Australian of the Year 2015, Tasmania
Rodney Croome AM has championed gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTQI) rights throughout Australia for more than two decades.
Rodney Croome wore this badge the first time he was arrested for GLBTI human rights in Hobart in 1988. The council had banned a Salamanca Market stall calling for homosexuality to be decriminalised.
Rodney and his fellow campaigners were arrested for continuing to set up the stall in the face of what they believed to be a discriminatory ban.
Walking into a Hobart police station with his partner in 1994, Rodney Croome confessed to what was then still a serious crime under Tasmanian law: homosexuality. Rodney’s actions, reported the world over, were a major catalyst for the campaign to decriminalise homosexuality in Tasmania, which Rodney took all the way to the High Court of Australia and the United Nations.
A champion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTQI) rights in Tasmania and throughout Australia, Rodney has spent the past 26 years campaigning for decriminalisation, anti-discrimination protections, and the recognition of same-sex relationships and families, including marriage equality.
He has also worked tirelessly to end discrimination and improve educational and health outcomes for LGBTQI people, particularly those in rural and remote communities.
The National Convenor of Australian Marriage Equality, Rodney has made many personal sacrifices in the face of hostility and ignorance, challenging homophobia in schools and in the police service, removing stigma and normalising relationships for same-sex attracted couples.
Rodney embodies intelligence, courage, tenacity and vision and his life’s work has transformed Australia and improved the lives of thousands of LGBTQI people and their families.
I was one of the first to be arrested. The badge reminds me of the importance of not giving in to injustice. I was a shy, middle class history student from a dairy farm and was terrified about being led away by police. But I also knew discrimination would only end if it was challenged.
The badge gives me hope that change is possible when good people stand together. Each market day more people came to defend our stall until the council gave in. Nine years later, after much campaigning, Tasmania decriminalised homosexuality and enacted the country’s best GLBTI laws. Australia is now a more inclusive nation than ever. Progress is always possible even if it mightn’t always seem so.
Most of all, the badge reminds me my work is about belonging. The choice available to gay Tasmanians when I came out was to flee or stay hidden. I fought for another choice, to be gay, Tasmanian and proud of both. Today’s campaign for marriage equality also aims to allow GLBTI people the choice to belong, this time to love someone of the same sex and participate fully in married, family and community life.