THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD APOLOGY
OF 25 FEBRUARY 2016
On the eve of the historic NSW government apology to Mardi Gras founders the "78ers", The Sydney Morning Herald has underlined its acknowledgment that discrimination towards gay rights protesters at the hands of police, government and media in 1978 was wrong and unjust.
On June 24, 1978, more than 500 activists took to Taylor Square in Darlinghurst in support and celebration of New York's Stonewall movement and to call for an end to criminalisation of homosexual acts and discrimination against homosexuals. The peaceful movement ended in violence, mass arrests and public shaming at the hands of the police, government and media.
Three days after the melee, Fairfax Media newspapers including the Herald publicly outed 53 people involved in the pro-equality march, publishing their names, addresses and occupations in the newspaper. Subsequent editions published the details of more protesters, including the names of 104 people facing charges resulting from a homosexual rights march the previous weekend in Sydney.
As was common practice at the time, the press routinely published the full details of people who appeared in court, regardless of the nature of the offence with which they had been charged.
The public lists saw many protesters further discriminated against, in some instances causing the loss of jobs and homes.
Apologising to the 78ers, Darren Goodsir, editor-in-chief of The Sydney Morning Herald, said: "In 1978, The Sydney Morning Herald reported the names, addresses and professions of people arrested during public protests to advance gay rights. The paper at the time was following the custom and practice of the day.
"We acknowledge and apologise for the hurt and suffering that reporting caused. It would never happen today."
He said Fairfax Media has made contact with representatives of the 78ers so that an apology can also be made in person.
78er, Steve Warren, said the apology had "been a long time coming". "We're quite excited that the Herald is joining in, it means a lot to the 78ers," he said. "We understand it was practice at the time but it caused a lot of hurt," he said of the published details. "Some 78ers lost jobs, lost family contact and, over the years, some even committed suicide."
He said Sydney's gay rights movement is a shining example of grassroots community action leading to positive community change, referring to changes in legislation and the strengthening of the Mardi Gras tradition and its values since 1978.
OF 25 FEBRUARY 2016
That this House:
(1) Notes the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras took place on 24 June 1978 when over 500 people assembled at Taylor Square for a public demonstration and march to call for an end of the criminalization of homosexual acts, to discrimination against homosexuals and for a public celebration of love and diversity.
(2) Notes the march proceeded down Oxford Street to Hyde Park and then along William Street towards Kings Cross and that as the parade proceeded, patrons from nearby venues joined in and participants rose to over 2,000.
(3) Notes Police forcibly broke up a peaceful demonstration, making over 50 arrests.
(4) Notes the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age published the names, occupations and addresses of those at arrested, indifferent to the likelihood that those named would subsequently become victims of discrimination and harassment.
(5) Commends the tireless advocacy of the 78ers and their supporters as the upsurge of activism following the first Mardi Gras led to the 1979 repeal of the Summary Offence Act, decriminalization of homosexuality in 1984 and contributed to an effective community response to the HIV epidemic.
(6) Acknowledges that the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has as its foundation the violence and struggles of 24 June, subsequent and related protests in 1978 and that Mardi Gras now attracts worldwide attention as a beacon of positive social change.
(7) Commends the work done by the 78ers for their advocacy around ensuring discrimination of this kind is not repeated, as well as raising awareness of the events of 1978.
(8) Affirms an ongoing commitment to an inclusive society and full respect for the rights of all LGBTIQ citizens protected in law.
(9) Places on record an apology to each and every one of the 78ers from the Legislative Assembly for the harm and distress the events of 1978 have had on them and their families and for past discrimination and persecution of the LGBTIQ community.
THE POLICE APOLOGY OF 4 MARCH 2016
Ladies and gentleman, the NSW Police Force will march proudly this weekend with the LGBTIQ community to celebrate Mardi Gras 2016. We will be also providing what we hope to be a safe security environment for everybody who attends the Mardi Gras and enjoys the activities that are there available for you. This of course is a Mardi Gras of special significance not the least of which because of the parliamentary apology that was issued to the 78ers last Thursday on the motion of Bruce Notley-Smith and it was well received I think. It was a special moment not only for 78ers but also for the LGBTI community. Can I say to you that this morning I spoke with our Commissioner and I have his [Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione's] full support in saying that the NSW Police Force is sorry. Sorry for the way that the Mardi Gras was policed on the first occasion in 1978. And for that we apologise. We also acknowledge the pain and hurt that the police actions caused at that event in 1978. We understand that the parliamentary-issued apology was on behalf all NSW government agencies but we feel it important that the NSW Police Force perspective is well understood both by the 78ers and also by the LGBTI community generally. We have had a long journey together. Our relationships to date I would say are positive and progressive. That was certainly not the case for 1978. But as I said we have had our own journey and today we are a police force of diversity and we celebrate our diversity particularly through our participation in Mardi Gras events and in the way we police those Mardi Gras events. It was only last year that we celebrated 25 years of the GLOBE program the gay lesbian liaison officers who are in fact are Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Intersex Queer and Questioning liaison officers throughout the State. They always performed remarkably well and I know that their commitment to their duties is well-received by the community and indeed the NSW Police Force. So can I finish by saying that we are very happy that Mardi Gras has invited us again and welcomed us to participate for our twentieth year as marchers in the Mardi Gras parade. I can tell you that tomorrow night there will be many very very proud police officers marching throughout the parade to celebrate Mardi Gras with the LGBTI community. Thank you!