For the 78ers

Who are the 78ers?

See The 78’ers:

“You could hear them in Darlinghurst police station being beaten up and crying out from pain. The night had gone from nerve-wracking to exhilarating to traumatic all in the space of a few hours. The police attack made us more determined to run Mardi Gras the next year.”
KEN DAVIS

See also SBS.

What has just happened?

1. The Sydney Morning Herald apologises to Mardi Gras founders the 78ers

On June 24, 1978, more than 500 activists took to Taylor Square in Darlinghurst in support and celebration of New York’s Stonewall movement and to call for an end to criminalisation of homosexual acts and discrimination against homosexuals. The peaceful movement ended in violence, mass arrests and public shaming at the hands of the police, government and media.

Three days after the melee, Fairfax Media newspapers including the Herald publicly outed 53 people involved in the pro-equality march, publishing their names, addresses and occupations in the newspaper. Subsequent editions published the details of more protesters, including the names of 104 people facing charges resulting from a homosexual rights march the previous weekend in Sydney…

Apologising to the 78ers, Darren Goodsir, editor-in-chief of The Sydney Morning Herald, said: “In 1978, The Sydney Morning Herald reported the names, addresses and professions of people arrested during public protests to advance gay rights. The paper at the time was following the custom and practice of the day.

“We acknowledge and apologise for the hurt and suffering that reporting caused. It would never happen today.”

He said Fairfax Media has made contact with representatives of the 78ers so that an apology can also be made in person….

(From left) Melissa Gibson with 78ers Julie McCrossin and Ron Austin at the Sydney Mardi Gras in 2013.

(From left) Melissa Gibson with 78ers Julie McCrossin and Ron Austin at the Sydney Mardi Gras in 2013.

Melissa and Julie I know from South Sydney Uniting Church

2. NSW Parliament apologises to the 78ers who began the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

A brightly sequinned hat, tie-dye t-shirts and rainbow flags in the packed viewing gallery did nothing to distract from the gravity of the historical moment in NSW Parliament on Thursday morning when, after nearly 38 years, the 78ers received a formal apology from the state over the discrimination they suffered at Sydney’s first Mardi Gras in 1978.

“For the mistreatment you suffered that evening, I apologise and I say sorry,” said Bruce Notley Smith, the member for Coogee, as he moved the motion of apology in the NSW Legislative Assembly.

“As a member of the parliament which dragged its feet in the decriminalisation of homosexual acts, I apologise and say sorry. And as a proud gay man and member of this parliament offering this apology, I say thank you.”

“The actions you took on June 24, 1978, have been vindicated.”

The bipartisan apology, unanimously passed in both houses of parliament, drew emotional and at times highly personal reflections from MPs, including the Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton and the Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian. Mr Notley-Smith recounted the pain of growing up as a gay teenager in Sydney at the time of the melee…

I was working at Sydney University in 1978 and for part of that year living in Glebe Point. Perhaps around mid-year, when that first Mardi Gras occurred, I had moved back to reside in North Wollongong, commuting to Sydney. I honestly don’t recall reading the infamous SMH stories. I was not at that time involved in the gay community.

Now posts of my own.

Back in the day… Oxford Street memories

Posted on March 9, 2014 by Neil

A rather amazing picture appeared recently on Lost Gay Sydney, a Facebook group.

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That is Martin Place June 24 , 1978, according to the original post on Facebook, and there in the centre carrying a triangle flag is Ian Smith.

Requiem for a Dowager Empress

Posted on December 27, 2010 by Neil

The shocking news I alluded to earlier is that Ian Smith, aka The Dowager Empress of Hong Kong, died about a week ago.

He was a 78-er, that is a participant in the first Sydney Mardi Gras…

At Lord Malcolm’s funeral in 2007 Ian read this:

Death Is Nothing At All
Henry Scott Holland

Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
whatever we were to each other
that we still are
call me by my old familiar name
speak to me in the easy way
which you always used
put no difference in your tone
wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together
pray smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
without the trace of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant
it is the same as it ever was
there is unbroken continuity
why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you
somewhere very near
just around the corner
All is well

I have known him for 22 years. We’ve had our ups and downs — most did with Ian, but he could also be wise and brilliant. A complex man. Rest, brother.

See also World AIDS Day and my circle… (2011), Pancake Day or Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday (2013), Thirty years on: my coming out, among other things (2014).

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