Australia: Sydney apologises to the 78ers

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Fairfax/Getty | 16121gh

On a Saturday evening, June 24, 1978, supporters of gay rights took to the streets of Sydney, inspired by international Gay Solidarity Celebrations, which spread globally following the Stonewall Riots of 1969. A celebration at Taylor Square on Oxford Street turned into a violent police crackdown.

During the parade, demonstrators followed a single truck down the street. When the truck reached Hyde Park, where speeches were to take place, police pounced and shut down its music system and arrested the driver.

Supporters continued their march along William Street and into Darlinghurst Road and walked into a police trap, where paddy wagons and officers waited for them . There was a bloody and violent clash between police and the gay rights activists. 53 people were arrested. Many of them were subjected to ill treatment in custody.

Homosexuality was a crime in New South Wales until 1984.

For the first time, the government of the state of New South Wales has apologised to gay rights activists who were involved in the violent 1978 parade. Many of the original group of 500 LGBT supporters, known as the “78ers,” were present in NSW Parliament on 24 February 2016 as MPs apologised on behalf of the government.

Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith presented the apology motion for “the harm and distress the events of 1978” had on the group and their families.

“We recognise that you were ill-treated, you were mistreated, you were embarrassed and shamed, and it was wrong. I hope it’s not too late that you can accept an apology but also we want to recognise that for all of that pain that you went through, you brought about fundamental change in this society and fundamental change for the many gay and lesbian people like myself, who can be open and relaxed about ourselves. You were the game changers.”

http://mashable.com/2016/02/24/apology-1978-mardi-gras/#iAg1MXrIbGqU

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Sydney, Australia: 80 gay murders and 30 unsolved cases remembered

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Scott Johnson | Sydney Morning Herald | 14161

The Sydney Morning Herald have been revisiting the murderous rampage of gay hate gangs in Sydney in the 1980s.

Scott Johnson, 27, naked body found at base of North Head near Manly, December 9, 1988. Police announced $100,000 reward in February 2013 after coroner overturned original finding of suicide.

“It was an epidemic,” says Sue Thompson, a lawyer and the former NSW Police Force gay liaison co-ordinator. The epidemic extended to the Manly cliff-tops and the northern beaches and regional NSW, and might add up to almost 80 murders. “Tragically, in those cliff-top murders – often officially called suicides or accidents – the teenage bashing gangs were the experts and police the amateurs. It is time to right that wrong.”

Thompson worked with Steve McCann and Steve Page, two homicide squad detectives who exposed the flaws in the original police investigations that found John Russell, 31, and a 25-year-old television newsreader Ross Warren fell accidentally to their deaths from the Bondi-Tamarama cliffs. In 2005, the then deputy state coroner Jacqueline Milledge found they were murdered and condemned the original investigations as “lacklustre” and “grossly inadequate and shameful”.

During her 12 years in the gay liaison role, Thompson used police intelligence data to record 46 gay-hate murders in NSW between 1989 and 1999. The criminologist Stephen Tomsen supported that with his finding of 50 between 1985 and 1995. These statistics, as sensational as they were, never made big headlines. And they didn’t go close to accounting for the full scale of the gay-hate murder rampage.

Thompson and Tomsen’s tally of close to 80 cases spans from the late 1970s to the 90s. Almost 30 of them remain unsolved. Secret police tapes captured teenagers convicted of killing one man boasting about their involvement in dozens of other gay bashings, but it was not enough evidence to charge them with a single other attack. Former detective-sergeant Steve Page, now in corporate security, says society would not have accepted so many unexplained killings of women, children, teachers or doctors. “We dropped the ball,” he says. But now the gay-hate gangs are approaching middle age. “They’ve been living with the guilt. A few of them might want to relieve that burden and give these poor families some answers.”

Sydney Police issued this statement: “A number of these deaths were investigated by Strike Force Taradale and briefs put before the coroner, whose role it is to determine the cause of death. Investigations into the death of Scott Johnson are being reviewed by the unsolved homicide team. If anyone has any information that could assist police in any of these matters they should contact Crime Stoppers.”

40 years of Karate Classes comes to an end

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Ken’s at Kensington | Ben Rushton BGR | 14399

Sydney, Australia’s famous gay sauna, Ken’s at Kensington, is to close due to the sale of the building on Sunday, May 20. The infamous sex-on-premises venue on Anzac Parade started life in 1973 after original owner Ken “Kandy” Johnson moved into what had been the home of another Sydney gay icon, the Purple Onion drag venue. The site was originally known as Ken’s Karate Klub, then Kensington Karate Klasses, an in-joke at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in NSW to explain why there were rubber mats all over the floors and “occasional sounds of groaning” from within.

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