‘North of the Border : stories from the a matter of time project’ By Heather Faulkner, 2016. A review by John Cook.

                                                                                                             I approached reading this book with considerable interest. I am 77 years old and have lived in Queensland all my life as gay man. Unfortunately, despite my first boyfriend being an early and very active liberationist who gave me a brief view into his friendships with lesbian activists, our soon parting meant that my retreat into suburbia ended those contacts until later in my life when other natural and very dear friendships occurred.

I honour that man’s dedication, which has continued all his life and was recognised last year at the highest level. What the book did for me was to open up so many similarities and differences that the eight lesbian women presented experienced at the same time in the 70’s and later. Importantly, It also pointed some of individual differences in responding to the challenges of those times that were then responsible for different lifetime pathways. The book and the material behind it is clearly valuable for its historical nature and to help those uninvolved and those born later to appreciate what was involved for those living outside whatever Joh Bjelke-Peterson, Rona Joyner and their cohorts saw as being ‘normal’.

The background for the book is a larger project and, in the case of the author, a photographic, journalistic and eventually academic work that brought her into contact with gays but particularly lesbian subjects. This snowballed into a larger, wider and longer (six years) involvement with contributions in a number of directions. This book offers relatively brief sketches of the lives of its diverse subjects who see their formative years in 70’s Queensland as a key to understanding them with a love of what it was and its potential.

The stories are absorbing in themselves and highly evocative of the time, place, people and their pleasures, joys and struggles. What enlarges the book greatly is the inclusion of photographs from the past and present. They share a warmth and observational skill.

I lived through and shared that period. I felt the pressures from society, government and employment. I was very aware of what Greg Weir came to symbolize. I lectured to Joh’s daughter, only too aware that my words could find themselves to his dinner table. As this note is being written for a queer book group blog, I find it appropriate to reproduce the following illustration of where Joh’s creature Rona’s mindset led.

Of course, we mostly survived this period and found our own pathways as did the wonderful women in this book and this is what is to be celebrated – that so many positive changes have been made and positive lives lived in an environment to be celebrated.

(BCC library has 5 copies + I ebook)                                                                                                                                                                Rona's Death List




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