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Australia's Northern Territory Govt Apologises For Historic Gay Sex Convictions

May 9, 2018

 

 Image: Screenshot of Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner Formerly Apologising In Parliament

 

On Tuesday morning, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory in Australia, Michael Gunner, formerly apologised to members of the LGBT community convicted under historic laws against consensual homosexual acts. The apology was issued on behalf of the Northern Territory Government and supported by the opposition leader.


Then on Tuesday afternoon, the NT Parliament passed a bill allowing those historically convicted of consensual homosexual acts to apply to have the convictions permanently expunged from their records.


Approximately a dozen men were believed to be convicted under the laws which were in place until 1984, with women also targeted by police.


An emotional Mr Gunner began his speech by saying "Today is about making right.”


"It is about making right on hurtful and discriminatory laws tolerated, supported or actively perpetuated by Northern Territory governments.”


"Today is about saying to our lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, intersex and queer community: We were wrong.”


"Laws criminalising homosexuality were wrong.”


"Laws criminalising love and attraction were wrong.”


"And historical convictions stemming from these laws were — are — wrong.”


During the speech, Mr Gunner shared the experiences of three people personally impacted by the laws.


"A Darwin man, who asked to stay anonymous, told us recently 'I was 17 and living with an older man. We lived in constant fear of him going to jail. And that was a relationship that lasted 15 years, not some fling.'"


He spoke about Annie Zon, who moved to the NT in 1980 and told him she found the government "openly hostile to same-sex attracted women."


"Sometimes when they were arrested they were quite brutally treated by police. Physically manhandled. Verbally insulted. Told they were dirty lesbians and they should leave town and they were hateful creatures, that no-one wanted them here," he said.


He spoke of LGBTIQ rights campaigner Daniel Alderman, who in the 2000s had water bottles hurled at him as he passed by a pub whilst marching with 12 people at a pride rally.


"He remembers, quote, 'horrific stories of police harassment'," Mr Gunner said.


"I'm proud to say Daniel marched in last year's Pride Festival with about 1500 people, including police, including the Commissioner of Police. No-one threw water bottles."


Mr Gunner became visibly emotional as he said "Australia has come so far — later this year I will be a proud brother at my sister Lucy's wedding to her long-time partner Jill."


Anna Brown, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre
, said the symbolic apology would help the LGBT community to heal.


“It’s never too late to put things right. There was a time when governments around Australia turned thousands of innocent men and women into criminals all because of who they love.”


“It was profoundly cruel and wrong. Sex between consenting adults should never have been criminalised. This is an important step towards righting the wrongs of the past,” she said.


Community elder Daisy Mae Taylor said the apology was symbolically important.


“The apology can’t undo the wrongs of the past, but it sends an important message to people like me, who lived through that time, and younger generations, that we are accepted for who we are,” she said.


“I consider myself one of the lucky ones to have escaped. I wasn’t arrested and charged but I know men that were. Sadly, many have already passed away with convictions for things that should have never been considered a crime.”

 

 

 

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