A decision by Waverley Council to begin planning for the construction of a memorial to the victims of historical gay hate crimes has been welcomed by LGBTI health, safety and rights advocates.
Following representations from local residents and leading LGBTI health organisation ACON, Waverley Council last week gave in principle endorsement for the commissioning of a public artwork in Bondi’s Hunter Sculpture Park in remembrance of the numerous gay men who were assaulted, and in many cases, murdered in and around this area between the early 1970s and 1990s. Marks Park, adjacent to the site of the Hunter Sculpture Park, was a particular focus of these attacks.
The decision allows for the management and landscape plan for Hunter Park to be brought forward to allow for the installation of a memorial to commemorate these tragic events, and recognise how we far we have come as an inclusive society.
“This memorial will be an important symbol for acknowledging injustices of the past, and moving forward into a much more respectful future,” said Vicki Harding, Director Inner City Legal Centre.
In a dark period of NSW’s history, up to 88 gay men are documented to have disappeared in suspicious circumstances or were victims of unsolved murder in eastern and metro Sydney, during a 20-year period between the 1970s and 1990s.
Following sustained pressure from independent investigators, victims’ families, and the LGBTI community, the NSW Police Force are currently reinvestigating key cases as well as reviewing others to determine if they need to be reopened.
ACON and several local residents have been advocating for the past 2 years for a permanent memorial to the victims be constructed along the Bondi coast, and the decision by Waverley Council to support the proposed artwork is a major step forward.
“We believe a memorial to the victims will help acknowledge and heal the significant trauma these events have caused for the families of the victims as well as the LGBTI community and many local residents,” said ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill.
“A memorial will also help raise greater community awareness of this issue, promote the continuing need for relevant information to be brought to the attention of police, and serve as a reminder of the importance of valuing and celebrating diversity in our community.”
Mr Parkhill says while the process for creating the memorial is yet to be determined, he encouraged the Council to engage in a period of consultation with victims’ families, the LGBTI community, local residents and other stakeholders prior to any decisions being made. ACON stands ready to assist with a fundraising initiative to create and install the memorial as well as manage and maintain the site in the future.
“On behalf of ACON, our community and local advocates, I’d like to thank Waverley Council for supporting the construction of the proposed memorial in Hunter Park. I’d particularly like to thank Councillors for their support as well as local residents John Kaldor and Paul Paech for their advocacy on this issue,” said Mr Parkhill.
For more information, visit: www.acon.org.au for details.
Image: Cave Urban, save our souls, Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi 2014 (near the proposed site of the memorial) – photo by Gareth Carr