Call for submissions as NSW historical gay hate crime inquiry reopens

gay hate crime new south wales parliamentary inquiry
Left to right: Ross Warren, Scott Johnson and John Russell

The New South Wales parliamentary inquiry into four decades of gay and transgender hate crimes has reopened and will hear from regional communities next year.

The inquiry, the first of its kind in Australia was launched last year. In February, the committee recommended further investigation into suspected anti-gay homicides across the state.

In 2020, the committee will travel to the Far North Coast, the Central West, Wollongong, and elsewhere to hear from community members outside Sydney.

People impacted by historic prejudice-related violence can lodge a submission to the inquiry. ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said those who missed the first round of submissions should have their voices heard.

“We commend the NSW Parliament for their commitment to shedding further light on the issue of historic hate crimes, and how judicial and justice agencies responded,” Parkhill said.

“We have been working hard to address the grief and trauma these tragic events have caused, which continues to impact on our community’s health and wellbeing today.

“Questions remain. We are encouraged that by reopening the submission process, we can take further steps towards healing and justice.”

The inquiry will look further into the criminal justice system at any impediments impacting the protection of LGBTIQ people across NSW.

“We know that this issue and the inquiry has been painful for some,” Parkhill said.

“But it is critical that our understanding of what occurred be as comprehensive as possible.

“[We need to] identify the impediments to justice, assess the adequacy of our current policies and practices, and scrutinise institutional responses to hate crimes.

“Your input is vital to improving our understanding of these events, and in the development of responses to ensure they don’t occur again.”

Submissions are open until January 31 via the NSW parliament’s website.

‘Either I do something or I’m going over the cliff’

The hate crime inquiry came after the release of two reports into a spate of unsolved murders from a period over decades.

NSW parliamentary committee chair Shayne Mallard said the homicides are “a dark chapter” in New South Wales history.

“The gay hate crimes… need to be fully exposed for the sake of the victims, their families, friends and the community,” he said.

At one hearing in November, Sydney man David McMahon shared an experience of gay hate violence from December 1989.

McMahon recalled he was jogging in Marks Park, a gay beat, when a group of 18-24-year-olds attacked him.

“I remember being bashed. I was told that they were going to put a stick — rape me like that,” he said.

“A young girl with a green bikini top was inciting most of the actions that were happening.

“I don’t remember anything else… Then I came to, when they were about to throw me off the cliff.

“I thought to myself, either I do something now or I am going over. I just seemed to turn, I had my footing and there was loose gravel everywhere.

“And that is how I got away. Then I ran. They followed me for quite some time.”

McMahon said he then went to give a statement to police about the incident. However, despite being the victim, police locked in a cell at the station for almost three hours.

Later, he learned the group who attacked him were known as People that Kill or “PTK”.

‘Dozen of gay hate crime victims also deserve justice’

Mathematician Scott Johnson’s 1988 death in Sydney was determined to be the result of gay hate violence in 2017.

No evidence or crime scene photographs were taken by police, who treated Johnson’s death as a suicide. Police closed the case the following day, according to the inquiry’s report.

Johnson’s brother Steve told the inquiry his brother deserves justice.

“Dozens of other gay men also deserve justice and [their] families would cherish receiving it,” he said.

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