IT has been a long time coming but the men and women who started Sydney’s Mardi Gras — the 78ers — will finally receive an apology from the NSW government for the ill treatment they received during the city’s first Mardi Gras.
Coogee state Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith will introduce the 78ers motion of apology to the NSW Legislative Assembly on Thursday. The motion is also expected to be introduced to the NSW Legislative Council at a later time by the Deputy President, upper house Nationals MP Trevor Khan.
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.”
Members of the public are encouraged to attend the 78ers Apology at NSW Legislative Assembly on Thursday February 25 from 10am in the public gallery.
It is not known at this time if the NSW police will also issue an apology to the 78ers.