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Kendall (Ken) Lovett was born in Tasmania and moved with his family to North Bondi in 1930. He left Sydney Boys High School at age 12. His father got him his first job in 1937 when he was 15 in a factory making radio components. Ken hated the job. He was the butt of the jokes by the men because he was different. He just stopped going to work and instead found himself a job at Anthony Hordern’s a large department store in Pitt Street.
He wanted to be a journalist, but settled for working in advertising at Anthony Hordern’s and Grace Brothers and then a private agency.
By 1950, he wanted to leave Australia to escape from his Church and home and chucked in advertising and picked up odd jobs to pay for his passage to the UK.
However, a love affair intervened and Ken and his man, left for Melbourne where he continued his career in advertising and also writing continuity scripts for radio and TV.
London was put on hold for a few years.
That relationship ended, and in 1961 Ken and his new partner headed off to the UK. His partner had a job at Australia House and Ken found jobs in advertising and he also published short stories in London.
While in the UK in 1966, he became involved with a homosexual rights lobbying group to remove anti-homosexual laws. At this time he came to understand the politics of homosexuality.
Ken returned to Sydney and was invited to move into a flat in Crown Street Woolloomooloo by his friend Ron Owen.
In 1970 Woolloomooloo and much of inner city Sydney was then an area earmarked for high density development. He joined the local resident action group almost immediately. It was a turbulent time, and eventually their and their allies’ actions were successful in establishing low-income housing in the suburb.
Although Ken and some friends went to the 1972 demonstration at St Clements in Mosman to support Peter Bonsall-Boone who had been sacked for coming out on national TV, he did not join the gay movement. It was not until he heard about the violent arrests at the 1978 Gay Mardi Gras and subsequent Drop the Charges rallies that he again became active in gay politics.
He joined the Gay Solidarity Group (GSG) which was then finalising work on the 4th National Homosexual Conference at Paddington Town Hall in August.
On the Sunday of the Conference, he joined a march to support the Women’s Abortion Action Campaign along Oxford Street to Hyde Park. He was arrested, and taken to Darlinghurst Police Station. Like the 104 others arrested, he endured countless adjournments of his case, until the charges were dropped in January 1979. During that time he took his holiday leave so he could act as the GSG representative at the Court and maintain contact with each person arrested.
Ken was a busy member of GSG.
The Group organised a successful second Mardi Gras parade in October 1979, then the Australian and New Zealand Summer Offensive for Gay Rights in November, and then on to organising the 1980 National Homosexual Conference.
Ken’s journalistic ambitions which had led him into a career in advertising and working for Choice, were channeled into the work of GSG.
When the Sydney gay radio show, Gaywaves was launched in November 1979, Ken provided information about GSG activities. He then branched out collecting and sharing international lesbian and gay news through the Gay Radio Information News Service (GRINS) by sending taped bulletins to 14 gay radio stations around the country. Australian news was in return collected and shared with the International Gay Association and lesbian and gay newspapers in the US, the UK, Sweden etc.
When the Gay Community News started up in Melbourne, Ken was on the Sydney collective providing news and distributing the magazine in Sydney.
Ken and members of GSG continued with their political protests and interventions and these included contingents at May Day, Hiroshima Day and Sydney responses to international gay/lesbian issues.
For Ken the April 1988 protest in response to the introduction of anti-homosexual Clause 28 in the UK was especially important - it was here that Mannie de Saxe got involved in GSG. They first met at a later GSG meeting and Ken and he became partners in 1993.
Ken’s work with gay prisoners was pioneering. GSG had been contacted after the 1982 National Homosexual Conference by prisoners and an attempt to form a support group in the gay community came to nothing. The letters kept coming from men in Grafton, Long Bay, Goulburn and from women in Perth. Ken answered them all and created a newsletter Inside Out Newsletter for prisoners and their friends outside which ran from 1983 - 1987.
In May 1990 with AIDS was spreading in the gay community and when prisoners in NSW gaols were denied condoms, ACT UP and GSG set up a helium pump outside Parramatta Gaol and filled condoms which drifted (mostly) over the wall into the Gaol. Condoms were finally distributed in prisons in February 1996.
Ken retired from Choice magazine in 1993 and moved to Maryville, a suburb of Newcastle in 1994. He was trained up by the Sydney Community Support Network prior to moving and when he arrived became a carer for Hunter CSN.
His job was to make meals, do the cleaning, give massages or just chat with men who wanted to share their lives with someone who loved to listen.
In his ten years in Newcastle, 170 clients died.
He is remembered as a quiet organiser and the creator of beautiful quilts for the local Memorial Quilts project, which today are in the collection of Memorial Quilts in the Newcastle Museum. CSN Hunter made Ken and Mannie life members in 2000.
Sydney Park AIDS (SPAIDS) was a project Mannie and Ken were closely involved with for many years. Mannie had spoken to some women planting trees in the new Sydney Park and he discovered that the South Sydney Council had given them permission to plant the trees. He was thinking of a place where people could mourn and lobbied the Council for a planting for loved ones who had died of AIDS. The first planting was on 15 May 1994 and is now a substantial grove of mature trees with benches to sit and to contemplate.
You can see information about GSG and Ken and Mannie’s activism on http://www.josken.net
With Mannie in Belmore, Sydney and Ken in Maryville, Newcastle they eventually decided to look for a place to live together. There was nothing in Newcastle but on a holiday in Melbourne they found a place in Melbourne. They sold their houses, and moved.
In Melbourne they continued their activism around LGBTI ageing issues and worked as volunteers at the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives.
The Australian Queer Archives holds a collection of papers relating to the activism of Kendall Lovett and Mannie De Saxe, as well as recordings of oral history interviews with Ken conducted by Graham Willett (1997) and Barry McKay (2000). There is a detailed finding aid for the papers, which comprise Ken and Mannie's separate and collective social justice activism, in particular relating to homosexual law reform, LGBTI rights, Aboriginal rights, resident action, and HIV/AIDS support and memorials.They include materials relating to Hunter CSN and ACON, Two Stars Project (AIDS Quilt), Gaywaves (2NUR FM), Star Hotel campaign (GSG), and various local community issues, covering the period c.1992-2000. To access the papers or the interviews, it is necessary to visit the Archives - details at https://queerarchives.org.au/visit/
Date of Birth1922Date of Death2020
CSN Hunter; Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Fair Day 1996; [Jubilee Park]; Glebe; Mannie de Saxe; ;
CSN Hunter; Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Fair Day 1996; [Jubilee Park; Glebe;] Mannie de Saxe; Kendall Lovett; ;