Twenty four year old Ross Warren, a news presenter from Wollongong, was last seen driving along Oxford Street, Sydney’s iconic gaybourhood on July 22, 1989. Two days later his keys were found on the rocks below the cliffs at Marks Park in Tamarama. His body was never found. But his mother Kay Warren carried on the fight for justice for her son, who was among the number of gay men and trans women to lose their lives to hate crimes in Sydney starting from 1970s. 

The NSW government on Thursday announced that it will set up a judicial inquiry into the spate of anti-gay and anti-trans hate crimes that took place in Sydney between 1970 and 2010.

Wollongong news presenter Ross Warren

The setting up of a judicial inquiry was one of the recommendations made in May by a bipartisan NSW Parliamentary committee.

Out MLC and chair of the committee Shayne Mallard said in a statement that he hoped that the inquiry “would bring some offenders to justice”” 

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ACON welcomed the news of the inquiry and said that it would be “an important step towards healing and justice.”

 

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NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet

There were around 88 suspected deaths of gay men and trans women, who were victims of hate crimes that occurred between 1970 and 2010 in NSW. Around 23 remains unsolved.

“These crimes represent one of the darkest times in our recent history. They were callous, brutal and cowardly,” NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said in a statement while announcing the setting up of the inquiry.

“As I said in Parliament recently, ‘LGBTI members of our community have suffered grave injustices that were not acceptable in the past and they are not acceptable now. Where there is still work to be done to address these injustices, we will do it.’ This is the first step to address them.”

MLC Mallard said that the inquiry and the long road to it was a tribute to Kaye Warren and others who had lost loved ones to these hate crimes. 

Shayne Mallard, MLC, NSW

“Those responsible for these crimes are now middle aged and many remain unpunished. This inquiry is the right way to address the concerns of the community and hopefully bring some of the offenders to justice,” said Mallard. 

The Parliamentary committee had concluded that in most cases NSW Police had “failed in its duty to properly investigate hate crimes against the gay and transgender communities”.

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In one instance, when parents of Simon, a gay man from Newton, who went missing in July 2005, approached the police, they were told “gays go missing all the time… he’ll turn up.”

Horrific Acts Of Violence

Some of the victims of anti-gay and anti-trans hate crimes In Sydney between 1970 and 2010.

According to Nicholas Parkhill, CEO of ACON, the response was characteristic of the attitude towards the LGBTQI community at that time. 

“These crimes took place at a time when many in the community thought gay and transgender people were sick, perverted or criminals. That was reflected not only in terms of the horrific acts of violence committed against us, but also how the system responded apathetically and with inertness to these atrocities,” said Parkhill.  

“For decades, sexuality and gender diverse people in NSW were subjected to horrific hate crimes. This epidemic of violence, along with the slow and inadequate responses to many of these crimes, have left a painful legacy for the loved ones of victims, survivors, their families, and the broader community,” Parkill said. 

Recent arrests in two cases – the deaths of Scott Johnson and Raymond Keam –  have sparked hopes for other unsolved cases. While the NSW government has not yet come out with the terms of reference for the inquiry, Parkhill said that it could have a significant relook at some of the cases.

“A judicial inquiry will have investigative powers, and importantly, the ability to compel witnesses. It will also uncover where there have been systematic failures and wrongdoing, particularly in law enforcement systems and justice agencies. This will be critical to ensuring this does not happen again,” Parkhill said. 

The NSW government said that it accepted all the findings of the committee and would implement its recommendations. In addition to the judicial inquiry, the committee had recommended that the government should implement the recommendations made in the NSW Police Strike Force Parrabell report.

The committee further recommended that the government ensure the adequacy of victim support services for people touched by LGBTIQ hate crimes, support the completion of the Bondi Memorial in Marks Park, Bondi and ensure that LGBTQI hate crimes are adequately captured and recorded by the police.

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

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