"Melbourne - Queen City of the South"

Melbourne Gay & Lesbian History series



listen: LETTER TO POLICE - 1901 - 03:47 minutes

Customs House, Flinders St



In early October 1901, the Chief Commissioner of Police in Melbourne, received a letter complaining that a great number of effeminate young men were using "various conveniences" for "an evil of the most terrible description"


The writer of the letter, a Mr B. Cleal, stated that a number of public toilets around the central city area were being used as beats, and he listed:


The urinal at corner of Rathdowne & Victoria Sts.

in Lansdowne St East Melbourne

under the viaduct opposite Customs House

at the rear of old City Court in Little Collins Street

under viaduct at the foot of King St,


and numerous others as being among the busiest.


"One cannot enter but two or three of the above fellows rush in and on pretence of using same will pass some disgusting remark concerning one's person etc. 1 have repeatedly watched these people and I am fully convinced that one of the most disgusting of crimes is frequently committed. Perhaps a dozen or more of these fellows will surround another couple to carry out these vile practices of an evening. I may state that frequently young lads are with these fellows and evidently ruined. From their conduct 1 would infer so. If the police make investigation it cannot be possible that they will otherwise report on this matter but in very unpleasant terms. "


Mr Cleal's letter obviously concerned the Police Commissioner enough to ask that he asked a Police Sergeant to look into the matter. About three weeks later, Sergeant Cauly reported:


"I am convinced that the cause of complaint is very much exaggerated but that it exists to a limited extent, and has done so for years, I am not prepared to deny.

This class of young men who are credited by the police with indulging in filthy practices amongst themselves, and are known by the term "Pufters ", are generally well dressed, sober, quiet in their manner and some of them very well connected. "

Consequently it is often very difficult for the police to catch them offending, and if they do at any time make filthy or indecent overtures to any man, they believe him to be similarly inclined, but should they make a mistake the man insulted never thinks of giving any of them in charge, but sometimes gives the offender a well deserved blow or kick instead, of which the recipient never complains.

Every effort is made by the Police to rid the City of such filthy brutes, and special attention is now being given yen to the urinal at the corner of Rathdowne St and Victoria St with the object in view. "


The Police sergeant investigating the complaint eventually decided that:


"I don't think the evil complained of is as great as set in attached letter. I have however, instructed the police to pay particular attention to the places mentioned by the writer, who by the way appears to have given these resorts considerable attention. "

  © text copyright Wayne Murdoch, Australian Lesbian & Gay Archives 2002





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