial accused of murdering Raewyn Petley. Both had been serving with the Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps, when Petley was found dead in her bed with a deep wound to her neck. Davis was in turn taken to Auckland Hospital after a drug overdose. Davis' defence lawyer argued that she had been "befriended by a woman outwardly kind and sympathetic but inwardly a hunting lesbian." Davis testified that Petley "...wanted me. She tried to kiss me and did. She... looked like a man, not a woman... I finally gave in." The defence contended Petley had cut her own throat. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

17 Apr 1967


Around 150 people meet in Wellington to endorse the formation of the Wolfenden Association and campaign for homosexual law reform. The group's name references Lord Wolfenden who, a decade earlier, had chaired a committee in the United Kingdom that recommended "homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence." The Association soon changes its name to the New Zealand Homosexual Law Reform Society. They publish a pamphlet that claims that there are at least 40,000 homosexual men in New Zealand who need "understanding rather than persecution."

27 Apr 1967


Possibly the first ever New Zealand television programme to examine homosexuality is broadcast as part of the Compass series. Television was still in its infancy in this country, having only begun in 1960, with Compass being the first locally produced current affairs show. In a recent interview, programme producer Ian Johnstone recalled the secrecy the crew had to adopt while filming the episode (as homosexual activity was still illegal until 1986). The production crew travelled in unmarked vehicles and only filmed at night. But Johnstone came away from the experience pleasantly surprised. Rather than participants who were "shamed" or seeking ways out, Johnstone found that the men had a "self-confidence within them... that strength came through and it was wonderful."

26 Jun 1967


Rev. Godfrey Wilson delivers a sermon at St Peter's Anglican church in Wellington highlighting the negative treatment of homosexuals in our society. It is a radical call for acceptance and inclusion. The groundbreaking sermon is broadcast live on National Radio and is probably the first of its kind to be heard throughout New Zealand.

19 Feb 1968


The Sunday Times newspaper reports on an ongoing study by two prison chaplains into the treatment of homosexuals in prison. The newspaper quoted the late Rev. Ernest Hoddinott, a Methodist minister and Senior Chaplain to the Justice Department: "Homosexuality is a tragedy. It is no respecter of persons - it's found in all sections of the community." He believed that there were at least 25,000 homosexuals in New Zealand. Since 1960, the Methodist church had been considering the implications to a "legal toleration of homosexual practices." In 1961, a church committee reported that reforming the law would remove injustices and open the way for a "more constructive treatment of a hidden problem." However, “The Church has always distinguished between sin and crime... to say that in certain circumstances homosexual behaviour should not be a criminal offence is not to condone or encourage private immorality.”

29 Feb 1968


Composer Gareth Farr is born in Wellington. While studying music in New York in the mid-1990s, Farr developed the drag persona Lilith LaCroix and the percussion extravaganza Drumdrag, which toured New Zealand extensively and had performances in Australia and Canada. In 1997 Lilith performed a drumming midnight mass at the Devotion dance party that was labelled stupendous. But according to Farr, his first "politically gay" composition was During These Days - a choral piece commissioned to mark the 30th anniversary of homosexual law reform in 2016. Farr told media at the time "I know how lucky I am that I have had this law all my adult life." In 2019 Farr wrote an orchestral fanfare that launched the Wellington International Pride Parade.

8 Oct 1968


A petition calling for the decriminalisation of homosexual acts between consenting males aged 21 and over was presented in Parliament. The petition, organised by the New Zealand Homosexual Law Reform Society, was signed by 75 courageous New Zealanders (keeping in mind law reform didn't occur for another 18 years). Member of Parliament John Rae said "one cannot but be impressed with the status of the people who were prepared to put their names on the petition. They start from the highest office in the Churches and go through the professional groups, the lawyers, professors, school masters, scientists, and others." MP Robert Talbot, an opponent, told the House "The petitioners have stated that homosexuals live in fear of being caught because of the present law... It is no doubt correct, but I believe this fear is necessary if this unnatural activity is to be controlled in our society." Interestingly, MP Martin Finlay noted "I think it is generally accepted, at least in medical and scientific circles if not publicly, that every one of us has some latent element of homosexuality in him, even those who are loudest and most vehement in their protestations of revulsion."

8 Nov 1968


The Parliamentary Petitions Committee blocks a petition seeking the removal of criminal penalties for homosexual acts between consenting male adults. Prof J.H. Robb, President of the New Zealand Homosexual Law Reform Society, tells the committee that if Members of Parliament were a statistical representation of the community as a whole, it would be reasonable to assume that at least four members would be homosexual. This is reported in the Evening Post and draws a swift response from the Leader of the Opposition, Norman Kirk who describes the headline as "despicable, objectionable, sensational and quite misleading."



"Only men so draw me that I want to be part of them, to lose myself in them, to become them." - Journal entry by writer Charles Brasch [exact date unknown]

28 Jun 1969


The Stonewall Uprising takes place in New York City. Although the push for homosexual law reform has already begun years earlier in New Zealand, the Stonewall uprising still resonated here strongly.