Sunday, February 28, 2016

Apology to 78ers

In August 1978, I attended the National Homosexual Conference at Paddington Town Hall in Sydney. It ran from Friday to Sunday.  My diary shows that on the Saturday we formed the Gay Teachers and Students Society but I went home afterwards. I am not sure why I did not go to the city march that followed.  In those days homosexual activities were still illegal (did not change in NSW until 1983) and I was a teacher in a Catholic Boys' High School, so had to be careful.  In those days even State school teachers were at risk if their sexuality became known.

In my diary I write that I went to communion on Sunday morning then to the Conference but left in disgust and drove to Watson's Bay. I was angry but probably also my mind was in turmoil. Partly relieved that I had escaped the police brutality and arrests of the previous night but also ashamed that I had not been brave enough to take part in what began as a public celebration of Gay Pride but developed due to police action into riots, beatings and arrests. 53 were arrested, had their names published int the City newspapers and many lost friends, jobs and even family as a result.
In 1979 I did attend the protest march which was peaceful partly because it had prior permission. These were the forerunners of today's world famous Sydney Gay Mardi Gras now held at the end of summer  (this year March 5) and a big tourist attraction.  In recent years there has been a contingent from the NSW police force marching in uniform.  How things have changed.

Last week the NSW parliament moved a motion apologising to those who were arrested and beaten that night. It was moved by an openly gay member of parliament but passed unanimously with many of the original 78ers in the gallery.

The Sydney Morning Herald has also apologised for publishing the names and the article is here

The parliamentary member who moved the motion Bruce Motley-Smith is a member of the conservative Liberal Party now in Government in NSW.  He has been in a same-sex partnership for over 20 years and gratefully acknowledged his partner Paul McCormack in his maiden speech.

I am including a supporting speech by a member of the Greens party.

I have also found an interview with 2 guys that I knew in those years but have not seen for many many years

As the 1978 evening Stonewall parade moved down Oxford St towards Hyde Park, the police became agitated by our chants of "Out of the bars and into the street" as some did just that. As Peter notes, we knew that the baars and police were colluding to make money from our justified fears. The police did not like us getting away with that! So they started pushing us along, cancelled our permit, and tried to arrest Lance Gowland, who was driving the lead "float" with our music on it. It was only then that we headed for the Cross. And it was when we thought we had got free of them, and heading peacefully for home, that we found ourselves trapped and then attacked. See "It Was a Riot" ( a police riot) published by Sydney's Pride History

No comments: