Let’s talk: Should we still be apologising for things in the past?

After nearly 38 years the NSW Parliament has apologised for the discrimination members of Sydney’s first Mardi Gras, the 78ers,
Let's Talk

After nearly 38 years the NSW Parliament has apologised for the discrimination members of Sydney’s first Mardi Gras, the 78ers, endured.

SMH reports that the bipartisan apology was unanimously passed in both houses of parliament and included emotional and personal reflections from MPs, such as Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton and Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian.

Member for Coogee, Bruce Notley-Smith, moved the motion for the apology in the NSW Legislative Assembly saying, “For the mistreatment you have suffered that evening, I apologise and I say sorry.”

“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.”

Mr Notley-Smith also made personal reflections on the hardships of growing up as a gay teenager in Sydney during the time.

On that evening, in 1978, more than 500 activists took to Taylor Square, Darlinghurst, to call for the end of criminalisation of homosexual acts and discrimination. This movement ended violently with mass arrests and public shaming at the hands of the police, government and media.

Many people were savagely beaten by the police and a total of 53 individuals were arrested.

“We apologise that you were ill-treated, you were mistreated you were embarrassed and shamed, and it was wrong.

I hope it is not too late that you can accept an apology but also we want to recognise that for all of the pain that you went through, you brought about fundamental change in this society and fundamental change for the many gay and lesbian people like myself, who can be open and relaxed about ourselves,” Mr Notely-Smith said.

He received a standing ovation from 70 of the original protesters and supporters for his emotional speech, where he commended the activism of the 78ers.

Ron Austin was an originator of Mardi Gras, he said the apology was “delightful” while Diane Minnis recalled the terror of that evening.

“They [the police] were huge blokes and they were just grabbing people, throwing them bodily into paddy wagons and smashing people.

“It was carnage,” she said.

The effects of the discrimination lasted well beyond that evening, with some protesters loosing their jobs, homes and some individuals committing suicide.

SMH have also acknowledged their role, “In 1978, The Sydney Morning Herald reported the names, addresses and professions of people arrested during the public protests to advance gay rights. The paper at the time was following the custom and practice of the day,” they said.

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

Although there has been public praise of this apology, is it a matter of too little too late? After almost 38 years, does this apology hold significance?

Should we still be apologising for things of the past?

  1. PETA  

    NO. Unless the people in government were around at the time then NO.

  2. I don’t mind the apology but we must move on.If we don’t then it means that the apology was a symbolic quester as an apology made has to be received positively to be effective .

  3. Doug  

    No, sick of all the apologies. Why should we apologise for things that occurred tens of years ago.

    • Susan Bell  

      An apology is really important. An apology enables the victim to feel that at last their treatment has been recognised as hurtful, dangerous and unwarranted. Those arrested for past practices such homosexuality need to have their arrest records removed.
      Having been the receiver of an apology by parliament, I wept, gut wrenching weeping. It made a difference to my life psychologically and emotionally.
      We apologise to say to the victims that we as a nation or group recognise the hurt the actions caused and a recognition that as a country we are growing up and starting to understand the problems and cruelty of the past.
      I also contacted one of my places of work to talk about the vicious bullying I had been subjected to. Although the bullying happened 35 years previous the very fact that they listened to me and apologised meant that there was an immediate change in me emotionally and I no longer grieve.
      If we do not apologise for past wrongs the nation as a whole cannot grow and change and can repeat their mistakes over and over again, neither can the victims finally come terms with their pain and sorrow. Compassion should always be our our first and last thought, our default setting.

  4. David Wilson  

    we apologise for too many things from the past , look to the future and leave the past where it is

  5. I’m sick of all the apologising, some of which go back many generations. Times and attitudes change so let’s forget the apologising and get on with it.

  6. jean  

    I agree – apologise all you want but it won’t change the past. Beliefs, morals and values change and always will. People have to learn to get on with life.

  7. Sick of apologies for the laws of the past. We didn’t create them, most of us observed the law and got on with our lives.

  8. Mistakes were made in the past by many, but unfortunately many of those people are no longer are around to apologise/say sorry so we are left with those of us today, who may not have been around to witness such mistakes/tragedies, we are now a multicultural society who many of which have no understanding of what transpired all those years ago. If we are to live in harmony, we must move forward and those of us that can be, be mindful of the past. The generations that come along now do not know of these injustices of some past dark era, and simply the world has changed, acceptance is found now where it never was, so no I do not believe that we keep re-hashing the past and saying sorry for what was beyond our control for all the mistakes of the past. Move forward………

  9. Dorothy Williams  

    Definitely not. I am also sick and tired at all this WE should Apologise. Why, I haven’t done anything wrong.

  10. Robert Green  

    Continually apologising for the past is a weak stupid approach to the future. Things went wrong, they got fixed, new generations are moving through their own issues. The denizens of the past have either got on with life or got out of life.


    • lurch  

      A bit like the irish carrying on about what happened with the british that far back that there is no living person who had anything to do with it. Then we had the apology for lost land, lost generation and the list goes on and on, nothing to do with today’s generation but we are ask repeatedly to apologise for ****** what.

  11. An apology is a good thing. The result of a legal march was police brutality and arrests of innocent people. The newspaper published their names and addresses some then lost their jobs and were harassed as a result. Sorry means it should not have happened, sorry means it won’t happen again.
    Put the shoe on the other foot and show a little compassion people.

  12. [email protected]  

    For the rest of us who have to put up with deviant sexuality thrown in our faces continually, especially now with the indoctrination of children under the guise of Safe Schools program at $8million of taxpayers’ expense, I am very sorry! 😛

    • Rose Marie  

      So true!

      And don’t call two men or two women getting ‘together’ a marriage! It’s NO such thing! They can’t reproduce as is intended.

      A marriage, as defined by our Constitution, written by wiser people than those who are now in Parliament, is between a man & a woman. End of!

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