The University of Newcastle, Australia

Copley Bequest funds project that tells marriage equality stories of Newcastle and the Hunter

Friday, 17 May 2019

New project to examine local's experiences of the marriage equality debate and postal survey.

A multi-disciplinary team of University of Newcastle researchers has received $10,000 Copley Bequest grant funding for a project that will capture and share locals’ lived experiences of the marriage equality debate and postal survey.

Led by historian Dr James Bennett of the School of Humanities and Social Science, the project team comprises Classics and gender, Professor Marguerite Johnson, lecturer in Law Dr Kcasey McLoughlin, and Social Work lecturer Dr David Betts and University Art Curator, Gillean Shaw.

Dr Bennett said current histories of LGBT+ people in Australia focus on Melbourne and Sydney but this project would be the first to focus on a regional LGBT+ community specifically in relation to the topic of marriage equality.

“The federal electorate of Newcastle produced the largest percentage vote (75%) for marriage equality in the 2017 postal ballot outside the capital cities,” he said.

“The major aim of the project is to help to tell a story yet to be told at an international, national and local level. The stories will be interpreted through a public exhibition to be held at Watt Space Gallery. The project will uncover many stories about this significant social and policy issue in the Newcastle and Hunter region, including: a detailed analysis of the postal survey vote; impacts on LGBT+ mental health; lobbying to bring about change, and the panoply of responses from both LGBT+ individuals and social groups.”

Dr Bennett said the project would make a timely and important social and cultural contribution by collaborating with industry and community partners to create a new and permanent resource that tells a previously unknown story about LGBT+ equality rights.

“The recent shifts in power dynamics pertaining to sexualities, the body, medicalisation, and the law – represented most profoundly by the marriage equality debate – has created a significant new social and policy context with implications for family law, religious freedom and gay ‘conversion therapy’ practices,” he said,

“The LGBT+ community is directly affected by these shifts but in ways that have not yet been fully explored. Given the vulnerability of the LGBT+ community and its critical absence from traditional histories of the region, this project will be the first to document the history of the LGBT+ movement in the Newcastle and Hunter region during the critical decade leading to marriage equality.”

The interdisciplinary project will connect researchers in History, Social Work and Law to align with the University of Newcastle’s Strategic Plan by supporting two of the University’s Global Impact Clusters: Stronger Cities, Communities and Regions, and Better Health, Healthcare and Treatment.

The project is generously supported by a bequest from the late Mrs Janet Copley and will culminate in an exhibition at the University of Newcastle’s city gallery, WattSpace, over the summer months of 2019-2020.

The Janet Copley Bequest funds undergraduate and doctoral scholarships and provides seed funding for early- and mid-career researchers across the Humanities and Social Science disciplines.

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