Australia //

Gay and lesbian Australia

Australia is a fixture on the Queer map thanks to its great climate and laid-back lifestyle. Sydney is Australia’s gay-friendly capital, especially in March when hundreds of thousands of people pour in for the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras. Despite its reputation as a macho culture, the country revels in a large and active scene: you’ll find an air of confidence and a sense of community that is often missing in other parts of the world.

Australia is testimony to the power of the pink dollar: there’s an abundance of gay venues, services, businesses, travel clubs, country retreats and the like. The scene obviously makes full use of sun and sport, and while it’s far from limited to the toned muscle crowd, it’s worth packing your swimming and especially clubbing gear to make the most of a thriving community that, in cities at least, is fully integrated. Australian dykes are refreshingly open – a relief after the cliquey European scene. The flip side of such fearlessness is the predominance of S&M on the scene.

The age of consent varies: in ACT, NSW, the Northern Territory, Victoria and Western Australia (16) and SA and Tasmania (both 17), it is the same as the heterosexual age. In Queensland, the age of consent for homosexuals depends on the sexual act practised, with anal sex outlawed until 18, but otherwise 16.

Where to go

Sydney is the jewel in Australia’s navel. Famous as one of the world’s great gay cities, it attracts lesbian and gay visitors from around the world. Melbourne closely follows, but there are scenes in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, and to a lesser extent Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and Darwin.

Away from the cities, things get more discreet, but a lot of country areas do have friendly local scenes – impossible to pinpoint, but easy to stumble across. However, Outback mainstays of mining and cattle ranching are not famed for their tolerance of homosexuality, so tread carefully in remote destinations.

Pinkboard whttp://www.pinkboard.com.au. Popular, long-running website with useful “Graffiti Walls” full of parties, personal ads and classifieds sections with everything from house-shares, party tickets for sale, employment and a help and advice section. Posting ads is free.

The Pink Directory whttp://www.thepinkdirectory.com.au. Online directory of gay and lesbian business and community information.

Star Observer whttp://www.ssonet.com.au. Former web presence of Sydney’s free gay newspaper, now an online magazine that covers news nationwide.

Melbourne Community Voice whttp://mcv.gaynewsnetwork.com.au. News, features and lifestyle from the city’s weekly community magazine.

ALSO Foundation whttp://www.also.org.au. Based in Victoria, but an excellent nationwide directory.

DNA whttp://www.dnamagazine.com.au. The nation’s best-selling Queer title, an upmarket lifestyle magazine for gay men.

LOTL (Lesbians on the Loose) whttp://www.lotl.com. A monthly publication available at lesbian and gay venues.

Tourist services and travel agents

GALTA (Gay and Lesbian Tourism Australia) whttp://www.galta.com.au. An online resource and nonprofit organization that promotes the gay and lesbian tourism industry with good links.

Gay Travel whttp://www.gaytravel.com. Online travel agent, concentrating mostly on accommodation.

International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association whttp://www.iglta.org. Trade group with lists of gay-owned or gay-friendly travel businesses.

Q Beds whttp://www.qbeds.com. Accommodation directory and booking service.

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