Outspoken gay activist Rodney Croome AM will be known to many Australians as a spokesperson for the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group where he led the long and ultimately successful campaign to de-criminalise homosexuality in Tasmania. Until May 1997, homosexuality was a criminal offence punishable by up to 25 years in gaol. The campaign led by Croome saw Tasmanian activists take their case for equality beyond the courts of Australia’s High Court and Federal Governments, to the United Nations. Rodney’s tireless leadership in activism has transformed Tasmania from having Australia's worst laws and attitudes on homosexuality to having the best.
Since then Croome has continued to be actively involved in campaigning for queer rights nationally for all gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. He is one of Australia’s most prominent activists and spokespeople on queer rights, and often the person the media go to for an official statement for the ‘queer position’ on arising issues. In particular, Croome has recently been involved in campaigning for the rights of all Australians to marriage and the recognition of civil partnerships, and he is a co-founder of the Australian Coalition for Equality. He has also fiercely campaigned for establishing a standard curriculum challenging homophobia in schools.
“I’m honoured to be nominated. It’s a personal honour but it also honours a lot of other people who so tirelessly give their time and energy for social justice. It’s important to highlight activists – they do what they do at great personal expense, often with very little or no recognition,” says Croome.
“It’s hard to stand up for what you believe in. People see the cost for those who do and it scares them. But that’s the wrong way of looking at it. We need to focus on the benefits… when there is good legal and social reform, lives improve, we improve, the community improves. It can all get better.”
Croome quotes Senator, fellow Tasmanian and Same Same 25 member Bob Brown as one of his biggest influences and inspirations.
“I remember growing up gay in Tasmania and thinking that I’d just have to get out because it was no place for me. Even though he campaigned over different issues, Bob Brown showed me that it was possible for one person to change things in Tasmania… I hope that I can inspire others that way.”
Croome said that if he has one message for young people, it is to always remain optimistic. “Don’t let negativity shake your sense of purpose – though it does happen to us all. Our biggest enemy isn’t hate crimes or homophobia… Our biggest enemy is apathy, bitterness and cynicism.”
Rodney Croome has a rare gift of making politics and the issues we face each day accessible. He is passionate and dedicated to the causes he campaigns for, but is always calm and focused even in the most heated circumstance. Each word is carefully considered, and gently but directly spoken.
The Same Same 25 is an annual celebration of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians. They are publicly nominated, and chosen by a panel of community leaders.
For the past two years, the announcement of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians has attracted widespread national media attention and focused on the achievements and influence of a varied and inspirational group of people.