Alison Atkinson-Phillips is a social and cultural historian currently working as an associate researcher at the Newcastle University Oral History Unit & Collective (UK). This paper was developed with the support of a Postdoctoral Transition Research Fellowship at the Australian Centre for Public History, University of Technology, Sydney. Alison’s PhD thesis was a study of Australian public memorials that commemorate lived experiences of loss and trauma.
Volume 38, May 2018
In January 1996, a young, lesbian woman named Mary was verbally abused and physically and sexually assaulted in a laneway in Surry Hills, an inner suburb of Sydney. The homophobic hate crime became the catalyst for a place-based art project that reclaimed the laneway for Sydney’s LGBTIQ community. Just over a decade later, the original commemoration was replaced by a high profile public artwork. This paper offers a comparison of these two place-based commemorations. Although only a relatively short period separates them, the social context is radically different, as is the response to the hate crime. Whereas the first Mary’s Place artwork focused on the LGBTIQ experience of violence, the 2010 commemoration emphasized Mary’s femaleness. By exploring the similarities and differences of the two responses, this paper explores changes over time in social responses to LGBTIQ people, and the power of language in responses to violence.