Sydney’s dark, shameful past: Gay Hate Crimes

Sydney, Australia has a dark and shameful past: Police claim almost 30 gay men lost their lives to homophobic killers as they review suspicious cold-case deaths. The assaults/murders took places during the 80’s and early ’90’s.

Mainstream media, politicians and religious institutions created “moral panic. The churches, state and medical world classified homosexuality as a sin, crime and disease respectively during much of this period”, using the HIV epidemic as an excuse for these violent, attacks and coverups.

Unfortunately, anti-gay attitudes of officers within the NSW Police Force, at the time – prevented these reports being formally recorded which, in turn, meant that crimes were not investigated.” NSW Police have acknowledged their involvement, and agrees that over the years, it has not been much better — but, they wanted to move forward.

Assistant Commissioner Tony Crandell told reporters in Sydney, “It’s important NSW Police acknowledge its part in history”.

This went on for decades, many of the assaults were not reported and the murders remained unsolved, with increasing pressure from the public, the government to hold an inquiry into the hate crimes.

“We can move on but, the victim’s friends and families have to live with the pain of losing their brother or son for the rest of their life.”

One of the victims was 25-year-old, WIN Television newsreader, Ross Warren whose keys were found at the base of a cliff at a Tamarama gay beat in 1989.

His body was never found but homophobic youths were known to be launching attacks on gay men in the area at the time.

Up to 20 assaults took place each day but unsympathetic elements of the police and judiciary meant most attacks were never reported or investigated. Hundreds of more incidents of assault and disappearances involving gay men, many of which occurred around certain areas of Bondi, in what became known as the ‘Bondi Badlands’.

His death, like many others, was ruled a suicide by an early inquest. But Parrabell, like the latest coronial ruling in 2017, saw enough evidence to rule homophobic attackers may have thrown or chased him off the cliff.

The deputy state coroner, in 2005, ruled Mr Warren was a homicide victim. Scott Johnson, who was found dead on the rocks below North Head’s gay beat in 1988, is also a suspected victim.

Labor MLC Penny Sharpe said when she moved to Sydney in the early 1980s as a young gay woman, she was told to carry a whistle because it was unsafe. “This is something the LGBTI community knew was happening. We were being targeted because of our sexuality and it was not safe.”

Also read: “Bondi hate crimes documentary” at https://lbgtnews.com.au/bondi-hate-crimes-documentary/

Strike Force Parrabell’s goal was to “do all that is possible” to heal the rift that grew between police and the LGBTIQ community in those decades. A team of police investigators and independent academics from Flinders University looked at whether attackers had shown evidence of gay-hate motivation. Only 34 cases had no evidence of bias while the remaining 25 had insufficient evidence for classification — but could not be ruled out. “If you fail to have a thorough investigation in even one death, it affects them all.”

Nicholas Stewart of Dowson Turco Lawyers, an LGBTI law firm, told reporters he acted for bashing victim Alan Rosendale. He alleged “there was evidence of police involvement in the attack on Sydney’s Oxford Street”.

“An independent third-party witness identified the car carrying people who bashed Alan Rosendale in 1989, and confirmed that vehicle to be a [unmarked] NSW Police Force vehicle.

With the backing of advocates, the Opposition Leader Luke Foley called for a parliamentary inquiry – to look at how the evidence was lost, why witnesses weren’t talked to, why leads weren’t followed, and hopefully to identify who was in the car carrying people who bashed Alan Rosendale in 1989”.

ACON’s CEO, Nicolas Parkhill called on police to bolster a Bias Crimes Unit. Mr. Parrabell also made a series of recommendations but, stopping short of adopting all the suggestions proposed by LGBTIQ+ group ACON — including an apology from police.

Flinders University academics Derek Dalton and Willem de Lint analyzed 85 high-profile deaths between 1976 and 2000, as part of the Parrabell Strike Force. The academics reported that up to 85 cases involved anti-gay bias.  The report concluded that due to a lack of consequences for perpetrators, made gays an easy target – authorities thought that this gave them a “social license” to inflict violence and grief onto a minority group.

NSW Police has vowed to learn from past mistakes and is reportedly considering issuing a formal apology.

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