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Historian Gareth Watkins remembers significant moments in the history of Aotearoa New Zealand’s rainbow communities.

23 January 1964

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the brutal killing of Charles Allan Aberhart. Aberhart was not only persecuted by this country’s laws, with a conviction in 1963 for consensual homosexual activity (a conviction that would ultimately be expunged in 2019), but he and his family were also denied justice after he was beaten to death in Christchurch’s Hagley Park a year later by a group of teenage boys. The youths were caught shortly after the attack and charged with manslaughter. The all-male jury heard how the group had gone to the park specifically with the intention to “smack up some queers.” A detective noted that some of the group had done this type of thing before. The court heard how the teenagers had approached a number of men that evening. After luring Charles Aberhart into conversation, they viciously attacked him and left him to die. The youths didn’t deny assaulting him, but claimed he had propositioned them. The jury found all six not guilty. As Ian Breward wrote in the journal Landfall in 1965, “Homosexuals in New Zealand labour under a triple disadvantage. They are regarded with disgust, suffer severe legal penalties if convicted and, worst of all, are not even guaranteed the posthumous satisfaction of seeing their assailants brought to justice; that is, they are not considered equal with other citizens before the law.”

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23-25 January 2009

The national Kaha Queer Youth Hui took place at Wellington’s Tapu Te Ranga Marae. The hui built on earlier annual gatherings run by OUT THERE, a joint initiative between the New Zealand AIDS Foundation and Rainbow Youth. The first OUT THERE hui in 2003 attracted around 40 participants. In 2007, over 70 rainbow youth attended, and by 2009, the attendance had jumped to around 130 people. Nathan Brown, one of the organisers of Kaha in 2007, noted, “Quite a few of the young participants said that Kaha was their first marae experience. Many parallels were drawn between racism and homophobia through the incorporation of tikanga into the process of the hui.” The experiences gained at those early Kaha hui still resonate strongly today. One of those attendees was Tabby Besley, who would go on to co-found InsideOUT Koaro – a national charity supporting and advocating for rainbow youth. In a recent interview, Besley talked about how those earlier gatherings fed into the development of Shift hui – a significant annual event for rainbow youth from around Aotearoa.

1 January 2023

Author Gina Cole was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature. In 2016, she published her first collection of short stories called Black Ice Matter. It would go on to win the Best First Book Fiction award at the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. In 2022, she published her first science fiction novel, Na Viro. In an interview on the Creative NZ website, Cole said, “Science fiction can be used as a tool to write about culture and queer identity, especially in the afterlife of imperialism and colonialism in the Pacific. [It] provides the ability to imagine new futures and to recover Indigenous histories that may have been lost in the colonial project.” A review in the journal Landfall said that the work was “an important and enjoyable pioneering story that not only brings a uniquely Pasifika voice to the genre but also uses its inter-galactic plot to celebrate the traditions and challenges of the Pacific.”

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