|More pictures and essay here|
*Update: Video of the apology on Feb 25th here.
It was the first Mardi Gras in Sydney, rather a protest in solidarity with the Stonewall riots. It was met with police force and brutality, leaving permanent scars on those who took part. It was also brave; a catalyst for change that paved the way for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in New South Wales and the state gov response to the HIV epidemic.
Now the New South Wales gov will finally formally apologise for the brutality and mistreatment dished out to those who marched that day in 1978.
The apology will be aimed at the 78ers, those who took part in the first eve Mardi Gras, many of who were subjected to police brutality, and 53 of who were arrested.To this day, Peter Murphy still struggles with the bashing he recieved in the police station that night:
Some were outed against their will, lost their jobs, and some took their own lives.
Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith is expected to announce the apology today at the Mardi Gras Fair Day.
He will move the apology motion at the state’s Legislative Assembly on Thursday.
Notley-Smith said the apology would “acknowledge the significance of the events of that [first Mardi Gras] 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”.
“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,” he continued.
One man who was there, reports the Guardian, was Mark Gillespie, who said he was “deeply, deeply emotional”, about the apology. “I’m thinking of the people who are no longer around, people who have passed away. Right through that period leading up to the 1978 civil unrest nobody ever counted the number of young gay people that suicided. There’s deep deep pain still that comes out of our generation,” he said.
Another 78er, Kate Rowe, said the apology “would be very significant to me because it would be a little bit of closure”. Pink News
Police arrested and mistreated many of the 78ers, many of whom were thrown in jail or were attacked.
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 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. 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,” Mr Notley-Smith said.
Upper house Labor MP Penny Sharpe, Shadow Minister for the Planning, Environment &Heritage, said: “This apology has been a long time coming and is well past due. 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.”
“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.” Sydney Star Observer