Activists Honoured With Pride Seats

Liz Newell, Donna Ross, Maya Newell and Sari Boys with the Pride Seat

Seven special-edition rainbow Pride Seats, donated by Street Furniture Australia to the Inner West Council to celebrate marriage equality, have now been installed.

Each seat recognises a local activist who has advanced LGBTIQ human rights, equity and inclusion. They are found in the suburbs of Newtown, Rozelle, Marrickville, Leichhardt, Summer Hill and Lilyfield.

The unveiling …

The first rainbow seat, installed in Newtown, was unveiled in an emotional ceremony attended by many of the dedication nominees, their families, friends and the community.

Particularly moving speeches were given by the loved ones of those recognised posthumously.

Elder Aunty Jenny Thomsen opened the event with thoughts on rainbows as symbols of healing and love, saying the seats will “reflect light out” into the community.

“Public art is very important because it expresses who were are as a community and it makes us belong to that community. You feel happy, you feel safe, you feel as if you belong,” she said.

“Bless all you mob who have fought hard, never given up for the rights of people to live how they want to live.”

Crowd Unveiling Pride Seat-sc
Locals gathered to celebrate the Pride Seat launch.

Mayor Darcy Byrne thanked the nominees for their work, as well as the Council selection committee, LGBTIQ working group, and Street Furniture Australia.

“Street Furniture Australia have very generously donated the rainbow seats, seven of which we will now see across the Inner West Council area,” he said.

“I’d like to thank the Council officers for the idea that we could use the opportunity of rolling out these Pride Seats to acknowledge the people who did the heavy lifting to achieve civil rights and marriage equality in this country. That has been a long and bitter struggle.”

Pride Seat Unveiling-sc
Nominees and Councillor Pauline Lockie unveil the Pride Seat.

The dedications …

Roberta Perkins, Newtown

A trail blazer for Australian transgender people, Perkins was also an academic and writer who used her platform to fight for sex worker rights.

She established a refuge in Petersham for homeless trans people, now The Gender Centre, and was a founding member of the Australian Prostitutes Collective NSW, advocating for decriminalisation to improve lives. She passed away in June 2018.

Pride Seat Dedicated to Roberta Perkins
Pride Seat dedicated to Perkins in Newtown.

Peter ‘Bon’ Bonsall-Boone and Peter de Waal, Rozelle

Bonsall-Boone and de Waal were founding members of the Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP) NSW, started the first gay and lesbian phone counselling service in NSW in their home and are credited with Australia’s first on-screen male same-sex kiss. They took part in the first Sydney Mardi Gras in 1978.

“My partner Bon, who passed away about eighteen months ago, and I, were together as a couple for fifty years. We started campaigning for marriage equality because we wanted it, but also we felt it was a most important thing for our community to achieve. Unfortunately Bon passed away about five months before the legislation was passed,” said de Waal.

“The appreciation shown by the Inner West Council and its community is overwhelming, thank you.”

For more on their story, read ‘Trailblazing Couple Honoured’ by the Inner West Courier.

Peter de Waal gives a speech at the Pride Seat Launch. Video: William Brougham.

Alexander ‘Lex’ Watson, Marrickville

Said to have been the face of gay activism in Sydney for many of his generation, Watson was a foundation member of CAMP, a pioneer AIDS activist, organised the first Australian gay rights demonstration and advocated for homosexual law reform and anti-discrimination legislation.

Lex passed away in 2014, and was posthumously awarded a Queen’s Birthday Honour.

Lex Watson
Lex Watson’s sister and her husband. Photo: Inner West Rainbow Community.

The Pollys Club, Marrickville

The Pollys Club formed in 1964 and is said to be the longest running LGBTIQA+ social club in Australia, if not the world. They continue to raise money for charity through dances, with funds raised for men’s health, women’s health, youth health, mental health and animal welfare.

Inner West Rainbow Community Pollys Club
The Pollys Club with their Pride Seat. Photo: Inner West Rainbow Community.

Robyn Plaister, Leichhardt

Plaister worked on the Executive of CAMP and served on the organising committee for the first Mardi Gras. She nearly lost her job as a teacher when she appeared on the front pages of the Telegraph after Mardi Gras.

She started the Lesbian Mothers’ Group in 1976 and Lesbian Teachers Group in 1978, and was portrayed in the film Riot in 2018.

Inner West Council Robyn Plaister Pride Seat
Robyn Plaister visits her Pride Seat. Photo: Inner West Council.

Timothy J Bishop, Summer Hill

Bishop has worked for 25 years to enhance the inclusion and equity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the Australian LGBTIQA+ community. His ongoing project, preserves the history of Indigenous involvement in Mardi Gras through stories, photographs and rare archival footage.

Timothy J Bishop Pride Seat-sc
Timothy J Bishop with the Newtown Pride Seat.

The Feminist Bookshop, Lilyfield

Opening in 1974 and co-owned by sisters Jane Waddy, Libby Silva and Gail Hewison between 1982 and 2011, the bookshop and served as a meeting place offering advice and support to women coming out and questioning their sexuality.

“I’m very touched that we have been honoured in this way. We ran the bookshop together for 29 years. We’re very proud of the work that we did and of the community that we’re part of. Also I’d like to honour the women who started the bookshop, Julia and June,” said Hewison.

Feminist Bookshop-sc
Support for The Feminist Bookshop.

The nominees …

Some of the nominees’ family, friends and colleagues also spoke of their loved ones’ contribution.

Ross Higham, also known as Rose Leaf, was represented at the ceremony by his mother. “Ross, or Rose Leaf, was very active back in the eighties, nineties, 2000s, and he raised a lot of money to help people with AIDs. He used to go the hospitals to perform. I was always very proud of him, and I’m sure he would be proud of this too,” she said.

The full list of nominees:

  • Alan Brotherton
  • Alexander ‘Lex’ Watson
  • Katherine Cummings
  • Lauren (Loz) Foy
  • Liz Dods
  • Liz Newell, Donna Ross and Maya Newell
  • Local Labor – Penny Sharpe, Mary O’Sullivan and Laura Wright
  • Major Peter McDonald Trebilco
  • Matthew Howard
  • Norrie mAy-Welby
  • Peter ‘Bon’ Bonsall-Boone and Peter de Waal
  • Rainbow Families
  • Roberta Perkins
  • Robyn Plaister
  • Ross Higham aka Rose Leaf
  • Summer Hill Rainbow Crossing
  • Teresa Savage
  • The Addison Road Community Centre
  • The Feminist Bookshop
  • The Flying Bats
  • The Pollys Club
  • Timothy J Bishop
  • Two Boys in Saris
  • Uniting

Pride Seat Nominees and Representatives
Some of the nominees and their representatives, with Mayor Darcy Byrne.

The story and contribution of each nominee is recorded on stickers on the footpath in front of the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre.

The Inner West Pride Seats are Street Furniture Australia’s Park Seats, with battens powdercoated in Lobster Red, Sensation Orange, Brilliant Yellow, Viper Green, Bondi Blue, Jaybird Blue and Dark Violet, and Telemagenta Pink frames.

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