A new report into historical crimes against gay men and trans women in NSW seeks to deliver justice for victims and survivors, and aid the ongoing healing process for loved ones and members of the LGBTI community who continue to be impacted today.
Produced by ACON, the report – In Pursuit of Truth and Justice: Documenting Gay and Transgender Prejudice Killings in NSW in the Late 20th Century – shines a light on the suspected anti-gay homicides that occurred in NSW from the 1970s and 1990s.
In delving into these cases, the report presents key themes surrounding the deaths and explores the factors that enabled a culture of anti-gay violence to thrive in NSW during this period. The report brings to the fore the failures in the criminal justice system in NSW at the time and highlights the lasting effects these shortcomings have had on members of the LGBT community.
Importantly, the report presents a series of recommendations aimed at achieving justice and healing for victims and survivors, enhancing current responses to hate crimes and strengthening ongoing efforts in violence prevention.
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said the report brings a cultural and community lens to a tragic and dark period in Sydney and the surrounding area’s LGBT history.
“We know that a wave of violence swept through Sydney between the late 1970s and early 1990s, which claimed the lives of some gay men,” said Mr Parkhill. “We also know that many more, including transgender women, were brutally assaulted and terrorised and some of these cases remain unsolved.”
“ACON, along with a range of community partners, have long been working to address the painful legacy left behind by this epidemic of violence. Hate crimes hurt both physically and emotionally, and affects individuals as well as the entire community. This independent and community-led report is an important step in the long road to justice and healing.
“By exploring the past, we hope to deepen our understanding of these events, which will help us improve current responses to LGBT hate crimes, enhance the criminal justice system and further develop violence prevention strategies.”
Among the report’s 18 recommendations is an inquiry that explores the extent of historical violence experienced by the LGBT community. It also calls for a formal apology by NSW Parliament and NSW Police for the inadequate and slow responses to some homophobic and transphobic hate motivated violence during this period.
“There has not been sufficient acknowledgement or recognition of the severity of these past hate crimes,” said Mr Parkhill. “An inquiry into the extent of the historical violence experienced by people in our communities and an apology for what they endured will go a long way in healing the residual trauma and intergenerational grief still shouldered today.”
Parkhill acknowledged that while the report highlights inadequacies of the response of some justice agencies to these crimes at the time, it is not meant to disproportionately cast blame upon any singular agency.
“It is important to note these events occurred in a time when homophobic and transphobic prejudice and hate permeated our society, thriving in many environments including government agencies, public institutions, courthouses, workplaces, communities, schools and homes.
“The relationship between LGBT communities and NSW Police has moved forward in the last 40 years. We are in a very different place now compared to what it was and that needs to be further developed. Progress has been made, but there’s still more to do. It is important we continue to foster and maintain dialogue to encourage ongoing cultural change.”
In Pursuit of Truth and Justice: Documenting Gay and Transgender Prejudice Killings in NSW in the Late 20th Century has been reviewed by a range of stakeholders and builds on the tireless efforts of many LGBT community members, groups, organisations and allies. Its release comes amid ongoing work to develop public artwork in Bondi to remember survivors and people lost to historical prejudice-related violence.
“The work ACON has undertaken with the community not only champions the call for justice, but is also raising awareness about safety and the importance of celebrating diversity and inclusion,” said Mr Parkhill. “With this report, we remember the loved ones and community members lost during this time.
“By shining a light on our history, we hope that healing and justice will follow, as well as further cultural change in our criminal justice institutions and broader community attitudes. Together, we can build a strong and inclusive society where LGBTI people can feel safe, be protected and be able to access justice.”
Image: In Pursuit of Truth and Justice: Documenting Gay and Transgender Prejudice Killings in NSW in the Late 20th Century – courtesy of ACON