The Mardi Gras 78ers

The participants in the very first Sydney Mardi Gras in 1978 will this week get an apology from the New South Wales parliament.

Those participants, known as the 78ers, were part of the watershed protest march in Sydney on June 24, 1978 that gave birth to the modern Mardi Gras Parade.

That night, more than 500 people gathered to call for the decriminalisation of homosexual acts and an end to discrimination towards gays and lesbians. Fifty-three were arrested, with many others reportedly suffering violence at the hands of police.

Now NSW Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith has announced at this year’s Mardi Gras Fair Day that the parliament’s apology would “acknowledge the significance of the events of that night in June 38 years ago; the struggles and harm caused to the many who took part in the demonstration and march, both on that night and in the weeks, months and years to follow.”

“Many 78ers are no longer with us; many have lived a life of hurt and pain, and many took their own lives. This apology is for all of them,” he said.

Mr Notley-Smith is expected to move the apology motion, which has cross-party support, in the state’s Legislative Assembly on Thursday morning just after 10am.

Entertainer Julie McCrossin, one of the 78ers, said the treatment the protesters faced was “cruel and inhumane” and the apology will be emotional to watch.

“If we get an apology, I think it’s a wonderful and important community event. It’s a recognition that what happened was wrong and traumatic,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“The most important thing is that the young people right now who think they might be LGBTQ know they are part of the community and that discrimination by law against us, let alone by the representatives of the law, the police service, is wrong.”

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