This 78er wants NSW Police in the Mardi Gras parade

A sign outside of a police station in country NSW.
A sign outside of a police station in country NSW. Photo: Mattinbgn/Wikipedia Creative Commons

I am a 78er and warmly welcome the NSW Police contingent in the Mardi Gras Parade. So I was really troubled by the decision of the Mardi Gras Board to ask the NSW Police not to participate in the Parade this year.

WORDS Peter Murphy

The Board argument implied that the alleged killer of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies, being a police officer, is evidence of police oppression of LGBTQI people.

But it is pretty clear that this is not the case. The Board’s decision had conflated public reaction to this terrible double murder with more longstanding demands for no police in the Parade, from people who want the police abolished because they are part of the repressive colonial system.

These people have also called in recent years for no military, no Liberal Party, no Qantas, no ANZ contingents.

This year I have heard calls for no Labor contingent because the Labor government supports Israel’s Gaza genocide. The Mardi Gras Board should never give in to this pressure because it is about exclusion of LGBTQI people. It is divisive and leads to internal conflict which we would not survive.

We created the Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade in 1978 to give public space to include everyone in celebrating our identities. “Inclusion” is our middle name.

I experienced intense physical violence from police on June 24, 1978, because I was part of that fabulous cohort who made the first LGBTQI street party happen in Oxford Street that night.

I was picked out at random. That violent treatment was part of the daily routine at Darlinghurst Police Station against our community members, against First Nations people, against sex workers, against homeless people and against real criminals.

Our liberation movement, already going for eight years, took off from that traumatic night and we won the big demand for decriminalisation of male homosexual acts between consenting adults in 1984. We did that with allies in the universities, trade unions, the legal profession the parliament, and many other places.

By 1990 LGBTQI police, led by Sue Thompson, had organised to create the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officer (GLLO) role in the police and develop policies to change the way NSW police engaged with our communities.

Police began participating in the Parade in 1998, the 20th anniversary, and that was a victory for us. It took another 20 years, in August 2018, to get Police Commissioner Mick Fuller to apologise for 1978 to a gathering of 78ers.

Some of us then felt able to work with the police training program directly, and we contributed to a short video titled “Standing Together” about the police in 1978 and now. GLLOs told me about the heavy homophobic discrimination they had to deal with at work.

Just last year, during the Special Commission of Inquiry into LGBTQI Hate Crimes, it became clear that powerful elements of the police still engaged in a homophobic efforts to ignore hate crimes against members of our community.

With other 78ers, I pressed for the Police Minister and Commissioner to strongly reassert their commitment to giving LGBTQI people the same level of protection and support as any other citizen. And we have that public commitment now. And we have to stay engaged to make sure this happens.

The police who volunteer to participate in the Parade are part of our community and are our allies. That’s why I am so happy that they could be in the Parade this year. In uniform or out of uniform should be up to them.

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1 Comment

  1. Cath McLeod
    1 March 2024

    Yes well said and we must continue have them support us.

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