Roger Lovell/Tasmanians United for Marriage Equality | 14243
The campaign to legalise homosexuality in Tasmania began in 1988, when activists set up a stall at the Saturday market in Hobart’s Salamanca Place, collecting signatures for a petition. Every Saturday, Hobart City Council officials would order them to dismantle the stall. When they refused, the council would summon police, waiting in nearby vans, who arrested dozens of people.
With the Salamanca Market one of Tasmania’s biggest tourist attractions, drawing thousands each weekend, the civil disobedience campaign won widespread coverage. A total of 130 people were arrested, including leading Tasmanian gay activist Rodney Croome, who was detained four times. It was the largest act of gay rights civil disobedience in Australian history.
The Council finally backed down and allowed the stall on International Human Rights Day, December 10, 1988.
The events at Salamanca Place are remembered in an artwork now installed in Hobart Hall. The commemorative artwork called “The Yellow Line” represents the border of the Market which supporters of the stall would face arrest for crossing.
Rodney Croome commented:
“The artwork recalls a time when people were arrested simply for petitioning for human rights, and is also a reminder of how far we have come since then, inspiring hope for a better future. Tasmanians can be proud that we are publicly acknowledging both the mistreatment and the acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, and that we are leading the nation in such acknowledgement. This commemorative artwork is a permanent reminder of the victory of acceptance over prejudice and love over hate.”
It was another decade before Tasmania bowed to national and international pressure, which included condemnation of its laws by the UN’s Human Rights Committee.