About me

To start at the beginning...

Bob in Lisbon

I was born in Moss Vale in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales in 1936. My family had a small apple orchard and farm surrounded by miles of bush, an hour's walk from the small village of Exeter. It was a lonely life for a kid and, without playmates of my own age, I had to amuse myself as best I could. Such isolation probably was the cause of my over-active imagination and for the plethora of hobbies and interests which have filled my spare time ever since.

While I loved the bush and the deep Bundanoon gullies where I spent my youth, in 1954 I happily went off to Sydney and to university, first Sydney University and later, for post-graduate study, the University of New South Wales. Although originally I intended to study English and history, I ended up with degrees in psychology and anthropology although, no matter what the course, I always did extra units of history and much later, Indonesian and Malay Studies. All this eventually led to work in a variety of positions including clinical psychologist in the NSW psychiatric hospital system, research sociologist for the Department of Immigration and finally, student counsellor at the University of NSW. This last position, in which I stayed for 20 years, started me off as the counsellor for foreign students (the university had a high proportion of Asian students and my Bahasa Indonesia and Asian studies came in handy) but gradually morphed into my serving as what was known in the short hand of the day as the 'gay counsellor', trying to help students and others dealing with problems with their sexuality.

Like most homosexual men in the world, I married, and enjoyed a good marriage for about 15 years before separating in 1974. We had two children and I now have 3 grand daughters. However, since my wife and I both knew I was gay even well before we married, I eventually came out and joined the Gay Rights movement which was just beginning then in Australia. My concern was less political than for the welfare of gay and lesbian people and my major contribution, I suppose, was my work in gay counselling. This began with 'Phone-A-Friend', the telephone counselling service established by CAMP, the first publicly homosexual organization in Australia. In 1980, when I was its president, we changed the name to 'Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service of NSW' which survives today as the first openly homosexual charity. Not long after, I became one of the owners and publishers of what is now called The Sydney Star Observer, Australia's oldest and biggest gay and lesbian newspaper.

Back in the early '70s my interest in history of course led me into family history which in its turn led me into doing original archival historical research. My area of interest was the convict period in Australia and, although I did research other topics, my major contribution here was the biography of the earliest known homosexual convict transported to Australia - for an account of this see my 'World History of Homosexuality' course, #19 Shirt-lifting in Sydney Town.

At the age of 50 I "retired" and went to sculpture school where, for the next 5 years I absorbed not only some of Tom Bass' sculpture techniques but also a little of his renowned wisdom. Since then I have added sculpture to my hobbies which also include a 40-year addiction to pottery and a 60-year addiction to photography (I developed my first photographs in the laundry with the aid of my father's bicycle torch and some red cellophane).

In the dying days of 1999 I "met" my partner through the Internet. We kept up a correspondence by email and early in 2000, began to talk to each other via video chat. One thing led to another, he came here to visit in July of that year, I went to Portugal in February the following year and again in 2002 when we set up house together in the Bairro Alto in Lisbon and lived there while he completed his university course. Then we came back to Australia where we have lived together in Canberra ever since. Although I have tried very hard to learn Portuguese, it is not only a very difficult language but also there is a paucity of courses available in Canberra. These days I have to be satisfied with being able to read menus and train timetables….

Most of my life I lived in Sydney with only a brief 5 years sojourn in Brisbane. For most of those years in Sydney I lived in the 19th century environment of first Paddington and later, Newtown. When I was 60, I sold my house in Newtown and moved to Canberra. I first came here when I was 9 and had been a frequent visitor ever after, rejoicing in the truly blue mountains of the Brindabella Range and watching the Lake fill…. Transplanting myself here was like moving from Victorian England to 20th Century Australia, with rosellas in the garden and in summer, the scent of eucalyptus in the air. It is like being back home in the bush again, but not as lonely as it was when I was a kid.