We often think of Australia as being quite a progressive country, but when it comes to LGBTQ equality the Australians have been relatively slow movers.
One of the key activists instrumental in helping the LGBTQ community work towards equality in Australia is Rodney Croome. Let’s take a look at his life and career.
11 April 1964
Croome grew up on a dairy farm in Tasmania’s North West. The state of Tasmania is an island to the south of mainland Australia.
He studied European History at the University of Tasmania, graduating in 1988.
Up until 1 May 1997, homosexuality was illegal in the state of Tasmania. It was a criminal offence punishable by up to 25 years in jail.
Croome was one of the leaders of the campaign by the LGBTQ community in Tasmania pushing for decriminalisation.
That campaign saw Tasmanian activists take their case to the United Nations, the Federal Government of Australia, and the High Court of Australia.
It was an incredibly personal campaign. One of the tactics used was that Croome and his then-partner Nick Toonen – along with other activists – would present themselves to Tasmanian police and provide evidence detailing how they had contravened Tasmania’s anti-gay laws. This action brought media attention to the campaign while at the same time risking prosecution and imprisonment.
In 1997, in the case of Croome v Tasmania, Croome applied to the High Court of Australia for a ruling as to whether the Tasmanian laws were inconsistent with the Federal Human Rights (Sexual Conduct) Act (1994). The Tasmanian Government repealed the relevant Criminal Code provisions after failing in its attempts to have the matter struck out.
Tasmania was the last state in Australia to decriminalise homosexuality.
Croome went on to become one of the leading voices advocating for marriage equality in Australia.
In June 2003, Croome was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia for “service to the community as a human rights advocate, particularly through promoting tolerance and understanding of the human rights of gay and lesbian people”.
In 2015, Croome was named Tasmanian of the Year.