Gay men respond to news of Vic Gov’s plans to expunge records
Gay men throughout Victoria have responded with relief to the news they will no longer be considered sex offenders or criminals for having gay sex prior to the decriminalisation of homosexual sex in Victoria in 1981.
80-year-old indigenous man, Noel Tovey, best known to the arts community for his body of work as a choreographer, dancer and actor, was one of the many thousands of men convicted before decriminalisation.
Tovey said he was relieved he could apply to have his conviction erased.
Tovey was jailed in 1951 at the age of 17 for the crime of buggery. He was released from jail on good behaviour after serving several months.
"It's good to know at the age of 80, that I am no longer a criminal in the eyes of the law and society," said Mr Tovey.
Tovey grew up using his father’s surname of Morton – under which he was charged – but unlike many who were convicted, he was able to get a passport and leave Australia after learning he was illegitimate and the surname on his birth certificate was Tovey.
"I was one of the lucky ones, I was able to get a job after my conviction and leave the country."Tovey explained.
Other men did not have a such a happy ending, Tom Anderson was 14 in 1977 when he was preyed upon by his boss and coerced into performing sexual acts.
When Anderson told his parents what had happened, they called the police, resulting in the arrest of the sexual predator, but also outrageously, the charging of the victim with a count of buggery.
Fortunately for Anderson, no conviction was recorded. However he still feels the impact of that day in court.
“I have never been able to comprehend and understand how a victim of sexual abuse as a minor could possibly also be charged with what was a criminal offence back then. I had to face a magistrate and plead guilty and admit to him that what I did was wrong even though I did not understand what the charges actually meant. How can a 14 year old boy be actually supposed to know what buggery is and that it was wrong and a criminal offence?” said Anderson.
Anderson hopes one day he will receive a written apology and pardon so he can put those days to rest.
Director of Gay & Lesbian Health Victoria, Liam Leonard, welcomed the Government’s announcement and commitment to legislate to erase past convictions for consensual sexual activity between men.
“Erasing such convictions is a powerful symbolic act that recognises the inherent dignity and value of gay, lesbian and bisexual people’s sexuality and recognises that laws criminalising male homosexuality were themselves unjust.
"It also recognises the continuing hurt and shame inflicted on those people who carry the weight of those convictions and the healing power that comes with public understanding that these convictions were wrong, unjust and deeply discriminatory,” said Leonard.