University marks historic event
Forty years after the drowning of homosexual law lecturer George Duncan in the River Torrens, the University of Adelaide has marked the anniversary with a celebration of gay rights and a public forum.
University staff, students and members of the public gathered on the river bank near the University footbridge to remember the events of 10 May 1972, when Duncan's drowning triggered public outrage and led to South Australia becoming the first State to decriminalise homosexuality.
The formal service, organised by the Adelaide University Union and the Student Representative Council, attracted some high-profile guests, including State Labor MP Ian Hunter, as well as Greens MLC Tammy Frank, and Sandra Kank. Senator Penny Wong provided a written statement of support.
A timeline depicting the milestones and changes in gay rights since 1972 was also displayed in The Cloisters.
The SA Gay and Lesbian Archives in association with the School of History and Politics and the Adelaide Law School presented a public forum on the same day, discussing the historical and political repercussions of George Duncan's drowning.
Duncan, a frail man with one lung, was allegedly thrown into the River Torrens near Kintore Avenue by a group of men believed to be senior police officers.
His drowning led to a coronial inquiry, intervention by detectives from Scotland Yard, and three Vice Squad officers being charged with manslaughter although they were eventually acquitted.
While a conviction was never recorded, Duncan's death resulted in him being held up as a martyr by the Gay Rights movement, with the subsequent decriminalisation of homosexuality.
A memorial was erected near the site of Duncan's drowning on 10 May 2002, the 30th anniversary of his death.
Story by Candy Gibson