Historian Gareth Watkins checks out dates in April’s past that were significant milestones for the queer community.

28 April 1869

Painter Frances Hodgkins was born in Dunedin. At the time, Dunedin was the most populous city in New Zealand and was home to a vibrant artistic community. Hodgkins first exhibited there in 1890, and five years later won the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts prize for painting from life. Around the same time, she qualified as a teacher and began taking private art classes. In 1901, she left New Zealand for Europe, where she met fellow expatriate artist Dorothy Richmond. Richmond had written to Hodgkins, “I’m looking forward to meeting you with real joy. I think companionship doubles the pleasure and halves the sorrows of life.” Later, Hodgkins wrote from Europe to her sister, “When I am particularly down, Miss Richmond comes and tucks me up. She goes to England today. It is very sad saying goodbye to a face like hers, even for a short time. I wish you could see her at night with a black dress with a crimson fichu. I have insisted on her wearing it every night.” The pair would return to New Zealand for a short time and establish a studio together in Wellington.


19 April 1979

Media reported that the National Gay Rights Coalition had adopted the slogan “We are everywhere” for its public education campaign. Peter Apperley from Wellington Gay Liberation told media, “There are homosexuals living in all streets and suburbs in Wellington, that homosexuals occupy jobs in all occupations and at every level, that there are homosexuals in every race and every age group, and above all, that gay people contribute a great deal to the quality of life enjoyed by all.” As part of the campaign, t-shirts, badges, posters, stickers and pamphlets were distributed. Apperley said the campaign aimed to correct ignorance and misinformation about homosexuality.

1 April 1984

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the first person in New Zealand to die from AIDS-related complications. Henry had returned to New Plymouth from Australia to be nursed by his sister. Hospital Superintendent Don King told media, “It is our social responsibility, as we would with any other disease, to have our own people back in New Zealand and care for them here.” However, not everyone was as compassionate, with one nurse threatening to resign rather than care for Henry. Despite the prejudice and stigma surrounding AIDS, Henry talked openly on national television about his health: “If you are putting all of your energies into being worried about things, then you’re draining what energies you can be putting into helping yourself get better.” Asked about coming home, Henry said he wanted to see “good old Mount Egbert – I haven’t seen him for donks.”  It was only a few weeks after Henry’s death, that the US Secretary of Health Margaret Heckler announced the probable cause of AIDS had been discovered.  A blood test became available in 1985, and in 1986, the virus was officially named HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).