Queer City Guide: Perth, Western Australia

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I grew up in Perth in the 1990s. Back then, it was a tough place to be for a young lesbian. It wasn’t until I went to uni and got taken to the Court Hotel and Connections in Northbridge that I had any idea that there was anything resembling a lesbian culture in Perth. Fortunately for you, that’s all changed. While there’s still no scene to rival lesbian Brunswick in Melbourne or Newtown in Sydney, there are heaps of places to hang out and meet likeminded “Perthonalities”. Not to mention the beaches and forests here are goddamn beautiful. Just make sure you bring a nice full wallet – there’s a mining boom on.

Going Out 

Connections Nightclub (81 James Street in Northbridge) – Perth’s gay nightclub is pumping out disco and top 40 every Friday and Saturday after midnigh. Arrive early for free entry, otherwise you’ll be stung with a $20 door charge. The doors are open Wednesdays through to Sundays from 10pm on – plus the local drag queens host a seemingly endless array of special events and theme nights; POP on Thursday night’s is a reliable staple. To some, Wednesday night’s Lesbian Mud Wrestling is an unmissable part of the queer calendar. To sourpusses like me it’s a tasteless, cheap event aimed at titillating gay men. I’ll let you be the judge.

Connections

Connections

The Court Hotel (50 Beaufort Street) – The Court Hotel is THE gay bar in Perth. While there’re gayish bars and one off nights popping up more and more, this is the only bar that’s flying the rainbow flag 24/7. This well-stocked bar serves ordinary steaks and disconcerting pizzas (béchamel sauce instead of mozzarella??) so I recommend eating out in Mt Lawley or Northbridge before heading down to party. Expect to see oodles of gay guys and their straight lady friends tearing up the dance floor on the weekend and a small army of baby dykes looking sulky and jealous by the sidelines (occasionally getting ejected for fist fighting over the 4 femmes in town). If you’re after a more mature crowd you’ll find a smattering of the old lesbian guard playing pool mid-week from 8pm. I’ve heard reports that their Traffic Light Parties are really fun, though I find this hard to believe.

Court

Court

Luxe Bar (446 Beaufort Street) – Luxe bar is a bit gay, especially on LOVE Sundays. You’ll need a small fortune to spend a night sipping cocktails at this bar, but if you’re after a bit more sophisticated venue to take a date, I reckon you could do a lot worse. For the record, I really enjoyed a tall cocktail I had there called the Wibble Wobble.

Bent Bar (138 Barrack Street) – Bent Bar was the great new hope for many who wanted a bit more variety in their weekends. Sadly, it’s on hiatus due to a lack of interest from Perth punters. They promise they’ll be back soon though at a brand new venue so if you are heading to Perth check our their facebook to see if they’ve come up with something.

Bent Bar

Bent Bar

Disco Incorrecto (566 Hay Street) – Disco Incorrecto is really doing a great job of livening up the Perth scene. They throw their own parties and often raise money for Perth. Lead by DJ Rob dB and inspired by the likes of Horse Meat Disco and the NYC Downlow in London they promised that “their disco tunes and cheeky antics are sure to have you partying all night long.” This summer they have re-launched with a new home at the Loton Park Tennis Club to provide a series of Summer Sundowners. I haven’t had the opportunity to go to Disco Incorrecto yet, but the Loton Park tennis club is a bit of a laid back gay haven so I reckon it could be a lot of fun.

Disco Incorrecto

Disco Incorrecto

Brief Encounters (The Royal Chambers Rear 87 James Street, Northbridge. Entrance from Nick’s Lane, Chinatown) – Having had two wildly successful parties last year, Brief Encounters is popular amongst the alternative straight crowd and queers alike. Hosted by The Monarchy, the night is known for its eclectic music and performance troupe Voix de la Villie who provide bizarre entertainment throughout the night. For punters who are looking for alternative night, Brief Encounters is the go. Make sure you dress up or you’ll be left on the street with the rest of us peasants.

