1 Feb 1980


Police raid the Westside sauna in Auckland. They questioned the men at the sex-on-site venue and arrested some. The raid prompted large protest marches. One demonstrator outside the High Court in Auckland carried a sign that read "A cop in a gay sauna is a screw!" In 2017 the NZ Police Association's magazine Police News carried a letter from [name withheld] which talked about historic actions by the police that harmed the gay community, and that were "not purely in the spirit of enforcing the law [...] These are the types of things I would like to see the [Police] Commissioner make a comment or apology for."

20 Jun 1980


MP Warren Freer tells Parliament that he would no longer proceed with a private member's Bill that would have decriminalised homosexual activity between consenting adults. This was the second time Freer had suggested homosexual law reform. While both attempts drew support from some groups, there was also opposition. The Gay Rights Coalition felt strongly that the age of consent should be set at 16 (the same age of consent for heterosexual acts) rather than the proposed 18 or 20. Activist Judith Emms told media "Any bill which is not an equality bill simply reaffirms the idea that homosexuals are unequal." It would be another six years before homosexual law reform occurred - this time with an age of consent set at 16.

1 Aug 1980


The Labour Party nominates Ian Scott as its candidate for Eden (Auckland). Out magazine reports in its August issue that "this is the first time an openly avowed homosexual has been selected by a major political party as its candidate for a a national election, anywhere in the Western world."

5 Apr 1981


The inaugural broadcast takes place from New Zealand's first permanent community radio station - Wellington Access Radio. Communities now had the ability to create radio by themselves, for themselves and about themselves without the interference of an external editor. The first broadcast featured the feminist programme Leave Your Dishes In The Sink which was insightful, provocative and comedic: "Mommy what's an orgasm? I don't know dear, ask your father." It was followed in June with audio from the local Pride Week. An unidentified man told listeners "A lot of straight people, particularly men, have this paranoia that they think it’s actually possible to be converted [to being homosexual] ... There's no way a person's sexuality can be changed."

5 Jun 1981


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report highlighting five young, previously healthy gay men in the United States who had developed pneumocystis pneumonia - later linked to what we now know as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). James Curran, formerly of the CDC, recalls "patients were having severe shortness of breath and pneumonia, weight loss, diarrheal disease [and] Kaposi's sarcoma." Even though the report came out in 1981, AIDS and the HIV virus had been quietly active in communities - not just gay communities - for decades earlier. In New Zealand, the first death from AIDS-related complications was in 1984. The next year blood testing for HIV was introduced. Nowadays, with significant advances in medical care, HIV is no longer a death sentence and now people who are diagnosed and tested early can have a normal life expectancy.

28 Jun 1981


Possibly the first community-initiated gay radio broadcast occurs in New Zealand. The show was produced as part of Gay Pride Week and aired on the newly established Wellington Access Radio. There are earlier examples of rainbow voices on mainstream radio, for example "Gary" talked to host Ian Fraser on the National Programme in 1970 about having to leave his teaching job because he was gay. And in June 1979, Radio New Zealand's 2ZN station interviewed members of the Nelson Gay Welfare Group.

10 Jul 1981


Wellington Mayor Michael Fowler is picketed by members of the Solidarity group during a visit to San Francisco. The picketers chanted "Fowler go home" and held signs saying "No sister city, no deals with homophobes." At the time, Fowler was trying to establish a sister-city relationship with San Francisco that would have increased trade and business opportunities. However word had come from New Zealand that the Mayor had earlier backed a Wellington City Council ban on the Lesbian Centre advertising on local buses. When asked why the council's transport committee had banned the adverts, Fowler said that it was "to not encourage deviations from the norm."

2 May 1983


The first AIDS Candlelight Memorials takes place in San Francisco and New York. Within a few years the annual observances were taking place around the world. In 1987 Dr. Bill Paul told memorial-goers in San Francisco that events were happening "in four cities in New Zealand and in major cities all over the world." In Wellington the memorial grew in scale, peaking in May 1993 with the Beacons of Hope commemoration. The night-time memorial at Frank Kitts Park, featured the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and members of the New Zealand Youth Choir. It began with people carrying flaming torches representing those that had passed away.

24 Nov 1983


A conference in Dunedin of Australasian physicians is told that AIDS was coming to the Pacific. In May the media had reported the first cases in Australia, but no cases had yet been reported in New Zealand. A couple of years later in 1986, three-year-old Eve van Grafhorst moved with her family to Hastings from Australia due to ongoing discrimination around HIV/AIDS. Van Grafhorst had been born prematurely and had required eleven blood transfusions – one of which had contained HIV. Her story was widely reported throughout the world and on her 10th birthday she received a letter from Diana, Princess of Wales. Van Grafhorst died from AIDS-related complications on 20 November 1993.

