LGBTQIA+ Committee Learns NSW Police Intentions For Gay Hate Recommendations

LGBTQIA+ Committee Learns NSW Police Intentions For Gay Hate Recommendations
Image: Barry Charles (L), Sydney MP Alex Greenwich (C), Garry Wotherspoon. Facebook, Alex Greenwich

NSW Police could start implementing the recommendations from the Inquiry into LGBTQIA+ hate crimes within a month’s time, according to community members who attended an inaugural consultation with police earlier this week.

This story was originally published by Grace Johnson on City Hub

Earlier this week, the NSW Government and senior NSW Police gathered with LGBTQIA+ community stakeholders and members in Sydney for the first LGBTQIA+ Consultative Committee, held at Qtopia.

Commissioner Justice John Sackar handed down his 19 recommendations over six months ago.

Since then, NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb established the Task Force Atlas, an internal group to review the recommendations and respond as appropriate. Little else has been done.

NSW Police “shouldn’t be waiting”

Barry Charles, member of the First Mardi Gras Inc., told City Hub that during the meeting, in response to community inquiry about delays, that NSW Police would be implementing the recommendations shortly.

“Unfortunately, I think the police are waiting for the government itself,” he said in conversation with City Hub.

“The actual cabinet has not considered all the recommendations, and we were assured by the minister that they would be doing that within about a month’s time.”

“My opinion is that the police shouldn’t be waiting for that, and from what we were told, and in certain areas, they are not waiting for that,” he continued.

“Police have identified the areas in which they are deficient, which were highlighted during the commission, that is in the areas of record keeping, placement of forensic evidence, and they have strongly indicated they are going overtime to totally digitise their record keeping of assaults and traces of homicide.”

City Hub contacted NSW Police for confirmation, who said there was no timeline indicated by police, but “some recommendations align closely with initiatives underway.”

What did the Special Commission ‘Inquiry into LGBTIQ+ hate crimes’ find?

The report from the Special Commission of ‘Inquiry into LGBTIQ hate crimes’, released in December last year, was the result of an 18-month investigation suspicious deaths or unsolved murders of LGBTQIA+ people between 1970 and 2010.

Out of the 34 deaths investigated, Justice Sackar found there was “objectively reason to suspect that LGBTQIA+ bias was a factor” in 21 deaths, and that “LGBTQIA+ bias was a factor” in four deaths.

He said that the impact of the violence was exacerbated by some police officers whom he described as “indifferent, negligent, dismissive or hostile”.

He emphasised that the response to the deaths often mirrored the “shameful homophobia, transphobia, and prejudice” present in both society and the NSW Police.

NSW Police and government met with LGBTQIA+ Consultative Committee 

Among others, LGBTQIA+ community stakeholders present at the meeting included:

  • Alex Greenwich MP for Sydney
  • First Mardi Gras’ member Barry Charles
  • QTOPIA board member and Independent, Garry Wotherspoon
  • CEO of Sydney Gay Lesbian Mardi Gras Gil Beckwith
  • ACON CEO, Nicholas Parkhill
  • CEO People with Disability Australia, Sebastian Zagarella
  • Family Representative, Steve Johnson

Other community organisations invited included Trans Justice Project, BlaQ, Equality Australia and The Gender Centre.

Police Commissioner Karen Webb said she supported the establishment of the LGBTQIA+ Consultative Committee to ensure that community members are consulted, as the police force addresses the recommendations laid out by the inquiry.

“While some recommendations align closely with initiatives already underway, Taskforce ATLAS will thoroughly assess the recommendations as part of ongoing efforts to enhance the service and accountability of the NSWPF,” said Webb.

“We continue to be committed to improve the ways in which the organisation responds to LGBTQIA+ concerns and the involvement of community members in those discussions is vital.”

NSW Minister for Police and Counter-terrorism Yasmin Catley acknowledged the enduring suffering of the victims of these hate crimes.

“The LGBTQIA+ Consultative Committee will enable community voices and experiences to help shape the NSW Police Force’s response to the Special Commission of Inquiry,” she said.

“I know that the NSW Police Force, under the leadership of Commissioner Karen Webb, is deeply committed to learning from the past and continuing to strengthen its relationship with the LGBTQIA+ community into the future. I know this work is and will continue to be taken seriously.”

“We can have a little confidence at least”

Discussing the inaugural meeting, Charles told City Hub that members of the community were initially cautious – they had not received information about the terms of the discussion nor a list of the attendees.

“The police established a task force, yet another task force, and we were concerned that this was just another way of shutting the community up, and not really getting to the real issues,” he said.

“But I think we can have a little confidence at least that we are now looking at a comprehensive process by the police to address all the issues that were in the Special Commission.”

“Some of those were addressing the actual culture in the police attitude to queer people, even after all these years when we’ve achieved law reform, on top of those individual cases that have to be resolved for friends and families of those victims.”

The first meeting focused on setting up the consultative committee and making sure it was totally inclusive, said Charles.

“We are there to oversee the fact that they’re changing the culture so that what happened in the past never happens again.”

The LGBTQIA+ Consultative Committee meetings will be held quarterly, with the next meeting scheduled for Wednesday 9 October 2024.

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