University of Adelaide honors murdered law lecturer George Duncan by renewing burial lease

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The lease on the grave of a gay university lecturer murdered and dumped in Adelaide’s River Torrens 50 years ago has been renewed for another half-century.

The death of George Duncan led to South Australia becoming it the first state in Australia to decriminalize homosexuality.

He was 41 years old and had only lived in Adelaide for six weeks after recently accepting employment at the University of Adelaide.

He was thrown into the River Torrens by a group of men on 10 May 1972 and, not knowing how to swim, drowned.

Murdered was labeled a “hate crime” but the culprits were never charged.

As guardians of Dr. Duncan’s grave, the university held a ceremony at Centennial Park Cemetery in Pasadena today to mark The 50th anniversary of the professor’s death as well as the renewed lease.

An Adelaide Festival publicity photo for the oratorio Watershed.
George Duncan died in 1972.(Adelaide Festival)

University of Adelaide law professor John Williams said that through Dr. Duncan’s tragic death became “a symbol of injustice”changing Australia forever.

“I would like to say that this senseless and regrettable death was a moment when society decided enough was enough,” Professor Williams said.

“Legislative reform is never easy … it takes a moment in time, it takes courage, it takes a community that won’t let it rest.

“We didn’t know Dr. Duncan, but we know what he has done for our community, for our community.

“Dr. Duncan was one of us.”

Even more progress needs to be made

Greens MLC Robert Simms said that honoring Dr. Duncan would contribute to the maintenance of LGBT rights.

“Gay men of my generation owe a great debt to the gay men of Dr. Duncan’s generation,” said Mr. Sims.

“One of the tragic things about Dr. Duncan’s death is that he was one of many gay men who were victims of these terrible events.

“That tragic events that we have seen abroad over the past few days is a reminder that there is much work to be done to combat hate crime and homophobia.

“Today is truly a time for reflection.”

A man wearing a suit without a tie standing in a cemetery next to a grave with flowers on it
Greens MLC Robert Simms speaks at the ceremony.(ABC News: Viki Ntafillis)

Not only is it 50 years since Dr. Duncan’s death in 2022, but also 25 years ago Adelaide’s first party festival.

Festival chairman and director of special events at the University of Adelaide, Adam Gardnir, said LGBT people had a lot to be proud of, but tragedies like Dr. Duncan’s death was still all too common.

“We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go,” he said.

“As we have seen this week overseas, our rights are constantly under threat.

“That’s why Fest exists, and that’s why we come together and honor the past, but we also strengthen ourselves for the future.”

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