‘Their lives mattered’: Landmark NSW gay hate murder inquiry begins

Four suspected gay hate crime death victims, and Special Commission of Inquiry counsel assisting Peter Gray
Images: Special Commission of Inquiry (left), NSW Police/Supplied

A first-of-its-kind inquiry in New South Wales into unsolved gay-hate murders in the state has held its first hearing.

The special commission of inquiry was established in April and is led by Justice John Sackar.

The deaths occurred during an era of brutal assaults and murders across Sydney that terrorised the gay and transgender community for decades, peaking in the 1980s and continuing even after the state decriminalised homosexuality in 1984.

On Wednesday morning, Senior Counsel Assisting Peter Gray (above left) has addressed the special commission of inquiry at its first sitting, outlining its scope.

Gray told the hearing of 20 such deaths and said “justice in these cases has been long-delayed, and long-awaited”.

“All of the deaths with which this inquiry is concerned, many of them lonely and terrifying, were of people whose lives were tragically cut short,” Gray said.

“Many had also suffered discrimination or worse while alive. Some of the deaths were obviously murders, others may well have been.

“The response of the community, of society, of its institutions, to these deaths was sadly lacking.

“All these lives, of every one of these people, mattered. They mattered to them, to their loved ones, and ultimately to all of us. And their deaths matter.

“This special commission, by shining a light on everything that is known and can be found out about what happened, will aim to provide some recognition of the truth.”

Investigators have reviewed thousands of documents in gay hate cases

Peter Gray said the special commission of inquiry is aiming to shed light on “everything that is known and can be found out” about the gay and trans cold cases.

He said investigators would examine deaths “potentially motivated by gay hate bias” and “suspected hate crime deaths” where the victim was a member of the LGBTIQ+ community.

A team of investigators, barristers and solicitors has reviewed thousands of documents on hundreds of unsolved homicides in NSW between 1970 and 2010.

Gray told the hearing in the search for characteristics indicating hate crimes, investigators had found names not previously mentioned in the public domain.

He also urged members of the public with any information to come forward. Contact details are on the special commission website.

“Any recollections or pieces of information that you might have, however major or minor, could provide a vital link in understanding what happened,” Gray said.

“In some cases, it may ultimately lead to arrests and prosecutions.

“This applies with particular emphasis to anyone who was actually involved in, or saw, events that resulted in the death, or suspected death, of an LGBTIQ person a long time ago.

“This may be the last chance for the truth about some of these historical deaths to be exposed. We need to hear from anyone who can help us do that.”

NSW Police ‘failed to properly investigate’ gay hate and trans hate crimes

The special commission comes after two 2018 reports into unsolved deaths, one by LGBTIQ+ organisation ACON and another by NSW Police’s Strike Force Parrabell.

The reports examined 88 deaths between 1976 and 2000 that may have involved “gay hate, anti-gay bias or sexuality or gender bias.”

Peter Gray said on Wednesday those two important reports were a “culmination of a long-term building-up of concern in many parts of the community about the levels of violence, including homicides, committed against LGBTIQ people, especially in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.”

The current inquiry was created in April after a 2019 parliamentary committee recommended it.

The committee found NSW Police “failed in its responsibilities to properly investigate” gay and transgender hate crimes.

In 2018, NSW Police acknowledged “without qualification both its and society’s acceptance of gay bashings and shocking violence directed towards gay men and the LGBTIQ community” with the release of the landmark Strike Force Parrabell report.

The police report acknowledged the gay-hate violence regularly occurred, but was not properly investigated.

This gave perpetrators “were given a kind of ‘social licence’ to continue inflicting violence upon members of the gay community,” the police review said.

The NSW special commission of inquiry expects to hold two sets of public hearings involving witnesses, in November and December.

The hearings will continue next year. The special commission is due to deliver its report to the NSW governor in June 2023.

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.

Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia


  1. Julian
    4 November 2022

    Sadly in Queensland this is still going on. Bent detectives use their Drug goon’s to BASH gay’s and Whistleblowers. The
    Judicial system is awash with Corouption all over AUSTRALIA Tazmainia. I remember camping on this hill known as Bondi beach Rocks around 1988 cop’s tell LIES and UN-TRUTHS but one fact is the police know that unmarked police car’s often went to this place just to incurage the bashing innocent GAY men. Google operation PEANUTING. BUY the Australian film RIOT

  2. Chris
    6 November 2022

    Gary James Venamore 22/08/1933-06/11/1968 would have been 90 next year. Who murdered him in new farm, in Maxwell street and dumped him in the river?

    Those guilty and never pursued must be identified even if they’re now deceased.

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