For over half a century the shameful and scandalous history behind “world’s only gay prison” located in a small regional town in New South Wales, Australia, had remained buried and forgotten. Now, a new true crime audio podcast series, The Greatest Menace, from queer Australian journalist Patrick Abboud, uncovers the dark chapter and a secretive government operation to find a “treatment to eradicate homosexuality”. Abboud first heard about the ‘gay prison’ in 2017 from a colleague at a work Christmas party, after a gruelling year covering the national marriage equality vote. The colleague told Abboud that he had heard from a friend of an acquaintance about the prison in the town of Cooma.The prison and asylum in Cooma was closed in the 1900s before its reincarnation as a “gay prison” in 1957. Abboud says that it was so “shocking” when he first heard that there was a “prison set up specifically to incarcerate gay men”, he and his co-producer Simon Cunich embarked on a three year journey to research the story. The moment of revelation was discovering the reason the government of the time set up the prison. In a 1958 speech, then NSW police commissioner had proclaimed that “homosexuality was the greatest threat facing Australia”. “Hearing that speech was so disturbing as a gay man. I knew from that moment that I couldn’t not investigate this. I couldn’t not bring this story to light because it just demonstrated how hated we were. It demonstrated how unjust the laws of the time were, and the worst part is how people’s lives were destroyed,” Abboud told Star Observer in an interview on Zoom.

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