Voices of resistance

An exploration of how a multimedia text represents personal and public worlds.

Focus text

Coming Out in the 70s — an online exhibition

Text type

Digital text

Learning intention

Students are learning to:

  • understand the influence of historical context on texts
  • explore how language can influence readers and can empower or disempower individuals
  • evaluate the ways in which texts can represent personal and public worlds
  • analyse and compose a range of different visual and written texts.

Success criteria

Students will be successful when they can:

  • analyse how texts explore human experiences
  • evaluate how social and moral positions are represented in a digital text
  • use language effectively to compose texts for a range of purposes.

Student Activities

Capturing the Zeitgeist

Students will use an extract from an oral history recording and the lyrics to a well-known protest movement song to gain an understanding of the historical context of the gay rights movement, which was born in the 1970s.

Number of set tasks: 1

Symbolism and poster design

Students will analyse the significance of symbolism and posters for the gay rights movement during the 1970s.

Number of set tasks: 2

Writing with Purpose

Students will use the online exhibition as stimulus for imaginative and evaluative writing.  

Number of set tasks: 3

Background information for teachers and students

Before the 1970s same-sex relationships were taboo in most Western societies. The 1960s ushered in an era of change. Civil rights movements around the world created opportunities to reform society. The 1969 Stonewall riots in New York triggered the rise of gay rights movements internationally and Australians soon took up the fight. Sydney quickly became a hub of activism.

‘Coming out’ — openly admitting same-sex orientation at the risk of rejection, discrimination, abuse or even death — became a brave political strategy, challenging the sexually conservative attitudes of Australian society.

This exhibition marks the 50th anniversary of the emergence of the gay and lesbian rights movement in Australia. Although the struggle for equality is not over, sexual diversity is widely acknowledged in Australia today and celebrated through annual pride festivals like the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Many of the rights we take for granted are the direct result of the personal sacrifices and hard-fought activism of the 70s.

A note on symbolism

Emerging from its cocoon proud and free, the ‘coming out’ butterfly symbolised metamorphosis and change. Other common symbols of gay pride from the time are double Venus and Mars signs, representing same-sex love, and the colours purple and lavender. But the most politically charged was the triangle. Used in Nazi concentration camps to identify suspected homosexuals — a pink triangle for men and a black triangle for women — the symbol was reclaimed in the 70s as a powerful expression of pride.

Additional resources

ABC Radio Focus program on the ABC website

NSW Syllabus for the Australian Curriculum English K–10

A student:

  • effectively uses and critically assesses a wide range of processes, skills, strategies and knowledge for responding to and composing a wide range of texts in different media and technologies (EN5-2A)
  • thinks imaginatively, creatively, interpretively and critically about information and increasingly complex ideas and arguments to respond to and compose texts in a range of contexts (EN5-5C)
  • understands and evaluates the diverse ways texts can represent personal and public worlds (EN5-7D)


  • interpret, analyse and evaluate how different perspectives of issue, event, situation, individuals or groups are constructed to serve specific purposes in texts (ACELY1742)Difference and diversity Critical and creative thinking Ethical understanding
  • evaluate the ways film, websites and other multimedia texts use technology for different purposes, audiences and contexts to convey ideas and points of view
  • compare ways in which spoken, written, visual, multimodal and digital texts are shaped according to personal, historical, cultural, social, technological and workplace contexts
  • critically respond to texts by drawing on knowledge of the historical context in which texts were composed through a program of wide reading and viewingCritical and creative thinking
  • understand how language use can have inclusive and exclusive social effects, and can empower or disempower people (ACELA1551, ACELA1564)
  • explore and reflect on personal understanding of the world and significant human experience gained from interpreting various representations of life matters in texts (ACELT1635)Intercultural understanding Personal and social capability Critical and creative thinking
  • evaluate the social, moral and ethical positions represented in texts (ACELT1812)Critical and creative thinking Ethical understanding
  • analyse the ways in which creative and imaginative texts can explore human experience, universal themes and social contextsCritical and creative thinking
  • use and analyse increasingly complex language features to present a viewpoint on issues such as environmental and social sustainabilitySustainability Critical and creative thinking
  • explore and analyse ethical positions on a current issue, including the values and/or principles involved, in digital communication forumsCritical and creative thinking Ethical understanding Information and communication technology capability

In each Year of Stage 5 students must study examples of:

  • media, multimedia and digital texts.

Across the stage, the selection of texts must give students experience of:

  • a wide range of cultural, social and gender perspectives, popular and youth cultures
  • an appropriate range of digital texts, including film, media and multimedia.

Critical and creative thinking Critical and creative thinking

Ethical understanding Ethical understanding

Information and communication technology capability Information and communication technology capability

Personal and social capability Personal and social capability

Civics and citizenship Civics and citizenship

Difference and diversity Difference and diversity