UCL Campaign


Jamie Gardiner

PhD in Applied Mathematics, 1971–74

Jamie Gardiner

Jamie Gardiner is an Australian human rights activist, political lobbyist and community lawyer. Having spearheaded the 1970s campaign to decriminalise consensual sex between men in the state of Victoria, co-founded the Victorian AIDS Council in the early 1980s and helped to establish the 2006 Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, Jamie’s contributions over the past 40 years have earned him a reputation as one of the leading pioneers of Australia’s LGBT rights movement.

In his own words

I arrived at UCL in September 1971: gay, 24, a virgin. I had submitted my Melbourne University MSc thesis six weeks before, travelled through Asia and Europe, and was taking up a three-year Commonwealth Scholarship to study for a PhD in Applied Mathematics. I was to live at London House in Mecklenburgh Square.

Having settled into my research topic in fluid mechanics, boundary layer flows and wave phenomena, I also began settling in to London life – catching up with fellow Australian postgrads I had known at home, meeting other London House folk, and discovering London’s gay scene.

I soon learnt of the new Gay Liberation Front, and decided to go to a meeting. I felt very alone at this meeting of dozens, perhaps a hundred or more other gay people of all sorts, talking about all sorts of issues that I could not quite follow and using slang and code-words I had no idea of. To my relief and (slight) surprise, in walked an old friend from Melbourne (I think I had wondered before if he was gay, but hadn’t been sure in those closeted, scary times); I beckoned him over. Between us we worked out what this ‘cottage’ business was, and many other mysteries.

At the same time as contacting GLF I also contacted the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. Through CHE I joined its Young London Group, early in 1972, and met students from UCL and other Colleges. Some of them were working to persuade the University of London Union to allow a gay group to form, an effort I joined eagerly. It was taking much longer than it should have (to impatient activists’ minds), and so I decided to begin the process by setting up a group at UCL. Consistent with the general practice there, adding the –Soc suffix to the subject name, it was to be GaySoc.

With some trepidation I went to the union office and asked Joan at the window how to form a society. She gave me a form, asked me what it was about and I explained, fearing the worst. To my great relief she showed mild friendly interest, no recoil, and set the wheels in motion. I don’t recall now if at that stage I had met any gay people at UCL, but I soon did. My being President of UCL GaySoc probably helped the process at ULU, and before long ULU GaySoc was also under way.

In addition to lunchtime meetings, occasional speakers, socials and so on, some of us had more political goals, the first being how to grow the membership and change the world. By now I was part of a network of activists from several colleges, and we began planning activities for the new University year, and coordinating our activities for greater effect. Sharing printing costs for a joint leaflet was one issue, not to mention getting the wording right. As a UCLU society I had access to the standard clubs and societies resources, which was a great help.

I also became aware of the National Union of Students, and realised there would be some value in working on it too. This led to my gaining election to the UCLU delegation to a regular NUS conference in Margate late in 1972. That led to my proposing, and getting NUS to support, the first Homosexuals in Education Conference at UCL in early 1973. The Margate conference also put me in touch with activists from many other universities around the country, paving the way for valuable national gay student coordination.

This exhibition was on public display in the North Cloisters of UCL’s Wilkins Building throughout February 2019 to coincide with LGBT History Month.

Special thanks to the various UCL alumni and staff who contributed such wonderful stories and recollections.

The exhibition is Out @ UCL / LEAG production in collaboration with UCL Culture, UCL Alumni Relations and UCL Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. Sandy Kutty and Bob Mills curated and collated the texts. Design by Aspel Creative.