Jeremy Fisher, Macquarie University

“Jeremy Fisher was expelled from Macquarie University Sir Robert Menzies College because he was a homosexual. At the requests of students at the University, a ban was placed on all building at the University. Ban Lifted: Jeremy Fisher decided not to pursue the matter.

Joe Owens to Executive Members and Full-time Workers:- A list of our Green Bans and other community actions in support of residents.”

Reference: Joe Owens Deposit, Noel Butlin Archive, ANU. BLF (NSW) 15 June 1973; 22 October 1973; 5 June, 1974.

Liz Ross has  published Revolution is for Us: the Left and Gay Liberation in Australia. (Interventions, 2013)

The 1970s is a big time for the issues and trade unions are a big part of the story.
Green bans were established actions of the NSW BLF and resident groups by 1973. But discrimination at work was (and is) a big issue. Liz tells this part of the story.
“A first for working class solidarity were bans, now known as “Pink Bans”, put on by the NSW branch of the Builders Labourers Federation (BLF) in support of two gay students.
In June 1973, student and Gay Lib club treasurer Jeremy Fisher was expelled from a Church of England residential college at Macquarie University. Told by the college head Alan Cole that homosexuality was a perversion, he had to agree to “be chaste” and accept treatment or he’d be out.

Fisher refused and took his case, somewhat hesitantly, to a couple of office bearers in the student union. Rod Webb, editor of the student newspaper Arena, a member of the Socialist Workers League (SWL) and Jeff Hayler, Chair of the Students Representatives Council (SRC), took up his case straight away. They organised some on campus rallies and as Fisher recalls, they immediately went to work, ringing their contacts across Sydney.

The ABC interviewed him and showed footage on that night’s news. “Suddenly the BLF had green-banned construction at the college over me.”

Buildings were being put up apace at Macquarie, including the residences that Fisher was staying at. The union had gone to its members and put the request for support to them. They had voted that if Jeremy Fisher wasn’t reinstated then building would stop, not only at the college but on other sites at the university.

At one point it looked like the whole deal would unravel, as Jeremy Fisher tells the story:
“The BLF assumed I wanted to go back until one day, down in the Students’ Council basement, Bob Pringle, then part of the BLF leadership asked me:
“Why do you want to go back to that place?”
“I don’t,” I said
“But we’re on strike to put you back”, he said a hint of anger in his eyes.
“I thought because I’d been kicked out because I was gay” I answered.
Bob paused then said: “I guess you’re right. It’s the principle of the thing. They shouldn’t pick on a bloke because of his sexuality.”
Jack Mundey, NSW secretary of the union and a member of the CPA [Communist Party of Australia], explained that “the homosexual movement had come to the Builders’ Labourers and said, you’re against the idea of workers not having a right, well [it’s the same for students not having rights]. Because the students and workers had joined forces against the Vietnam War and anti-apartheid, Mundey said, there was already a sense of solidarity between students and trade unionists.

Not that every builders labourer was a “galloping conservationist or women’s libber or even supporter of the rights of gays”, Mundey pointed out, but the union encouraged people from the various campaigns and liberation movements to address members about discrimination.
Read more in Liz Ross. Revolution is for Us: the Left and Gay Liberation in Australia. (Interventions, 2013)

Jack Mundey Exhibitions: Sydney Trades Hall Archive, Jack Mundey exhibit at Trades Hall (by historians Neil Towart and Bill PIrrie), 2021. 


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