Victoria Police had several finalists in multiple categories at the annual Victorian Public Sector Pride Awards, with Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton’s historic apology to the LGBTI community named the Pride Community Initiative of the Year.
Each year, the Victorian Public Sector Pride Awards recognises and celebrates efforts to improve LGBTI inclusion in state government workplaces. Chief Commissioner Ashton’s apology was singled out as an important moment for LGBTI Victoria Police employees and the broader Victorian LGBTI community.
In August, Ashton apologised for the force’s treatment of gay people and said Victoria Police had caused “unnecessary and unacceptable harm” to the LGBTI community in the past.
“I acknowledge that there have been times in our history with the LGBTI community when Victoria Police has fallen short of the expectations that the community rightly puts upon us,” Ashton said.
“I am sorry to everyone in the community who did not receive the support and service they should have, who were concerned for their own safety and wellbeing, who as Victoria Police employees could not be their authentic selves at work.
“This work is not complete, and we are committed to becoming an organisation that reflects the entire community, and one that firmly rejects homophobia, transphobia, and other types of prejudice.”
The apology coincided with the 20th anniversary of the Victoria Police LGBTI Portfolio Reference Group, which was formed to provide advice, feedback and expertise to help the force engage with the LGBTI community.
Footscray Police Station’s barbecue to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia was also a finalist in the Pride Community Initiative of the Year category while Assistant Commissioner Neil Paterson was named the Executive Pride Champion of the Year for his work raising awareness about discrimination and mental health issues faced by LGBTI employees.
This year’s awards were held amidst a period of strained relations between Victoria Police and the state’s LGBTI community, following a botched raid on LGBTI bookstore, Hares & Hyenas, in May.
The brutal raid on the beloved Fitzroy bookshop saw police burst into the building and arrest Melbourne gay event promoter Nik Dimopoulos, in a case of mistaken identity. At the time, Dimopoulos was sleeping in an apartment attached to the bookshop, which is owned by his friends.
Dimopoulos’ right shoulder was ripped from its socket during the violent raid, which also resulted in multiple fractures to his right arm.
He is suing Victoria Police over the incident, which is currently the subject of an Independent Broadbased Anti-Corruption Commission investigation.