9 Mar 1984


TV One screens an interview with Denny, a 29-year-old who would shortly become the first person in New Zealand to die from AIDS-related complications. He had been brought home from a hospital in Sydney to New Plymouth to be cared for by his sister Pat. She was interviewed after his death and talked about the stigma surrounding AIDS: "We had him buried before the papers were told about it [...] His full name wasn't even put in the paper." In contrast to the small number of deaths in New Zealand by the end of 1984, the United States had already experienced over five thousand deaths from AIDS-related complications.

11 Mar 1984


The first appearance of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in New Zealand takes place during Gay Pride Week in Wellington. The Sisters told Pink Triangle magazine that although they had international links, the local order would be known as the Sisters of Sodomy. Sister Trev told the magazine that dressing as a nun was "a parody of the Catholic Church which is a major institution of oppression of lesbian and gay men." Sister Angel Thighs said "What we are talking about is genderfuck. We are getting back to androgyny, the blurring of the margins between masculine and feminine." The Sisters were originally formed in Iowa, USA in 1979 but soon blossomed into an international order. In 1981, Sydney's house was established. Its website notes, "Our common aim is to make the world a better place in which to live - one possessed of equality, respect, patience and tolerance. Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures, and so The Sisters' actions are quite overt and confronting."



"I've been in the army, I've been prison, I've stood for the Mayor of Wellington and I have no regrets. What I like about myself is that I have always been honest." - Carmen Rupe [exact date unknown]

12-21 Jan 1985


A ten-day Womyn's Summer Camp is held at Waipara in north Canterbury (12-21 January). The lesbian summer camps had earlier taken place between 1976-1978, before returning in 1985 and running until 1991. The camp in 1985 attracted around 130 women and children from around the country. It was open to both lesbians and "lesbian-oriented" women. The camps offered a wide range of activities - from concerts to workshops, sports to simply relaxing and having fun. Torfrida Wainwright, writing in Women together: a history of women's organisations in New Zealand, said "these camps represented more than a network of friends going on holiday together; they were a deliberate attempt by lesbians to intensify their experience of lesbian community and create an alternative to the heterosexual world." Another camper reflected "At camp we created our own reality."

8 Mar 1985


Labour MP Fran Wilde introduces the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in Parliament. The private members' bill sets out to decriminalise consensual sexual activity between males over the age of 16 and make it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation. Within a week, a group of MPs including Graeme Lee, Norman Jones, and Geoff Braybrooke promote an anti-reform petition. Braybrooke said that this would be the "thin edge of the wedge... It could well lead to gay bars, gay massage parlours, gay churches, gay marriages... and gay people adopting children." Norman Jones was more rabid. Speaking at a public meeting he tells both anti-reformers and a smaller group of pro-reformers "We do not want homosexuality legalised. We do not want our children to be contaminated by this. Turn around and look at them... gaze upon them, you're looking into hades. Don't look too long or you might catch AIDS."

1 Jun 1985


AIDS activist and educator Bruce Burnett dies aged 30. Originally from Auckland, Burnett had been living in Europe before moving to California in 1982 (just a year after AIDS was first identified). He became a volunteer for the Shanti Project, a community based organisation that provided emotional and practical support to people living with life-threatening illnesses. Feeling unwell himself, he returned to New Zealand in late 1983 where he launched himself into AIDS prevention and support work. Burnett undertook a one-man tour of the country, a "road show" attempting to educate at-risk communities about AIDS. He was also instrumental in establishing the national AIDS Support Network - a community led initiative that would later become the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. In memory of Burnett's tireless work, the first HIV/AIDS clinic in New Zealand was named after him, opening in Auckland in July 1986.

6 Aug 1985


Television news reports that for the first time, blood test kits were available in New Zealand to test for HIV. A $500,000 government funded AIDS awareness campaign was also launched in the same week. The announcements came during the heated debate over homosexual law reform, with both pro and anti-reformers using AIDS as a key argument. Pro-reformers maintained that decriminalisation of homosexual activity would allow for better health care and education, while anti-reformers claimed that it would simply legalise the spread of AIDS. According to anti-reformer MP Norman Jones, it would be better for people with AIDS to die "sooner rather than later" to help prevent law reform.

24 Sep 1985


A large anti-homosexual law reform petition is presented to politicians on the steps of Parliament. The Salvation Army had agreed to co-ordinate the petition, with Colonel Campbell telling Salvationists that the moral decay of civilisation was proceeding unchecked and that it was in many ways a greater threat than that of nuclear destruction. The petitioners claim that there were over 800,000 signatures (almost 1 in 4 New Zealanders). However it was later found that the petition contained multiple signatures in the same hand and other forgeries. Critics of the petition likened the presentation to a Nazi Nuremberg Rally, with a platoon of young uniformed people carrying flags and wearing sashes that read "For God, For Country, For Family."