Brief Encounters

Brief Encounters

Queer Activism

The best place to start would be at the WA Cross Campus Queer Network. The CCQN works together with University Guilds, community groups and activist organisations (both Queer and non-Queer) to provide representation, advocacy, support and activism for all LGBTTIQ students in Western Australia.

This group is for any WA student that identifies as an individual of diverse sexuality or gender, including (but not limited to) Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Genderqueer, Transgendered, Transsexual, Intersex, Queer, Questioning and Queer-friendly supporters are also more than welcome.

crosscampusqueernetworkwa

Pride WA Festival

The Pride WA crew put on a festival celebrating Western Australia’s LGBT citizens each October, with a fun family Fairday in Russell Square, a Parade in the centre of Perth CBD which attracts some 80,000 spectators, a huge after-party and many more cultural events. Importantly they also host a monthly lesbian event called Plush.

pridewa

Universities

uniofwa

The University of Western Australia is a clear winner for prettiest campus, and it’s pretty well connected by public transport. They’ve got the most active student union, though like most other student bodies in the country it’s been decminated by Voluntary Student Unionism (ask a politically minded local for more info). The Queer Department runs Pride week during week 11 in Semester 2 every year.

curtinuni

Curtin University of Technology is where I hiked over to for 3 long years. It’s got the biggest carpark in Western Australia and some of the ugliest buildings to boot. Curtin Uni is well regarded as being one of the leaders in the Australian Ally program. The Art Department also put on some great shows at their annual graduation show in December and it’s worth checking out if you are in town.

Western Australian Performing Arts Academy (WAAPA) at Edith Cowan University in Mt Lawley is a highly regarded performing arts school and often puts on shows you might like to check out.

WAAPA

WAAPA

Sports

Perth is an Aussie Rules footy town. You either go for the West Coast Eagles (yellow and blue) or the Fremantle Dockers (Purple, Green and another ugly colour that clashes with the aforementioned colours). Everyone hates the Collingwood Magpies. That’s all you need to know.

If you wanna play a bit of women’s footy there is a league here! The team to beat is the Coastal Titans.

womensafl

Bookstores

Planet books (Beaufort Street in Mt Lawley) is a must, and there are plenty of good bookshops in Fremantle including a chain called Elizabeth’s Books which is a reliable source of decent reads. If you are into rare, out of print books Serendipity (West Leederville) is the place to get to.

Arts

The Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) is a great place to start as it’s great and has an awesome rack of guides to other art shows and performances that are upcoming in the Perth cultural scene.

Legal Rights

Western Australia was especially progressive in 1984 when its Equal Opportunity Act was passed, ensuring LGBT people/couples were not discriminated against in a variety of situations and businesses. More recently, same-sex couples were allowed to jointly adopt children, and de facto gay couples are legally recognised, though no formal partnership register exists yet.

The Gay and Lesbian Equality WA group works hard to promote LGBT equality across Western Australia. Like many similar groups around the country at the moment, they hold regular rallies to push for law reforms which would allow gay marriage.

Community

The Freedom Centre (Brisbane Street) – Freedom Centre (FC) is for young people (under 26) to support each other and their communities to be informed, happy and healthy about their sexuality, sex and gender. The drop-in centre is a safe space to hang out, have fun, meet other LGBTIQQ young people and get peer-support and info if you need it.

Freedom Centre

Freedom Centre

Gay and Lesbian Community Services – Volunteer-run organisation Gay and Lesbian Community Services provides an information and support phoneline staffed Mondays to Fridays 7-10pm. The group’s speakers visit schools to tell their coming out stories, and run workshops for same-sex attracted or questioning people.

GLCS

Aboriginal Culture/Colonial Resistance

I hate to say it, but Perth is pretty racist. Australia has a horrible history of genocide and a rich history of Aboriginal resistance which continues to this day. I suggest checking out the excellent Aboriginal magazine Tracker to get your head around this stuff if you are travelling in Perth. If you are travelling on January 26th try and avoid anything billed as an Australia Day party; for many Aboriginal people this is a deeply offensive tradition that celebrates the brutal dispossession of their forebears. And believe me, hanging around drunken Aussies wearing Australian flags on is a recipe for a bad night out. Any event billed as Survival Day or Invasion Day is a much better bet. For a local take on these issues have a chat with the mob at the Noongar Language & Culture Centre Aboriginal Corporation (23 Moore St, East Perth).

