BY ELIOT BARHAM
Fundraising efforts for a memorial in Hunter Park honouring victims of gay-hate crimes committed around the eastern suburbs have been promising, according to organisers.
The memorial will represent more than 88 gay men who have disappeared in suspicious circumstances or have been victims of unsolved murders over a 20 year period that began in the late 1970’s.
Healthy Communities manager for ACON Michael Atkinson was behind the fundraising, saying the memorial will represent anyone who has been affected by horrendous crimes committed against LGBTI people between the late 70’s and 90’s.
“It’s to do with looking to achieve some sort of justice for anyone affected by these cases. It’s only really been in the last five years that people have said ‘look, this is unacceptable.’
“There are a lot of people who still hold a lot of anger, fear and pain around the whole experience” he said.
ACON are hoping to raise $200,000, which will fund the construction and maintenance of the planned memorial.
Fundraising efforts were deliberately launched earlier this month to coincide with Deep Water, a drama series aired on SBS based on some of the crimes. A feature-length documentary made by the same director called Deep Water: The Real Story aired shortly after, examining some of the unsolved murders that took place.
Mr Atkinson says the programs generated “a lot of interest” in the murders and encouraged people to donate, however it’s “early days” and the target is still far from being reached.
The organisation now plans to hold a series of other fundraising events and ‘gala days’ to generate the remaining money needed to fund the project.
A draft brief has already been established, and consultation with the families and friends of victims will begin shortly.
Mr Atkinson said a significant number of people have come forward to his organisation who have dealt with similar experiences since plans for the memorial were announced earlier this year.
“We’ve been contacted by a fair few people who have detailed their own experiences, but also people who have lost loved ones to the murders. It’s clear that people who have experienced the face of violence feel that it’s quite traumatic,” he said.
He also acknowledged that the time period when a lot of the violent murders took place was difficult for many LGBTI people.
“This stuff occurred through the beginning of the AIDS / HIV epidemic. We were coming out of a period in the end of the 70’s when we were struggling to be recognised, homosexuality was decriminalised, and we had people dying from AIDS right up until the 90’s. Murders were happening this whole time. There was a lot happening for our community,” he said.
The memorial has the support of Waverley Council Mayor Sally Betts. “It’s a long term project that is at its early stages, but we are committed,” she said.