The New South Wales government has apologized to the 53 LGBTI people who were arrested at the first Sydney Mardi Gras in 1978 – when homosexuality was still a crime in Australia.
The 78ers, as they are known, marched in protest of the anti-sodomy law but were arrested and savagely beaten by the police.
Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith delivered the apology Thursday (25 February) morning.
‘We recognize that you were ill-treated, you were mistreated, you were embarrassed and shamed, and it was wrong,’ he said.
‘I hope it’s not too late that you can accept an apology but also we want to recognize that for all of that 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.
‘You were the game changers.’
He continued: ‘For the mistreatment you suffered that evening, as a member of this Parliament, who oversaw the events of that night, I apologize, and I say sorry.
‘As a member of a parliament that dragged its feet on the decriminalization of homosexual acts I apologize.’
— David Glasheen (@DavidGlasheen) February 24, 2016
The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is now one of the largest Pride parades in the world, attracting 200,000 people last year.
The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s oldest newspaper, also apologized for printing the names of those arrested on its front page.
‘In 1978, the Sydney Morning Herald reported the names, addresses and professions of people arrested during public protests to advance gay rights,’ Editor-in-Chief Darren Goodsir said in a statement.
‘The paper at the time was following the custom and practice of the day. We acknowledge and apologize for the hurt and suffering that reporting caused. It would never happen today.
‘We have made contact with representatives of the 78ers so we can apologize in person.’