Local Media

Out in Perth is Perth’s printed guide to what’s happening in the city. It’s free to pick up monthly from gay venues and queer-friendly cafes in the CBD. Out In Perth also has a website with a comprehensive guide to what’s on. The national queer website samesame.com.au is also a reliable source of what’s new and happening in Perth.

Cinema

For the best arthouse cinemas in Perth check out this website. My personal favourite has always been the Luna in Leederville, but you can take your pick. During Summer there are a bunch of outdoor film screenings. I personally recommend the Somerville at the University of Western Australia.

Somerville

Somerville UWA

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29 Comments

  1. Thumb up 0

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    While it’s awesome to see Perth actually on Autostraddle’s radar, I feel like this is kind of the tourist guide-book version of queer Perth.

    – Connections is pretty clearly targeted at gay men and isn’t much of a lesbian venue at the best of times
    – The Court is increasingly a straight venue, has had way too many issues with less than queer-friendly security and way too many transphobic incidents
    – The promoter of Bent is a total misogynist so it’s kind of weird to see that being promoted as an alternative for queer women
    – It’s kinda weird seeing only Curtin and UWA mentioned, especially since Curtin hasn’t had an active queer scene for years and years
    – GALE and Equal Love (who run the marriage equality rallies) are different organisations

    Nonetheless it’s still cool to see Perth being mentioned on Autostraddle!

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      Can you give any recommendations of decent gayelle friendly nightspots in Perth?

      I need a place to get drunk and make out with equally drunk ladies and at the court will no longer do because I am GUARANTEED to run into my recent ex. Help a sister out?

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        It’s a bad time for that, unfortunately.

        There was massive amounts of complaining about the lousy options for queer women back in 2011, and then Honey Lounge opened as a result. They were awesome. Unfortunately, they were way more expensive than the others and I think assumed that queer=rich, and went broke a couple months ago.

        So, back to spending my Saturdays watching a movie on the sofa…

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      I have to correct the bit about Curtin’s queer scene just a little, I’ve been part of the Queer collective for a few years and they started Bingay back up in 2010, as an annual fundraiser, they hosted the annual student queer conference Queer Collaborations in 2011, they have fortnightly movie nights, they have events for Pride week every year and discussion groups every month or so. A lot of it is based on campus for the students, but there is a pretty wicked hang out space in the Guild with lots of space, a large screen tv with lots of queer movies available to watch, queer themed books you can borrow, subscriptions to a lot of queer mags. There’s always students in there to meet.

      The Ally network hold regular support group discussions for Trans* people, and others, and the Engineering department has started up a program Engineering Ally to help encourage and support more queer students into engineering with official sponsorship from Chevron.

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    HOLYFUCKINGSHITSOMEBODYDIDMYCITYHOMGGGGGGG!!!!! PERTH!!! I never thought my little city-town would make it to such great heights! I haven’t even read this yet I’m just too excited.

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      OK, I’ve read it and I just want to say that our Fringe Festival this year is actually pretty exciting and deserves a mention (not one spiegeltent, but TWO). Also, we have stand up comedy all over the freaking place (try Lazy Susan’s) and The Blue Room (right next to PICA) has great (and very cheap) theatre shows. The Moon Café is good eats and Deville’s Pad is an awesome venue for an older or alternative crowd that plays jazz and has wicked cocktails (that are unfortunately wicked expensive).

      YAY PERTH WE’RE A REAL CITY LOOK GUYS LOOK YEAH TAKE THAT MELBOURNE

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        Fringe Festival is awesome this year, and I second the recommendations for DeVille’s & The Moon. I also like Cabin Fever in the city for tea/coffee/snacks, Cantina 663 on Beaufort St for fancy breakfasts, Hula Bula in the CBD for cocktails and Superstar Waffles, The Bird, Love Thy Neighbour & Ezra Pound in Northbridge.

