Archived Article From 2003
PFLAG in Australia started in Perth in December 1989. In the US, parents of lesbians and gays groups have existed since 1973. However, the US Federation of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays was formed following the 1979 march on Washington for Human Rights.
Now there are PFLAG chapters throughout America and all around the world. The name was changed a few years ago to be Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
June Smythe was the first person in Australia to contact and register with the US PFLAG Federation in 1986. She then tried for two years, without success, to find other interested parents to start a PFLAG chapter in Western Australia.
In February 1989, Margaret and John Pugh were told about June by an American author with whom John was corresponding at the time. The author had taken the trouble to contact PFLAG in California and they had told her that the only contact they had for PFLAG in Australia was June Smythe in Kewdale. So John, Margaret and June met in March 1989 and resolved to try and get a PFLAG chapter going in WA.
John and Margaret Pugh proudly receiving their
Order of Australia Medal in 2011
In 1989, the legislation was being introduced into State Parliament to change laws that were concerned with homosexuality. Apart from the lack of laws against discrimination, up until this time, it was also a criminal offence for males to have sex with males. We knew that it was not entirely unlawful for females to have sex with each other, because Queen Victoria said that this was not possible.
During this Law Reform Campaign, a number of parents emerged lobbying politicians on behalf of their gay sons and lesbian daughters. One lady, Heather Horntvedt, became well known in parliamentary precincts for her unceasing lobbying of politicians at this time.
These parents and other known parents of lesbians and gays got to know each other and met to hold the first official meeting of PFLAG Perth in Wilson on Saturday 2nd December 1989.
A short time later, June managed to get a grant of $700 from a State (Labor) Government Department; then with the help of WISH (Western Institute of Self-Help – now Connect Groups) PFLAG Perth held its first meetings on their premises. Meetings were held monthly at first, then twice a month for several years. Of the original 19 parents and friends present at the first meeting, only June, Margaret and John are still active members of PFLAG Perth (as of 2003.)
However, Heather Horntvedt, another of Perth’s founding members, moved over to Sydney with her husband Doug in 1990. She began another campaign in Sydney and formed a PFLAG chapter there. This group became a focus for other PFLAG groups to spring up in the Eastern States of Australia.
News of the new self-help group in Perth spread fairly quickly and many people made contact with us (by phone) in those first years. Invitations were received from UWA, Murdock, Curtin and Edith Cowan Universities to speak to and attend orientation days with PFLAG literature. A few invitations also came from TV and radio for interviews. These occasions were very rewarding for those brave enough to go along.
Among those who joined PFLAG in the early years, were Helen Parlavecchio, Alice Shepherd and Glenda and George Rendell. The first committee was formed by President – June Smythe; Secretary – John Pugh; Treasurer – Helen Horntvedt. Alice and Margaret, Glenda and George (isolated on a farm as they were) became phone contacts for country people and a great deal of PFLAG literature was distributed by Glenda. John and Margaret Pugh took time to travel in 1994 and Alice became secretary.
In time, it seemed appropriate that the group should become incorporated. So Alice set her mind to this task and largely due to her efforts PFLAG Perth became an incorporated body in 1995, during Alice’s term as secretary.
Since then the roles of President, Vice President, Secretary Treasurer and committee members have been held very admirably by many other people, helping PFLAG Perth become a credible part of Perth’s gay community and helping parents, families and friends of so-called ‘sexually different’ people to fully accept them and love them simply for who they are.