BGF 30 Years: Bobby Goldsmith, a life of pride and promise
As the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation marks its 30th year, Cec Busby recounts the life of the man who inspired it all.
Bobby Goldsmith’s name is synonymous with the foundation that lends support to people living with HIV/AIDs. But in the 70s and early 80s, Bobby, like many young gay men of the time, answered Sydney’s siren call to find love and freedom of expression on the Oxford Street scene.
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The younger of two children, Bobby was born in Forbes in Central NSW where he developed a passion for fitness and sport; in particular, swimming. Initially he planned to be a teacher but these plans were put aside after his first experiences prac teaching. “His first school, Captain’s Flat, proved to him that teaching was not the best career for him and with the backing of the family he resigned,” recalls Bobby’s sister Wendy White.
Above: Bobby Goldsmith at the beach in the 1970s.
Making the move to Sydney, Bobby went to work at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and quickly settled into Sydney life. Sydney’s beach and party culture was said to sit well with Bobby who was a frequenter of Tamarama, Bondi and Lady Jane Beach, which he liked to visit for swimming, body surfing, sunbaking and meeting other gay men.
Indeed Wendy commented some of their best bonding moments with Bobby occurred “lying on the beach admiring the bodies of the young men parading around”.
All of that beach time gave Bobby plenty of opportunity to nurture his swimming talents and in 1982 he made his second trip to the US to compete in the ‘Gay Olympics’, or what is now known as the Gay Games.
Whilst at the Games this out and proud gay man cleaned up the competition, bringing home 17 of the Sydney team’s 21 medals. Bobby won four gold, eleven silver and two bronze medals and also competed in a number of the younger age class races with success.
Above: Bobby Goldsmith at the Gay Games in San Francisco in 1982.
And despite all the energy expended in the water, Bobby still found time for partying. As he wrote to a friend: “Had a good time. Successful at Olympics. Party for three days without sleep etc. Have been to the Trocadero four times – not doing bars or baths this time around, just disco.”
Bobby’s medal tally at the Gay Games earned him certain notoriety in Sydney and soon after his return from the US he met his partner Ken Bryan.
A year later, Bobby was diagnosed with HIV and he died on June 18, 1984, at the age of 38.
Today, his memory lives on as the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation.
VIDEO: Alan Goodchild shares his memories of his old friend, Bobby Goldsmith