Returning: Compass

Compass returns with the first lesbian couple to come out on national television some 50 years ago.

Compass returns in March in its new home at 8.00pm Sundays on ABC TV Plus.

The first episode features Francesca Curtis and Phyllis Papps, the first lesbian couple to come out on national television some 50 years ago.

Francesca Curtis and Phyllis Papps are many things. Researchers. Writers. Ultra-Feminists. Partners. They are also the first lesbian couple to come out on national television almost fifty years ago. Putting everything on the line, they appeared on ABCTV’s This Day Tonight’s interview about lesbianism in October 1970. The couple unpredictably became the public face of change, becoming members of Australia’s first gay political rights group, the Daughters of Bilitis, now known as the Australasian Lesbian Movement.

Dating back to their lives in the early 1970s, the women not only fight for acceptance within society but amongst their families and themselves. Coming off the back of a broken engagement with a man, Phyllis’ relationship with her mother Rita shatters, leaving them almost completely estranged. Phyllis battles with her sexuality and ultimately finds herself receiving psychiatric treatment in a last attempt to fit inside the conservative world around her.

During her darkest moments, Phyllis met Francesca, four months prior to their appearance on television as a couple. Coming from a rural town and a life of invisibility, Francesca anchored into her identity and was noted as the first lesbian woman to have her face and name on Australian television, appearing on Channel 9’s ‘The Bailey File.’ For the first time, Phyllis saw and met someone like herself, changing her life forever. The women began their love story publicly whilst up against a widespread national mentality of homophobia.

Now in the last years of their lives and with health problems looming, they shine light on the barriers that still stop them from being seen as who they are. With their story spanning decades and a new LGBTQIA+ generation emerging, the couple uncover their contribution to one of the biggest shifts in Australian history.

Production credits: Written and Directed by Abbie Pobjoy; Produced by Bonny Scott; Executive Produced by Sue Maslin & Diana Fisk; Edited by Tayler Martin; Distributed by Film Art Media.

8pm Sunday 14 March on ABC TV Plus.

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