25 Mar 1986


Parliament continues to debate whether the age of consent for male homosexual acts should be set at sixteen - the same age as for heterosexual activity. MP John Banks asserts passionately in Parliament that "legalising sodomy is the thin edge of the wedge and it's going to destabilise the family unit, destroy this nation and democracy... This Bill is evil and while Rome burns we are back here in the House tonight trying to decide whether boys should be able to sodomise each other." Equality is a primary argument put forward by pro law reformers. Earlier in March 1986, members of Wellington's Gay Task Force organise an event under the banner "A fair for a fair law." The fair, which still occurs annually (but under a different name), has become one of New Zealand's longest running rainbow events.

9 Jul 1986


Part 1 of the Homosexual Law Reform Act narrowly passes in Parliament, 49 votes to 44. Part 2 of the Bill dealing with anti-discrimination measures is lost, and it isn't until 1993 that it becomes illegal to discriminate against homosexuals in the areas of accommodation, employment and services.

9 Jul 1986


Part One of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill narrowly passes in Parliament, 49 votes to 44. Part One decriminalised homosexual activity between consenting people aged sixteen years and older. Part Two of the Bill dealing with anti-discrimination measures was lost on 16 April 1986.

11 Jul 1986


The Burnett Centre is opened by Health Minister Dr Michael Bassett in Auckland. The Centre was the first HIV/AIDS clinic in New Zealand and was named after Bruce Burnett, an early AIDS educator and activist who among other notable achievements co-founded the AIDS Support Network (later to become the New Zealand AIDS Foundation).

21 Aug 1986


The LGBT Bay Area Reporter newspaper in San Francisco publishes a profile interview with Terry and Marge. Both were born in the 1920s and had immigrated to the US as war brides - Terry from Germany and Marge from Auckland, New Zealand. At the time of the interview, they had been living together for 3 years in a straight "sister-like relationship." Asked about her opinion of gay people in earlier times, Marge replied "I looked upon them as fairies. I thought they were crazy." But now both women happily volunteered together in local Freedom Day [Pride] Parades. Remembering her first parade, Marge recalled "When we turned the corner... I took my deep breath and was thrilled to death - and danced all the way up Market Street."

11 Sep 1986


Just two months after the passing of the Homosexual Law Reform Act, the community-run Lesbian and Gay Rights Resource Centre in Wellington is torched. The centre had been collecting archives of rainbow groups and providing resources since the late 1970s. On that night, a local resident had noticed two "very straight" looking young men inside the building. The intruders defecated in the resource centre, twinked "FAG" on the floorboards and set half-a-dozen fires. Trustees Chris Parkin and Phil Parkinson reflected "The [centre] provided a focus for and an expression of the identity of gay and lesbian communities, locally and nationally, and so the fire evidenced a destructive desire to violate that identity itself." The arsonists were never caught but the attack prompted a lasting partnership with the Alexander Turnbull Library who now securely house the archives while ownership is held by rainbow communities through the LAGANZ charitable trust.

6 Nov 1987


Peter Wells' acclaimed film A Death in the Family screens for a week at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. It had earlier screened on primetime television in this country. The film depicted the last sixteen days of the lead character Andrew Boyd who had AIDS. Film reviewer Steve Warren noted in the Bay Area Reporter that although for many in San Francisco the "emphasis has shifted from preparing for death to prolonging and enhancing life" the film still "makes an impact you'll feel many hours later." The film carried the dedication "To all who stay and lend a hand in times of fear and panic." Wells himself died earlier this year. In an obituary, author David Herkt said that Wells "reshaped the way New Zealanders saw sexuality. From a country with an unconsidered heterosexuality as a social norm, Wells exposed the true variety of our desires."

17 Dec 1987


New Zealand became the first country in the world to provide a national state-sponsored needle exchange programme. The programme gave people who injected drugs access to equipment and education that supported safe injecting practices. The initiative, much like the early safer sex programmes in rainbow communities, was a peer-led community response to HIV/AIDS. It was based on personal empowerment and harm reduction. Canterbury University Associate Professor Rosemary Du Plessis recalls "The AIDS Foundation was an incredibly good model for how community networks could work with government to achieve a goal, such as minimising the spread of HIV." Now, over thirty years later, the needle exchange programme consists of 20 outlets and 180 pharmacies and alternative outlets.

4 Aug 1988


Photographer Brian Brake dies. Brake is still one of New Zealand's most acclaimed photojournalists. He worked extensively in over forty countries for the international photographic cooperative Magnum Photos, and is probably best known for his Monsoon series and for his coverage of China in the 1950s. During his career he was careful to retain his film negatives and transparencies. The majority of his collection - around 118,000 images - is now cared for by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.