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NSW launches judicial inquiry into historic gay & trans hate crimes

The NSW Government has announced it will establish an inquiry into gay hate and transgender hate crimes. The announcement follows the recommendations of a report by the Legislative Council’s Standing Committee on Social Issues tabled in May this year.

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Premier Dominic Perrottet said the inquiry will look into one of the darkest times in New South Wales history.

“These crimes represent one of the darkest times in our recent history. They were callous, brutal and cowardly. As I said in Parliament recently, ‘LGBTI members of our community have suffered grave injustices that were not acceptable in the past and they are not acceptable now. Where there is still work to be done to address these injustices, we will do it.’ This is the first step to address them.”

Special Minister of State Don Harwin acknowledged the response to the issue had been slow.

“Justice for the victims, their families and friends has been slow. Many still carry with them the physical and emotional scars of these vile attacks. The inquiry recommended by the Committee will help to bring some closure for the families and healing to the thousands of others, including myself, who experienced the threat of violence or an actual assault. It’s a simple matter of justice.”

The Legislative Council’s Standing Committee on Social Issues Inquiry into Gay Hate and Transgender Hate Crimes Between 1970 and 2010 began in 2018. Their report has three Findings and five Recommendations and all have been supported by the Government.

This includes the ruling that the NSW Police Force failed in its responsibility to properly investigate historical hate crimes. It also found that victims carry enduring physical, mental and emotional trauma as a result of their experiences, and that acknowledging past wrongs by those who failed to protect and deliver justice is a necessary step towards healing.

As well as the establishment of a judicial inquiry into unsolved cases of suspected gay and transgender hate crime deaths, the report also recommended the NSW Government provides a comprehensive update on the implementation of the recommendations in NSW Police Strike Force Parrabell, ensures that adequate victim support services are made available to those impacted historical gay and transgender hate crimes, provide further funding toward the Bondi Memorial in Marks Park in Bondi, in honour of the victims and survivors of LGBTIQ hate crime and ensure that its computerised operational policing system adequately captures LGBTIQ hate crimes.

Chair of the Legislative Council Inquiry Shayne Mallard said it had been a long road for those seeking answers about loved ones.

“The long road to this moment is a tribute to Kay Warren and those who lost loved ones. Kay’s son Ross disappeared at Mark’s Park in 1989 and she never gave up the fight for justice. Those responsible for these crimes are now middle aged and many remain unpunished. This inquiry is the right way to address the concerns of the community and hopefully bring some of the offenders to justice. My great thanks to all those who supported and helped our Inquiry and to my colleagues.”

Details of the inquiry and terms of reference will be announced shortly.

ACON welcome the announcement of a judicial inquiry

The announcement has been welcomed by NSW’s leading LGBTQ health organisation, ACON.

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said it was clear there had been an epidemic of violence targeted at people with diverse sexuality and gender.

“For decades, sexuality and gender diverse people in NSW were subjected to horrific hate crimes. This epidemic of violence, along with the slow and inadequate responses to many of these crimes, have left a painful legacy for the loved ones of victims, survivors, their families, and the broader community.

“ACON welcomes the NSW Government’s commitment to form an inquiry into historical gay and transgender hate crimes. Questions remain and this inquiry will be an important step towards healing and justice.”

“These crimes took place at a time when many in the community thought gay and transgender people were sick, perverted or criminals,” Parkhill said. “That was reflected not only in terms of the horrific acts of violence committed against us, but also how the system responded apathetically and with inertness to these atrocities.

“A judicial inquiry will have investigative powers, and importantly, the ability to compel witnesses. It will also uncover where there have been systematic failures and wrongdoing, particularly in law enforcement systems and justice agencies. This will be critical to ensuring this does not happen again,” Parkhill said.

“We know through recent breakthroughs in decades-old cases that additional inquiries, sustained community and media focus, and increased resourcing elevates these crimes in the public eye and moves us closer to righting past wrongs. A judicial inquiry will assist uncover the truth and deliver justice.”

Parkhill applauded the government for making the decision to hold the inquiry.

“We commend the NSW Government for being so decisive in announcing this inquiry given the age of these crimes. Many survivors and the perpetrators may not be with us for much longer. Yet many questions remain, and they cannot be allowed to persist unanswered because evidence and memory have been lost.”

