A million-dollar cash injection has brought the reality of a permanent Sydney queer museum space one step closer.
The Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch Foundation made the extraordinary donation as founding partner at the launch of Qtopia Sydney on the first day of WorldPride in the Harbour City.
It was an emotional day for many — not least Ian Roberts and Sarah Murdoch. The pair are longtime friends, and Murdoch has seen first-hand the former NRL player’s fight for equality after he became rugby league’s first — and only — player to come out as gay.
“It is a safe place that educates, breaks down discrimination barriers, ignorance, it is a really important place that represents a huge community of people in all the myriad ways that they are,” Murdoch told The Daily Telegraph.
“Pride is wonderful, and there is a lot of glitter and a lot of sparkle and we love our drag queens, but there is a deeper issue that needs to be talked about, understood and represented.”
Murdoch continued: “All of those people that fought for rights, where are their stories? Who is telling their stories? Who is recording them? If we don’t do this, we are going to lose the most important stories and that would be a tragedy.”
The Qtopia Sydney Hub at Green Park, Darlinghurst, provides a taste of what is to come at the future queer museum space that is proposed for the old Darlinghurst Police Station.
The location is currently being used by NSW Health, but Qtopia chief executive officer Greg Fisher has called on the state government to make the space available as the queer museum’s permanent home.
“Now I speak loudly and directly to the NSW Parliament,” Fisher said.
“The former Darlinghurst Police Station must be liberated from the horror history of its past bashing and humiliation of queer people at the hands of Authority to become Qtopia Sydney’s permanent home – to forever tell our stories – rich in survival and celebration – to welcome all and to foster a more cohesive community. Do it to liberate the property and respect those who were punished and humiliated simply for being queer. Do it to allow future generations to learn what inclusion really means and how identity is not the privilege of some, but the right of all. Do it to save lives.”
Murdoch’s close friend of three decades, rugby league great Ian Roberts, is a member on the 13 member Qtopia Sydney board alongside the likes of David Polson, John Waight, Katherine Wolfgramme and Romany Brooks.
Former High Court judge Michael Kirby and media doyenne Ita Buttrose are Qtopia Sydney patrons with the museum to reflect key moments in Australia’s queer history from first nations through to the original 1978 LGBT activists that marched in the first Sydney Mardi Gras, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the marriage equality debate and gender diversity.
Murdoch was one of Australia’s top models of the 90s. She lost friends and colleagues to HIV/AIDS.
“So many people that I worked with died,” she said. “It was incredibly shocking and terribly sad and the discrimination that continued to go on at that time was awful. I have seen a lot of discrimination over the years and we can’t let it continue. This will save lives because we have young people grappling with their identity that don’t have somewhere that represents them and that don’t feel they have a safe space. We need to continue to educate people, what happened with the NRL last year, if we stopped and spent a couple of years educating people, I think we might have had a better outcome.”
Buttrose meanwhile is a long-time ally and advocate for the queer community.
“Museums are cultural institutions and cultural institutions can shape public opinion and educate,” she said. “Qtopia is going to be able to do that, it will change people’s impressions of the queer history and the people involved in it and lead to acceptance and I hope remove stigma. This is a wonderful opportunity to explain the queer history and the persecution, the discrimination, the victories and successes that we’ve had in this community and people should know about this.”
Qtopia Sydney’s exhibition Ward 17 South meanwhile is based at the National Art School through World Pride that wraps on March 5.
Events and activations are being held across Sydney with the international event expected to pump $112 million into the visitors economy. Some 500,000 people are expected to participate across the 300 free and ticketed events.
Originally published as Emotional Sarah Murdoch’s million-dollar boost for Sydney’s first queer museum
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