NSW Parliament to apologise to Mardi Gras 78ers

Mardi Gras 1978 ProtestersThe NSW Legislative Assembly will offer a formal apology for the ill-treatment of the participants of Sydney’s first Mardi Gras, known as the ’78ers’ on Thursday 25 February 2016.

Member for Coogee, Bruce Notley-Smith will introduce the 78ers motion of apology to the NSW Legislative Assembly just after 10.00am. The motion is also expected to be introduced to the NSW Legislative Council at a later time by the Deputy President, the Hon. Trevor Khan MLC.

The apology, which has been crafted with direct input from the 78ers and has multi-partisan support, will acknowledge the abuse and suffering many of the 78ers endured, and reflects the NSW Parliament’s determination to ensure discrimination and mistreatment of the LGBTQI community never happens again.

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 calling for an end of the criminalisation of homosexual acts, discrimination against homosexuals and for a public celebration of love and diversity.

The NSW LGBTQI Cross Party Working Group commends the tireless advocacy of the 78ers and their supporters. The upsurge of activism following the first Mardi Gras led to the 1979 repeal of the Summary Offences Act, decriminalisation of homosexual acts in 1984 and contributed to an effective community response to the HIV epidemic.

“On February 25 we will acknowledge the significance of the events of that night in June 38 years ago; the struggles and harm caused to the many who took part in the demonstration and march, both on that night and in the weeks, months and years to follow,” said Mr Notley-Smith. “Many 78ers are no-longer with us; many have lived a life of hurt and pain, and many took their own lives. This apology is for all of them.”

Penny Sharpe MLC, Shadow Minister for the Planning, Environment & Heritage, said the apology was long overdue. “With Parliament’s support, we will recognise the courageous people who refused to accept discrimination and literally put their bodies on the line in the struggle for equality,” said Sharpe.

“The tenacity of the 78ers paved the way for three decades of law reform. It will be an important moment in the history of NSW to see recognition of their contribution and an apology for the treatment they received for standing up for what is right.”

Nicolas Parkhill, ACON CEO welcomed the announcement of the apology to the 78ers. “This is an important act of reconciliation by the NSW State Government to recognise the abuse and suffering many ’78ers endured during the violent public demonstration in June 1978, demanding an end to persecution of the LGBTIQ community, and equal rights for all.”

“ACON honours the magnificent contribution these people made towards changing the laws within this state to end the criminalisation of homosexual acts and discrimination against homosexuals, and for playing a vital role in giving birth to the modern movement that is the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras. ACON also pays tribute to the NSW State Government for its leadership in acknowledging the wrongs of the past,” added Parkill.

For more information about the 78ers, visit: www.mardigras.org.au for details.