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    Yay Perth here! I spent a bit of time there and still love the place.

    Going to sneak in a suggestion for food and drinks; local brewery, Little Creatures in Fremantle is a great place to grab some of their local brew and grub- their pizzas and chips are must-tries~

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    I live in Melbourne, but almost all my extended family lives in WA, and my parents were born there, so we fly over regularly. I really have to doubly recommend the beaches, every time I’m over there (usually down the coast from Perth, though) I make sure to spend basically every day at the beach. And I mean, I hate beaches normally, but these ones are just so amazing and often you’re one of like three people there on a huge beach. Nothing even close in Melbourne.

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    My jaw dropped when I saw this. Not even figuratively, I actually opened my mouth way too wide. I’m flabbergasted that there are other straddlers in Perth, let alone that someone wrote it up!

    Excuse me while I collect my thoughts. Just wow.

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    Aw! My hometown. The Perth lesbian scene is in Melbourne because that’s where most of us ended up. Will always have love for it but one trip to the Court a year is definitely enough!

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    Ha! Oh my gosh, I was so surprised to see Perth here!

    I agree with the author re: Australia Day and racism. Also freedom centre are great.
    Voluntary student unionism was actually scrapped last year.

    But as another commenter said, connections is really aimed at men… And pretty much turns into a place for straight guys to make last ditch efforts at living up after 2am and everything else closes…

    Other queer friendly are X-wray Cafe in fremantle. They have live music quite often too. Also Mojos Bar in North Freo is super queer friendly, and has great live music & dancing.

    Also, the Bird on William st northbridge is good.

    Also DEFINITELY second Devilles Pad… It’s aimed at over 26s too so bit of an older crowd… And great dancing.

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    Awww, Perth.

    Right now, Urban Orchard (@ Fringe) and Chevron Festival Gardens (@ PIAF) are perfect for a night out. They should have them going for the entire summer, like with the Twilight Hawkers Markets.

    Favourite haunts include The Bird, Ezra and Clarence’s. Also, Rooftop Movies ftw!

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    OH HEY IT’S MY CITY! Really glad to see Freedom Centre in here – I’ve only been 4 or 5 times but I know of people who went there regularly for years.

    I know the Court has been kind of shit in the past (specifically in regards to transphobia with bathrooms) but I think they’ve improved in the last year or so. Both the court and connections can be pretty straight though.

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    Admittedly there isn’t that much generally happening around here but we still have our fun. ;)
    To be perfectly honest I’m still too busy fangirling over the fact that you’ve done a thing on Perth. Look at that, just like a real city. :p

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    Hey all,
    Thanks for reading my little write up on Perth- I am stoked Autostraddle published it. Please keep sending through up to date suggestions for other Straddlers as my Perth knowledge is a a little out of date having skipped town almost a decade ago now. I still come back for Easter and Xmas though so I can’t wait to check out some of the places you guys have suggested!
    Sam

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    i remember reading a queer city guide a while ago and wondering if id ever see one for perth, then i laughed at the thought of it because perth. was hoping maybe id see at least a few new suggestions in here, but unfortunately perth is still as boring as i thought it was (queer-wise) before i read this article. :( i’d have to agree with a few of the comments though, the court once a year is okay, the bird, ezra pound and mojos are pretty alright and connections is the worst.

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    Thank you for putting the little city on the lesbimap!
    hopefully this will spur things along. don’t get me wrong, i love perth and wouldn’t be anywhere else in the world (and i’ve been all over the world) but we need more for our beautiful lesbian population to enjoy. a lot of the more well versed queer ladies here tend to be as aware as hens teeth when you’re out and about but thats because we’ve bred a culture of pubs and clubs for the young baby dykes (totally awesome btw), but every time a new cafe opens up or an new event happens, the publicity is pretty poor so it eventually folds which is incredibly disappointing. hopefully something like this will help spread the word that we are here, we are lovely and our city is beautiful!

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