NSW Government offers apology to victims of historical homosexuality laws

NSW Government offers apology to victims of historical homosexuality laws
Image: NSW Premier Chris Minns. Dan Himbrechts/AAP

This story was originally published in the Star Observer.

 

In a significant step towards reconciliation, the New South Wales government will offer a formal apology to individuals who faced discrimination under previous laws criminalising homosexuality.

The apology, scheduled to be delivered in parliament in June, marks 40 years since the state amended the Crimes Act 1900 to decriminalise homosexuality.

Apology set to address previous laws criminalising homosexuality

The decision to apologise comes after decades of advocacy by various groups, including Equality Australia, which has highlighted the enduring impact of the discriminatory laws.

Penny Sharpe, Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council, emphasised the importance of acknowledging the harm caused by these laws, stating, “A formal apology to those who suffered at the hands of the law that criminalised homosexuality recognises the harm done to many and acknowledges that it was wrong.”

Premier Chris Minns echoed these sentiments, acknowledging that while an apology cannot undo the past, it serves as a step towards closure for those affected.

He stated, “I know that to many this apology will not remedy discrimination of the past, 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.”

NSW becomes the final state to issue a formal apology

The decision by the NSW Government to issue an apology comes after similar actions by other Australian states. Victoria and South Australia offered formal apologies in 2016, followed by Tasmania, Western Australia, and Queensland in 2017, and the Northern Territory in 2018.

This marks the final acknowledgment by an Australian state of the injustices faced by individuals under these archaic laws.

Anna Brown, Chief Executive of Equality Australia, emphasised the symbolic significance of the apology while also calling for tangible action to address ongoing discrimination.

She stated, “An apology in parliament will be a powerful symbolic act that will go some way to healing the pain and harm caused by these unjust laws, but it must also deal with the present and be backed by action.”

Independent MP Alex Greenwich welcomed the government’s apology while highlighting the need for further legislative reforms. Greenwich stated,

“This apology will help heal the harm caused by past laws that criminalised the LGBTIQA+ community.”

“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.”

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