Parkhill acknowledged the many people and organisations who have worked tirelessly over many years in bringing attention to past fatal violence and facilitating justice to those impacted by these crimes.

“We pay tribute to all who continue to persevere in their pursuit for truth and justice, including the many parliamentarians, journalists, academics, activists, legal professionals, community advocates, LGBTQ community members and allies,” Parkhill said.

“And we remember all the victims and survivors of LGBTQ hate crimes. ACON, alongside Waverley Council, recently unveiled the Bondi Memorial in their honour. We hope this inquiry will be the next step towards healing and justice for their families and loved ones.”

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Bondi Memorial remembers those lost to gay hate crimes

The Bondi Memorial – a public artwork dedicated to victims and survivors of LGBTQ hate and violence – was recently installed at Marks Park in Tamarama.

ACON has been working with Waverley Council since 2015 to establish a permanent memorial site in Marks Park to honour those targeted in homophobic and transphobic attacks in Sydney from the 1970s to the 1990s.

The artwork is entitled ‘Rise’ and has been designed by John Nicholson of United Art Projects (UAP).

At the recent opening of the memorial CEO Nicolas Parkhill said the completion of the work marked an important milestone in the LGBTQ community’s journey towards healing.

“For decades, our communities have endured the pain and trauma of these horrific acts of violence. We know that many gay men and trans women were killed, tortured or assaulted across Sydney, including along the city’s coastline and eastern suburbs. These events have left a sorrowful legacy that continues to be felt today.

“This memorial will serve as a monument to the victims and survivors and help heal the trauma these events have caused for their families and loved ones, as well as broader LGBTQ communities and many local residents,” Parkhill said.

“The memorial will also help raise greater community awareness of the issue of LGBTQ hate crimes, promote the continuing need to pursue truth and justice, and serve as a reminder of the importance of valuing and celebrating diversity in our community.”

Waverley Mayor Paula Masselos said it was a profoundly meaningful project.

“I am honoured to have been a part of such a profoundly meaningful project and to have worked alongside ACON to make it a reality”.

“John Nicholson and UAP’s design responds beautifully to the project’s guiding principles of remembrance, diversity, inclusion, justice and acceptance,” Masselos said.

“Having a permanent catalyst for the ongoing building of an inclusive, accepting and resilient society will ensure that this dark history will never be repeated.”

Located in an area of natural amphitheatre on the south-western side of the park, the artwork’s compositional arrangement was informed by the strata of the cliffs that descend towards the ocean but re-imagined as a staircase flipped to ascend towards the horizon – the act of climbing inverting the act of falling, the pathway forward away from the history of violence.

Embedded in the artwork is a series of plaques honouring lives lost and reflecting moments in the community ongoing pursuit of healing, truth and justice.

UAP has worked with hundreds of acclaimed artists and creatives from around the world including Ai Weiwei, Tamara Dean and Ben Quilty to assist them in developing concept designs into reality.

Managing Principle and Senior Curator for UAP, Owen Craven said creating the work had been a humbling experience.

“Completing and helping deliver this project with Waverley Council and ACON over the past year has been a humbling experience and is a significant milestone for everyone at UAP”.

“This artwork will play a special role in nurturing life in the community as it becomes a place of remembrance for the victims of hate crimes, but also celebrates the bravery of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals who have come out and lived openly, no matter the risks,” Craven said.

“We hope this memorial helps raise greater community awareness on the importance of inclusion, diversity, equity, and belonging for all.”

The Bondi Memorial has been made possible with a $100,000 contribution from Waverley Council, donations from LGBTQ people and supporters via ACON’s community fundraising drive, and a philanthropic gift of $64,000 from LGBTQ community Stephen Heasley and Andrew Borg.

“I’m pleased to see that this contribution has helped to build a monument that not only shines a light on the impacts of prejudice and discrimination, but also underscores the importance of celebrating diversity in the society,” Heasley said.

“It is a great honour to assist in the creation of this public artwork which commemorates the past and stands as a beacon for healing, unity, progress and inclusion,” Borg added.

OIP Staff


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