NSW set to apologise for criminalising homosexuality

Alex Mitchell |

NSW will issue a formal apology to people convicted under laws that criminalised homosexuality.
NSW will issue a formal apology to people convicted under laws that criminalised homosexuality.

NSW is being urged to follow an apology to people convicted under laws criminalising homosexuality with more action targeting discrimination.

Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of decriminalising homosexuality, NSW will become the last Australian state to issue an apology in a move the premier hopes will bring closure to those affected.

The apology will come months after a scathing report found gay hate bias was a likely factor in 25 of 32 suspected homicides between 1970 and 2010.

Equality Australia chief executive Anna Brown said the “powerful symbolic act” was an opportunity to address discrimination still being experienced.

NSW parliament is currently considering a bill – led by Independent MP Alex Greenwich – designed to protect the rights of people within the queer community.

“These unjust criminal laws created a climate of fear and prejudice that, 40 years on, our community still grapples with today and sadly our laws continue to entrench discrimination that casts a shadow over the lives of LGBTIQ+ people,” Ms Brown said in a statement.

“As NSW comes to grips with this painful chapter in our history there is no better time for the government to catch up with the rest of Australia and remove the remaining discrimination under our laws, so everyone is protected and treated fairly.”

A file photo of Anna Brown
Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown says more can be done to end discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

Announcing the apology on Saturday, NSW Premier Chris Minns acknowledged words can’t remedy the discrimination those affected were subject to.

“But I hope that it brings some semblance of closure to those that were unfairly targeted by laws of the day that criminalised gay and lesbian people for being who they are,” he said in a statement.

Last year’s inquiry into suspected hate crimes made 12 recommendations about unsolved murder investigations, including calling for a review of practices, procedures and resources.

Hearings revealed poor police record-keeping including a number of examples of crucial evidence being destroyed.

A file photo of Chris Minns
NSW Premier Chris Minns hopes the apology can bring some closure to those targeted by the laws. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

NSW banned gay conversion therapy in March in what Ms Brown called “the first major reform for our community in almost a decade”.

Mr Greenwich said passing his bill was a logical next step for the state.

“This apology will help heal the harm caused by past laws that criminalised the LGBTIQA+ community,” he said in a statement.​

“It also serves as a timely reminder that NSW still has the worst LGBTIQA+ rights in the country, something my Equality Bill will fix once it hopefully passes through parliament.”

Greens MP Amanda Cohn sees plenty more work for the government to do, including implementing the recommendations of the hate crimes inquiry.

“The government continues to delay important legislative reform such as including protections for bisexual, non-binary and intersex people under the anti-discrimination act, and removing the requirement for people to have medically unnecessary surgery to be able to change gender on official documents,” she told AAP.

Former premier Neville Wran decriminalised homosexuality in NSW in 1984.

Victoria and South Australia formally apologised in 2016, while Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland did in 2017 and the Northern Territory in 2018.