A powerful New South Wales judicial inquiry seeking justice for victims of decades of historical gay and transgender hate crimes is being established by the state government.
A NSW parliamentary committee earlier spent 18 months looking into dozens of the unsolved deaths between 1970 and 2010.
The committee heard from survivors and families of victims of the spate of attacks and released its report in May.
It found the NSW Police Force had historically failed in its duty to properly investigate such cases.
The bipartisan committee recommended the government launch a new judicial inquiry, headed by a judge.
NSW Liberal MP Shayne Mallard chaired the committee. He described the judicial inquiry as “a significant step” but “time is running out” to gather decades-old evidence.
He said the inquiry will get investigative powers to subpoena people and compel witnesses to “give evidence or go to jail.”
“Those responsible for these crimes are now middle aged and many remain unpunished,” he said.
“It’s time the perpetrators of hate crimes were held accountable for their actions.
“This inquiry is the right way to address the concerns of the community and hopefully bring some of the offenders to justice.”
Dark history of ‘callous, brutal and cowardly’ gay hate crimes
Announcing the inquiry on Thursday, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the crimes “represent one of the darkest times in our recent history.”
“They were callous, brutal and cowardly,” he said.
“LGBTI members of our community have suffered grave injustices that were not acceptable in the past and they are not acceptable now,” he said.
“Where there is still work to be done to address these injustices, we will do it.
“This is the first step to address them.”
Unsolved cases include the suspected gay hate murders of TV newsreader Ross Warren (above) and barman John Russell.
Warren disappeared after a night out drinking with friends in July 1989.
The 25-year-old’s body was never found. But police found his keys below cliffs at Tamarama beach in Sydney.
Four months later, Russell’s body was found in the same area also after a night out.
At that time, gangs of young men roamed Sydney, bashing gay men and forcing them off the cliffs.
These cases and others were recently examined in a new podcast, Bondi Badlands, by journalist Greg Callaghan.
Callaghan also spoke to a former New South Wales police officer who recounted assaults by police officers against gay men in the 1980s.
The ex-cop also recalled his superiors’ shocking refusal to arrest and charge perpetrators of gay hate bashings.
A memorial to victims of gay and trans hate violence opened last month at Mark’s Park in Bondi.
Authorities’ responses to crimes was ‘slow and inadequate’
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said in New South Wales, gay and trans people suffered decades of horrific hate violence.
But authorities’ responses to the crimes were typically “slow and inadequate,” he said.
“[This] left a painful legacy for the loved ones of victims, survivors, their families, and the broader community,” Parkhill said.
“Questions remain and this inquiry will be an important step towards healing and justice.
“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.”
He also said the new judicial inquiry’s investigative powers to compel witnesses was important.
“It will also uncover … systematic failures and wrongdoing, particularly in law enforcement systems and justice agencies.
“This will be critical to ensuring this does not happen again.”
The New South Wales government will announce more details of the new judicial inquiry soon.
For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.