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Sydney’s home of queer history and culture

A memorial to people who died during the AIDS epidemic and a museum celebrating Sydney’s queer history has opened to the public. Qtopia, Sydney’s first queer museum – and the largest in the world – is located on the site of an old police station next to Taylor Square in Darlinghurst.

The launch on February 23 was a moving and celebratory event. A Welcome to Country was given by Nadina Dixon, with musical performances by Seann Miley Moore.

The museum, which invites the public to add further names to the memorial in the first room of the complex, features exhibitions about Indigenous history, transgender history, the changing legal status of homosexuality, queer media and police brutality.

Qtopia chief executive Greg Fisher said the place showed the dramatic social changes over time. “When you walk into Qtopia Sydney, the first thing you will notice is that it doesn’t look anything like a police station anymore,” Mr Fisher said. “We’ve transformed the building into a storyteller.”

The Qtopia building also includes a new 60-seat theatre called the Loading Dock that will showcase stories from the LGBTQIA+ community.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced $1.5 million in federal funding for further upgrades to the museum at a launch also attended by NSW Premier Chris Minns and Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore.

Mr Albanese paid tribute to the 78ers, a group of LGBT activists who marched in the first Mardi Gras in 1978, and to Paul O’Grady, the first out politician in Australia. “It has been a long journey, a history of struggle and brave leadership,” the prime minister acknowledged.

“Qtopia is a sign of social change and inclusivity. When that happens, society as a whole benefits. Difference is not just tolerated but celebrated – and that’s what Qtopia does.”

HIV/AIDS survivor David Polson said the opening fulfilled the vision of the doctor who cared for him, the late David Cooper AC, who wanted an AIDS museum in Sydney.

“Under David’s great care, I undertook 28 HIV trial drugs, all of which were extremely toxic and horrendous,” Mr Polson said. “But all those years of feeling ghastly and suffering were worth it. HIV is now a manageable chronic condition, not a death sentence.

“Qtopia will be a wonderful place of memory, celebration and education.”

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