So who was the first Gay in The Village
@ The Story House and Garden:
52 Millar Street Daylesford
Saturday 11th March 3pm and 6pm
Sunday 12th March at 3pm
Bookings and details at
Once upon a time there was a small Village in the Central Highlands of Victoria. Like many
other regional towns in the late 70ʼs early 80ʼs it was dying. On weekends the shops
would shut and it became a ghost town.
But in 1997 things began to change in the small village of Daylesford where storyteller
Anne E Stewart had based herself and her two children. She observed the transformation
to bustling tourist town over the years and became interested in why ʻthe villageʼ had
become so gay friendly?
“When my children attended the local primary school many of their friends had same sex
parents so it often came up in conversations. It was the subject of jokes and teasing, even
songs.... thereʼs a bear in there itʼs gay school.”
Anne E Stewart with Millie Minogue dressed as St Dorothy of Daylesford
I started to investigate our gay town so I could tell my children the story, from there the
show was created “So who was the first Gay in Village”.
Of course the title was a take on Little Britain and I didnʼt think Iʼd really come up with a
definitive answer but I was keen to know why we had evolved like this
“Nothing much was written so I started to interview my GLBTIQ friends. Then I heard
about the Gay and Lesbian archives in Melbourne and I watched the documentary The
Hidden History of Homosexual Australia.
What I was to discover was interesting, poignant, moving and in places - funny.
Delving back in history I uncovered the story of Captain Moonlite. When I first arrived in
the district there used to be a festival to honour him in Ballan but then it was decided he
was thug and this celebration became the Autumn Festival. But the National archives
holds copies of a love letters that Moonlite sent to fellow Pentridge prisoner James Nesbitt
“Nesbitt and I were united by every tie which could bind human friendship,” wrote Scott
(underlining and all) during his final incarceration. “We were one inhopes, one in heart and
soul and this unity lasted until he died in my arms.”
Awaiting execution, Scott wore a ring made from Nesbittʼs hair, and pleaded with his
gaolers to bury him with the younger man in the graveyard at Gundagai.
“I long to join him where there shall be no more parting,” he wrote.
Then there was Dr Gweneth Wiswould who lived with her ʻcompanionʼ Isabella Bell in
Trentham. It was often said this remarkable woman was born well ahead of her time,
studying to become a doctor when the professional world was dominated by men. Known
as an eccentric character, she wore trousers under an army greatcoat and drove to house
calls through the remote bush in a battered ute.
As well as historic research I remember stunning headlines I tracked down in the State
Library of Victoria newspaper collection, the Melbourne Truth pronounced “Dykes go Bush:
They came in their utes with their dogs and their dungarees to build houses and help each
I recognised and remembered posters that Iʼd seen around town, in the archives down in
Melbourne advertising the all girl balls that happened here in the 90ʼs
Little by little I uncovered other stories, Friday nights at Alpha Gallery was always closed
for “Private Functions.” This was for a group of men from Melbourne to enjoy time together
in this backstairs location.
I also learned about the local response to the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic during
the 1980s. Every time I talked to men of a particular age, they had all lost friends and it
was so sad and poignant to talk about this time. I learned they had a peace mile around
the lake and three years in a row they walked the lake and had ceremonies down there.”
The show reveals lots more fabulous stories but probably the most important one as we
celebrate Chilloutʼs 20th anniversary is the formation of its precursor Daylesford and
Hepburns, Springs Connection, formed by the local lesbian and gay business people.
To hear how it all pieces together come and hear award winning storyteller Anne E Stewart
at a brand new Daylesford Venue the Story House and Garden
Bookings and details at