NSW’s landmark Special Commission of Inquiry into historical LGBTIQ hate crime deaths will hear from its first witnesses in Sydney from next Monday.
Led by the Supreme Court judge John Sackar, the inquiry is looking into unsolved deaths suspected to be hate crimes targeting members of the LGBTIQ community.
The deaths occurred during an era of brutal gay hate bashings and murders across Sydney that terrorised the gay and transgender community for decades.
The violence peaked in the 1980s but continued after the state decriminalised homosexuality in 1984.
The first-of-its-kind inquiry into the deaths began earlier this month. Next week, it will hear from its first witnesses during the second public hearing in Sydney from Monday (November 21).
Over five days, the hearing will examine the social and cultural context in which the deaths occurred.
The inquiry will look at the level of violence against the LGBTIQ community between 1970 and 2010, at beats, in private homes and elsewhere.
Witnesses will give evidence on the social, legal and cultural factors affecting the LGBTIQ community over that 40-year period.
This includes NSW Police’s response to suspected gay hate violence and deaths, as well as the advocacy and campaigns of the LGBTIQ community in that period, including law reform.
First witnesses to address hate crime inquiry next week
The inquiry expects the following witnesses to give evidence next week:
Garry Wotherspoon – Historian, activist and author of several books including Gay Sydney.
Les Peterkin – a gay man whose life experiences include both Sydney and country NSW, between the 1950s and the present.
Greg Callaghan – journalist, author of Bondi Badlands. Host of the podcast of the same name.
Barry Charles – Campus CAMP UNSW, First Secretary of the UNSW Gay Liberation. Co-Convenor of the Gay Rights Lobby in the early 1980s.
Bruce Grant – Co-Convenor of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby from 1989-1991. Coordinator of the Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Project from 1991-1999.
Dr Gary Cox – Co-Convenor of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby from 1988 to 1989. Author of the Streetwatch Report and the Count and Counter Report into hate-related violence against gays and lesbians in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Carole Ruthchild – Co-Convenor of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby from 1989 to 1992. Contributor to the Off Our Backs report into anti-lesbian violence in the early 90s.
Ulo Klemmer – Beat Outreach Worker with ACON in the 1990s.
Eloise Brook – Health and Communications Manager at The Gender Centre. Editor of trans magazine POLARE. Presenter of the podcast Counting the Dead, an investigation of homicides against transgender people.
The hearing commences at 10am AEDT on Monday (November 21) at the Chief Secretary’s Building, Level 2, 121 Macquarie Street, Sydney.
It’s open to the public and will also be livestreamed on the Inquiry’s website.
LGBTIQ hate crime inquiry calls for information from the public
The Special Commision of Inquiry has published a list of some of the cases being looked at on its website. More will be added as the hearing progress.
Investigators have urged any witnesses with information – however major or minor – to come forward.
The information could provide the key to solving some of the unsolved cases, counsel assisting Peter Gray SC said.
“Any recollections or pieces of information you might have could provide a vital link in understanding what happened,” Gray said.
“In some cases, it may ultimately lead to arrests and prosecutions. Justice in these cases has been long-delayed, and long-awaited.
“This may be the last chance for the truth about some of these historical deaths to be exposed. We need to hear from you.”
Gray called for anyone who may have committed crimes, or involved in them, to come forward.
“If you’ve had something weighing on your mind for years about these things, now’s your chance to do something to make some amends,” he said.
“Now is the time to break your silence.”
Information can be provided to the inquiry – anonymously or confidentially if you prefer – either via the website, by email or by post.
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, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.
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