Monday Conference's discussion of homosexuality in Mount Isa 40 years ago

SITE FROM TELEVISION: The amphitheatre next to the Mount Isa Civic Centre was once the location for a program called Monday Conference.
SITE FROM TELEVISION: The amphitheatre next to the Mount Isa Civic Centre was once the location for a program called Monday Conference.

IT’S HARD to imagine a little used amphitheatre next to the Mount Isa Civic Centre was the site of a televised discussion about homosexuality. 

In 1976 Sydney based gay rights activist Lex Watson was interviewed on the stage by presenter Robert Clifton Moore on Monday Conference, with questions taken from the local crowd. 

In 2017 as the topic of legislating gay marriage flared across Australia with the timing of postal votes, so do the media reports of abuse from both sides of the argument.

But 40 years ago when Mr Watson visited a more conservative mining town he had sewage thrown at him on national television for speaking his views.The man who threw the sewage from a bottle was escorted from the area by local police as shown on an edited Youtube version of the episode. 

When Mr Watson died in 2014 this event was included in his obituary. Many in the crowd showed support and at the end of the program there was loud applause from the crowd. However, some in the crowd expressed concern that God used cyclones to highlight his displeasure, or made claims of links between murder and homosexuals. Mr Watson responded to the first by saying “superstitious nonsense” and the second by explaining homosexuals were the victims themselves. 

Joe Rogers, of Mount Isa, voted ‘no’ in the marriage equality vote. He recalls when the televised event was held in 1976. He was working underground at the time so could not attend but he worked with the man who threw the sewage. Mr Rogers said he watched the man fill the bottle from what was known as a “geisha” 19 levels underground.  

Lex Watson

Lex Watson

“When he did it we laughed and joked about it for months after,” Mr Rogers said. “It landed on his (Mr Watson’s) boot and they reckon he did not bat an eyelid.

“That was the joke at the time.” 

Mount Isa man Barry Byrne, who has recently spoken about his homosexuality, watched the episode of Mr Watson’s televised discussion a fortnight ago. He thought Mr Watson handled himself well. 

“I can see the higher level of animosity back there which I suppose in some respects is understandable,” Mr Byrne said. “But there was a lot of applause. I did note that.”

He thought the actions of the man who threw sewage were “regrettable”. 

“I saw the gentleman being escorted off. I do hope he was charged and I do not mean that in a malicious sense.” 

Mr Byrne said there was still much relevance from the topics discussed in the program even though it was aired 40 years ago. “It’s similiar to a debate we’re having today.

“Whatever your social viewpoint, everyone in this country and everyone in this world deserves respect and love.”