MEMBERS of the original Mardi Gras parade in 1978 have said this morning’s formal apology from NSW Police for the brutal treatment they endured was not enough — saying it needed to come from the Police Commissioner himself.

The group — known as the 78ers — were brutalised, arrested and beaten at the first parade 38 years ago and since then have been demanding an apology from police.

Last week the NSW Government officially apologised to the 78ers for events of that evening while the Sydney Morning Herald also apologised for publishing the names, addresses and occupations of the 53 arrested on the night.

At a Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade media briefing earlier today, Corporate Sponsor for Sexuality and Gender Diversity for the NSW Police Force, Supt Tony Crandell, said he had spoken to NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione this morning.

“I have his full support in saying that the NSW Police Force is sorry for the way that first Mardi Gras was policed back in 1978,” he told the media gathering.

“For that, we apologise — and we acknowledge the pain and hurt caused by police actions back then.

“We do understand the apology issued by the Parliament was on behalf of all NSW government agencies but we felt it important that the NSW Police perspective is well understood.”

Superintendent Tony Crandell delivers the apology to the 78ers. Photo: NSW Police

Superintendent Tony Crandell delivers the apology to the 78ers. (Photo: NSW Police)

Six members of the 78ers committee were in attendance at the media conference but they were not aware the apology was going to take place until a few minutes beforehand.

One of those members, Diane Minnis, said that although Crandell was an appropriate person to deliver the apology because of his involvement with the LGBTI community, the Commissioner should have been the person to deliver it.

“I was pretty stunned when Tony did it, he has had a lot to do with our community over the years. But it was not actually done in an official way,” she said.

“It’s half an apology, the Police Commissioner needs to be the one to deliver the apology. Not done this way.”

Minnis recalls the violence she witnessed at the 1978 Mardi Gras.

“My leg was in a plaster so my girlfriend and my friend who was  man wearing a dress, were shielding me in a doorway of a shop, keeping me away from the malay,” she said.

“But from there it gave me a clear view of the violence, it was very violent.”

Gary Schliemann, another 78ers, was also at the media conference today. Like Minnis, he said he was pleased to hear the apology from Crandell but believed the police needed to show they were truly sorry by hearing it from Scipione.

“We do want to hear from him Scipione, we don’t really accept (the apology),” he said.

“There was severe damage done to the people in ’78. We had been given permission to be there and we were brutally beaten.

“We hoped the police would take the opportunity to apologise properly. But as Supt Crandell said it’s a journey the police are on… it just needs to be a bigger journey. The police needs to acknowledge how abusive and corrupt they were.”

Both Minnis and Schliemann said they were looking forward to “big night and a big sleep” following a big week of activity for the group and tomorrow’s Mardi Gras Parade. Due to the media attention following the different apologies the 78ers float has grown and will be double the size it was last year.

Steve Warren was present at the government apology and today’s apology from the police, but wanted to thank Sydney’s LGBTI media for their help over the years.

“We (the 78ers) wish to thank the GLBTIQ media and Star Observer for helping us with the apology, you’ve really been there for us,” he said.

Supt Crandell said in his statement the NSW Police had come a long way in its attitudes since 1978 and would be marching proudly in tomorrow’s Mardi Gras Parade.

“I work very closely with the LGBTI community and I understand the depth of feeling about the role of police back in 1978. Our relationship these days is healthy, positive and progressive. That wasn’t the case back then,” he said.

“Today’s force is a very different organisation. Last year we celebrated 25 years of our Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officer Program. These officers do wonderful work around the state and I know their work is very much appreciated.”

When Star Observer Supt Crandell for further comment and to find out if the Commissioner Scipione would be making a further apology, a Police Media spokesperson said Supt Crandell would not be making any more comments about the apology and was focusing on preparations for the Mardi Gras Parade.

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