BY CHRISTOPHER HARRIS
On Thursday morning, there will be some validation for a lifetime of fighting for the rights of LGBTQI community when an apology is made to the group who protested at Taylor Square and began the Sydney tradition of Mardi Gras.
It is estimated between 500 and one thousand people turned out to protest NSW’s laws on homosexuality. They would be arrested and the subject of much police intimidation and violence against the protestors.
Barbara Karpinski had recently left school and three days before had moved out of home. Three days later she decided to participate in a protest, where she was arrested, and became a legend as one of ‘the 78ers’.
“I had just finished school, and wasn’t politically aware, but I went along with my friends. I was in a floral frock and thongs and couldn’t run too fast. I hated sport at school.”
She said during the 14 hours she spent in jail, she felt hopeless, and all she got to eat was a sandwich.
“All our names were printed in the paper, and my dad had to hide it from my mum.”
Karpinski said she was lucky to escape the violence that she saw others suffering.
She said that she was not particularly street smart, and couldn’t run fast enough to escape the police like some of her friends.
The group were fighting for an end to the criminalization of homosexuality, which was finally repealed in the criminal code in 1984.
The 1979, indecent behaviour, described as sexual activity with those of the same sex, and procuring another person for sex, was removed from the NSW Summary Offences Act.
The apology will acknowledge the abuse and suffering many of the 78ers endured, in an effort to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Liberal Member for Coogee, Bruce Notley-Smith, said that many of the protestors had lived harrowed lives, and had suicided.
“On Febuary 25 we will acknowledge the significance of the events of that night in June 38 years ago; the struggles and harm caused to the many who took part in the demonstration and march, both on that night and in the weeks, months and years to follow. Many 78ers are no longer with us; many have lived a life of hurt and pain, and many took their own lives. This apology is for all of them,” Mr Notley Smith said in a statement.
The apology has been crafted with the imput of the remaining 78ers and has multi partisan support from NSW Parliament’s LGBTQI working group, which includes Liberal, Labor, National, Green and Independent MPs.
Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich said that the apology was another step toward progress or social and legal inclusion of LGBTQI people.
“I hope it helps to heal the scars of those trailblazers who experienced brutality while trying to advance equality. The sacrifice of the 78ers continues to inspire me and other to continue the campaign for equality.”
Ms Karpinski said that the apology was a good start to repairing the trauma done.
“The apology is a step towards acknowledging the extreme violence and brutality of the police and not just homophobia, but very bad treatment of a number of people, including street workers, aboriginal, and homeless people.”
“When I was in jail, I stuck my little head out to get a sandwich, and the cops shut that window, and now it’s been 38 years for that window to open again and justice to be done,” she said.