Tasmanian LGBTIQA+ advocate Rodney Croome has met with the police officer who arrested him for gay rights activism in an iconic 1988 photo for the first time in decades at a special event.
Equality Tasmania president Croome was photographed being arrested at the Salamanca Market in 1988 (inset) for calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Tasmania.
At Rokeby Police Academy in Tasmania on Monday, Croome reunited for the first time with the arresting officer, Southern District Commander Tim Dooley (above, left).
The pair joined retiring Tasmanian Police Commissioner, Darren Hine (above right), to unveil a new timeline charting Tasmania Police’s evolving relationship with the state’s LGBTIQA+ community.
The timeline begins with the photo of Rodney Croome’s arrest, and charts subsequent progress in the decades since.
“When we started campaigning for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1988 our relationship with the Tasmania Police was at a low ebb,” Croome recalled.
“For decades, LGBTIQA+ Tasmanians had been harassed and arrested by police for simply being themselves.”
In previous years, police arrested transgender women for wearing women’s clothes. Young gay male couples were also imprisoned simply because police only found one bed in their home, Croome said.
“Sometimes the police were unwilling participants in this repression. Sometimes they took it further than necessary,” Croome said.
“When we set up a stall at Salamanca Market calling for the state’s anti-LGBTIQA+ laws to be repealed, the police were called in.
“[Officers] arrested 130 people in what became the biggest police mobilisation against the LGBTIQA+ community in Australian history.
“The job of Tasmania Police is to protect all Tasmanians, including LGBTIQA+ people, but instead it was protecting Tasmania from LGBTIQA+ people.
“The arrests were traumatic but also a turning point.”
Tasmania Police ‘acknowledges these darker times’
Police Commissioner Darren Hine said when he joined the force in 1980, he and all other officers enforced the state’s anti-gay laws during a “dark” period in the state’s history.
Tasmania was the last Australia to decriminalise homosexuality in 1997.
“In the recent past, members of the LGBTIQA+ community have not been treated with the respect and the equality that they deserve,” Hine said.
“As we reflect on the darker times including the arrests at Salamanca Markets in 1988 its evident that as a community and a police service we had a lot of work to do to turn this around.
“The purpose of this timeline is to acknowledge these darker times and provide an overview of how Tasmania Police has worked hard to be an inclusive organisation and ensure we build trust with the LGBTIQA+ community and provide a professional and supportive service.”
In 1998 Tasmania Police formed its first Gay and Lesbian Police Liaison Committee. Hine said that group had evolved and grown into the LGBTIQA+ Strategic Working Group.
Tasmania Police also supports a network of Liaison Officers.
Overcoming ‘long history of deep mistrust and fear’
Rodney Croome said he would never have imagined more than 30 years after his arrest he would be celebrating the transformation of the relationship between Tasmania Police and the LGBTIQA+ community.
He recalled that at the start, it wasn’t easy to “overcome such a long history of deep mistrust and fear.”
“I still remember the first time I came to this building as part of the initial group to train recruits in LGBTIQA+ issues,” he said.
“As I looked out over small sea of gold and blue I could feel the doubt and suspicion of quite a few recruits, as well as academy staff.
“To break the ice we asked recruits to tell us all the slurs they knew for the police. [We] encouraged them to say how those slurs made them feel.
“Then we did the same for LGBTIQA+ people. It was an exercise in empathy and bridge-building we repeated dozens of times over the years.”
Rodney Croome says timeline ‘shows real change is possible’
Rodney Croome said recent research Tasmania Police had initiated had identified work still to be done.
This includes police responses to same-gender family violence, trans, gender diverse and non-binary people, LGBTIQA+ hate crimes and LGBTIQA+ police staff.
“The positive changes we have seen give me hope Tasmania Police and Tasmanian LGBTIQA+ community representatives will continue to work together to ensure safety and equity for LGBTIQA+ people,” he said.
Croome said Commissioner Hine had been “one of Tasmania’s most effective LGBTIQA+ allies”.
Today, Tasmania Police “is recognised nationally and globally as a leader on LGBTIQA+ inclusion,” he said.
“That’s been a long and sometimes difficult journey. But a journey I think all Tasmanians can take pride in because it shows that real change – profound change – is possible,” Croome said.
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