A parliamentary inquiry has recommended the New South Wales government establish a judicial inquiry into unsolved gay- and trans-hate crimes in the state in a bid to finally get justice for victims.
The state parliamentary inquiry into Gay and Transgender Hate Crimes between 1970 and 2010 was launched in 2018.
The committee heard from numerous victims, relatives and representatives about dozens of suspected hate crimes between 1970 and 2010.
The committee’s second and final report was tabled in the NSW parliament on Wednesday.
It found that the NSW Police Force “failed in its responsibility to properly investigate” the historical cases.
As a result, survivors still “carry enduring physical, mental and emotional trauma” from their experiences.
The committee said “acknowledging past wrongs by those who failed to protect and deliver justice is a necessary step towards healing.”
The report recommends the establishment of a judicial inquiry, run by a judge, to look into the unsolved crimes.
Committee chair Liberal MP Shayne Mallard said while decades may have passed, “the hurt from these crimes has not”.
“For too long these deaths have remained unresolved and unanswered for,” committee chair Liberal MP Shayne Mallard said.
“”[It’s left] a hole in the lives of victims’ families and loved ones.
“The committee believes now is the time to act, before the receding window of opportunity to obtain evidence relating to these decades-old crimes closes.”
The committee also wants an update into the progress of the recommendations in NSW Police’s own inquiry, Strike Force Parrabell, into their handling of the crimes.
The NSW Police Force should also ensure its computerised operational policing system adequately captures LGBTIQ hate crimes, the committee recommends.
The committee also wants the NSW Government to make adequate victim support services available to those affected.
The government should also provide funding for the Bondi Memorial for hate crime victims.
However the committee’s report does not call for a public apology from NSW Police.
ACON backs recommendations from gay and transgender hate crime inquiry
LGBTIQ health organisation ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill took part in the inquiry. Parkhill said ACON strongly supports all the report’s recommendations.
“This report is an important document that acknowledges the suffering and trauma many people from sexuality and gender diverse communities in NSW have experienced,” Parkhill said.
“It makes clear the steps the NSW Government and NSW Police Force need to undertake to properly address this and ensure that healing and justice can begin.”
Parkhill thanked MPs for their strong, cross-party support during the historical hate crime inquiry.
However he said ACON had urged the NSW Government and the NSW Police Force to publicly apologise to the LGBTIQ community, and would continue to push for one.
Indifference to violence led to failures of justice
In 2019, the NSW committee acknowledged a “prevailing acceptance of and indifference” to violence against gay men in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
Those “pervasive prejudices” also existed within NSW Police, the committee said. This led to failures of justice for many victims of gay and transgender hate crimes.
NSW Police last year charged a man with the 1988 murder of gay man Scott Johnson in Sydney in a major breakthrough.
In January, Scott Phillip White pleaded not guilty to the crime.
However in New South Wales, numerous other similar crimes remain unsolved.
Wollongong newsreader Ross Warren disappeared after a night out in July 1989.
His body was never found. His keys were retrieved from the bottom of cliffs below a gay beat in the eastern Sydney suburb of Tamarama.
Police concluded Warren accidentally fell into the sea. But in 2005, then-NSW Coroner Jacqueline Milledge blasted the “grossly inadequate and shameful” police investigation.
NSW Police now consider Warren’s death a “probable gay-hate crime”. In 2015, they announced a $100,000 reward for information.
Just months later police found barman John Russell’s body at the bottom of the cliff in the same area.
Anyone with information on any unsolved NSW crimes should contact Crime Stoppers confidentially on 1800 333 000 or online.
If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.
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